This was my first trip out of Fuzhou and certainly won’t be my last. Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, was a hike I will remember! Here is my story on hiking Yellow mountain!
Despite bottleneck security, complete with bag scanning and passport checks, Fuzhou train station was both simple and easy to navigate despite hoards of locals heading out on their ‘jollies’. Some had so much luggage they looked like they might be moving house.
All departure signs changed between Chinese and English, and the main atrium acts as one big waiting room. I met up with the rest of the mountaineers, perused around the shops and took advantage of the public toilets whilst waiting for the train.
Tickets were approx. £27 each way and simple enough to book on the English app Trip. I’m not sure what I expected of Chinese trains but it certainly wasn’t what I discovered them to be; they’re modern, spacious and super-clean! Even the toilets were cleaner than in the UK.
The two and a half hour journey to Huangshan North train station whizzed by so quickly that I didn’t even get a chance to check out the old school restaurant carriage fitted with little dining booths – next time.
Arriving in Tunxi we sauntered through a huge, modern and yet surprisingly deserted station to the bus depot where we paid £3 for an hour bus to Tangkou, where our hotel Jasmine Inn was located.
After a few huge bowls of (apparently rather good) noodles and an uneventful bus journey, we arrived and arranged to be collected for free by the hotel – avoiding a 40-minute walk through the town. There was no need to work harder than we had to with what lay ahead.
Checking in was easy, the rooms were pretty cute and the helpful English-speaking woman on reception gave us some advice on how to spend the remainder of the afternoon. The hotel was approximately £53 per night for a twin/double room, although it would only have been around £10 per night had it not been a national holiday. Most hotels we found were of a similar price. Ours had a restaurant and shop, and was clean and comfortable with helpful staff that had a good level of English, an unexpected, added bonus.
Huangshan Mountain admission set to close, she advised we visit the Nine Dragons Waterfall, even arranging for us to pay a discounted price via the hotel – approx. £5 – and for their driver to take us for a small fee! After entertaining the hotel owner’s six-year-old son with some impromptu English practice we set off.
It was busy but the walk was rather beautiful, with picturesque crystal blue water and leafy greenery. The less than tranquil journey up covered old stone bridges, temples, live music and a multitude of terrible t-shirt slogans – who makes these!?
I can’t quite say I know the history or significance of the waterfall, but it was a pleasure to see such a beautiful piece of nature carved through such a grand and ancient landscape. On a sunnier day and in more appropriate clothing I’d have been difficult to tear away from such clear and tranquil waters.
With the sun setting and our driver due to meet us we didn’t quite make it to the end, but much further than any of the Chinese tourist cared to go.
Back at the entrance we discovered the true meaning of National Holiday crowds. Busses and taxis battled through the crowds to find their yellow hatted tour parties and abandoned relatives. Boarding our minibus we were grateful to leave the sea of bodies, only to find ourselves at a standstill.
It’s hard to tell if this was standard holiday traffic or if something had happened up ahead. We sat without moving for a whole 45 minutes at one point, and only edged sporadically for large periods either side of that. Our driver even got out to stretch his legs and shout at the car in front for littering.
After an hour and a half journey that should only have taken about 20 minutes, we finally alighted in search of food. Being a tourist town, Tangkou only really has restaurants, meaning we were coaxed and coerced in to looking at every menu.
Eventually settling on a quieter and less insistent one that smelled pretty good, we gorged on garlic green beans and peanuts, sweet and sour chicken and grated pork potato. Fed and watered we headed to bed early, in preparation for a 4am start.
A 4am rise for a 4.30am start, in the pitch black, really had me questioning my choice of clothing. Would my trusty pink poncho suffice for a trek to the top of a mountain? In the rain? Probably not, but it was a little too late to do anything about it.
A brisk march through the town, alongside an exodus of Chinese tourists, brought us to the bus station where we purchased our tickets and joined a Thorpe Park-esque queue of yellow hats and umbrellas. Plastic ponchos were being whipped up left right and centre by unprepared holiday-makers, stood dripping in their cardigans and tracksuit tops. I’ve never seen as many tracksuits as I have in China. They take their leisure seriously here.
The short, dark bus ride dropped us off at the entrance, where a line of wooden huts, like beach stalls, stood selling jumpers, raincoats and – rather optimistically – Haagen Dazs ice cream. For 180kwai (<£20) I bought a lime green – brighter the better as they say – raincoat with some nifty zip up pockets for items such as chocolate and them handy mobile phone things everyone is using these days.
Quick, but-not-really-quick-because-the-queue-was-huge-and-you-had-to-push-or-be-pushed-to-keep-your-place-in-it, trip to the toilet and a group photo later and we were off, bypassing the masses in line for the cable car as we made our way to the stairs.
And these were some stairs! From bottom to top, perfectly crafted and surprisingly unworn, there lay step after step, ready and waiting to help reveal the delight and awe of Huanghan and the surrounding mountain tops to those who dare brave the climb.
We weren’t the most fortunate with the weather. The rain eventually subsided but visibility didn’t improve much, adding a rather eerie but mystical aura to the place. It didn’t dampen our spirits though, and like a happy Frodo Baggins I climbed on cheerily, in search of an invisible peak.
Not long in to the climb we came across green-bibbed workmen, carrying a lot of food, balanced on large wooden poles across their shoulders. Most looked about 50 but I guess with weathered ageing and the strains and stresses of mountain life they could have been anything from 18 upwards!
They paused regularly to let tourists pass, a huge inconvenience I imagine, but otherwise climbed without stopping. With two large cable cars to the top, I assumed there must be stalls and shops part way up. It’s an odd thing to imagine, a café half way up a mountain, but this is China, and nothing gets in-between the Chinese and food.
There were small stalls on route, and areas to sit and eat. Many a pot of noodle was boiled up, though I never did see how they do it. However, the food didn’t stop here. It went all the way to the top. Dripping in sweat, but without sign of faltering, I was still passing these men as I climbed the final few staircases to the summit. I hope I have half this level at fitness when I’m older!
I reached the summit, alone and cheery, and waited for the others to arrive. Luck was on our side and we captured some hauntingly beautiful shots in semi-decent visibility before cloud engulfed everything once more.
It really is a fantastically beautiful and awe-inspiring view. The landscape goes on and on, bringing to mind thoughts of the history and age of the place. I imagine in Chinese there may be more to discover, but a lack of English information isn’t a downside to the trip at all. In fact, I quite enjoyed letting my imagination construct past tales of the area. I definitely plan on visiting again, but hopefully on a clearer day.
After some hot noodles and a well deserved sit down, the gang decided to see what lay on the other side of the hotel. Creaky knees too sore to walk down stairs, I turned back, climbing up further to the cable car. A sleepy bus ride back to the hotel and a hot shower later, I was dressed and ready to meet the others upon their return.
Not quite greeted with tales of wonder and excitement, but with a few cool pictures of cliff edges and padlocked bridges, we packed up and headed back to the bus station. We bagged a bargain taxi ride in time to catch the train and squeezed in a well-deserved burger before boarding. Whilst semi-snoozing on the way home I genuinely felt I had been away for days and not just one night. A hugely memorable and enjoyable first trip out of Fuzhou, hiking Yellow Mountain is something I would highly recommend. Looking forward to the next trip!
*To note, the mountain entrance was 230RMB, or 150RMB off season. The cable car was 80RMB each way, and 65RMB off season. Our dinner out came roughly to 30RMB each with beers, which is very reasonable in such a tourist spot.
Courtney Straker is a British teacher at our Da Ru branch. To read about her first week at work, click here.