Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Yellow Mountain (Huangshan)

Yellow Mountain is an iconic Chinese mountain like many captured in the traditional ink brush paintings. It's rocky granite peaks rise straight up as if to touch the sky. Hiking up the peaks is an exhausting, but rewarding, experience, as each vista surpasses the last. To view the sunrise from the top of the mountain is a splendid thing. Islands of rock with a few clinging trees float in space above a sea of orange tinted clouds.

The orange of the sunrise is as bright as any you will see anywhere, enhanced by the pollution from nearby Shanghai. The hike up through bamboo forest is enjoyable as you weave through the many porters toting everything from clean bed sheets to watermelon to legs of pork and lamb to the hotels on top of the mountain. Our visit to Heavenly Capital Peak brought us into contact with our first tour group on the mountain, but crowding on this peak wasn't bad. After snapping some photos and purchasing a medal with Swanson engraved stating we had made it to the top we continued on our way to the main mountain top area.

In about a half an hour we reached the top of the cable car and any notions that we had of enjoying some peaceful hours in the Chinese wilderness were quickly dispelled. The scenery continued to be beautiful but actually seeing it through the tour groups that gathered at every lookout became more of a challenge. The crowding and noise (and this was the off-season)made the remaining two hour walk to our hotel less pleasant than it might have otherwise been but still worth the effort to see the sights. On the plus side, this seems to be the one place in China where no smoking rules are actually enforced. However, you can still smoke in the mountain top hotels which made the option of sitting in the 1RMB/minute massage chairs in the hotel lobby definitely out. I suppose they would have been great if you didn't have to breathe while sitting in them.

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