Anhui Province (1) : Huangshan and the Yellow Mountains

Dear readers,

I guess that’s what i have to call you, now that i am attempting to run a modest travel blog.  Or fellow travelling enthousiasts?  I am not quite sure yet…

Either way, i just got too many pictures and memories of my travels throughout China just sitting on my pc, only of interest to me ; so I thought I might as well share them with the world and maybe get some other people excited about wonderful China.

20160211_180314China is not a well known traveling destination.  Unrightfully so ! I was fortunate enough to travel many times to this fascinating country for professional reasons and came to fall in love with this incredible country.  Its vibrant cities, its unique landscapes, its diversity in cultures, its cuisine and its people…  Words cannot describe its beauty!  So follow me around and let the images speak for themselves.

20160210_080818So why first Anhui Province?  Well simple..  it is my last destination so the memories are still fresh.  (feb. 2016) I wasn’t really planning to go there.  I was in Beijing and Shanghai for Chinese Newyear that time.  With a couple of days to spare.  So we decided to go see the famous Yellow Mountains in Anhui Province, and visit some of its typical villages.    (UNESCO World Heritage sites)

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Getting to Anhui province is a piece of cake from Shanghai.  I took the train.  I love the train.  Especially the bullet train.  It’s comfortable, clean, convenient, fast and affordable.   You can relax and enjoy the Chinese landscapes flashing by at 300 km/hour, while having a cool beer or a snack from the restauration section.

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We left very early in the morning, so after a few uneventful hours by train we arrived before lunch at the main railroad station of Huangshan, a small city nearby Huangshan Yellow Mountains National Park.    As it was still early in the day, and we weren’t going up to the Yellow Mountains yet, there was time to visit the old historical streets of Huangshan city.

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20160209_145159The main old street of Huangshan is wonderful and well worth the stop.   Its the perfect introduction to the Anhui province and inner China.  (Away from the big cities)  The typical style of the steplike rooftops and the magnificent woodcarvings are breathtaking.  20160209_150814

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It doesn’t take much imagination to picture oneself in an old thriving Chinese town, centuries ago, while walking the ancient cobblestone streets with vendors all around you selling local produce and specialties.   The smell of the local spices and pickled foods makes the experience complete.20160209_144422

20160209_152903You must certainly try the “stinky tofu”, a popular local snack.  Basically its a fermented tofu, that is fried in oil.  For those who don’t have the stomach for such exotic treats, there is plenty of delicious food in the region.  Rich and healthy with lots of fresh ingredients from the mountain villages and local farms.   After all, Anhui food is one of the 8 great Cuisines of China!20160209_144247

Getting to the entrance of the Yellow Mountains National Park from Huangshan is still quite a drive.  And it being a major national holiday in China, traffic was bound to be heavy so we decided to take our hotel next to the entrance rather than in Huangshan city.  That was a good choice.   We had come a day earlier than the big holiday rush, but even than we got stuck in traffic for quite some time, arriving only by evening at our destination.

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Directly around the hotel were many restaurants and supermarkets, which was extremely convenient with a heavy hiking trip sceduled next day.  The restaurants are good and offer a vast variety of local speciality dishes, although one shouldn’t expect too many fancy interiors.  It’s clear that everything here is focussed on accomodating hordes and hordes of tourists.

We were advised to leave as early as possible, take the very first bus if possible, so there wouldn’t be time for breakfast.  I hate not having breakfast… especially in China…  where breakfast is always great…  So I got up around 5 am, what seemed to me still the middle of the night, and left for the Yellow Mountains.  The entrance of the park is actually a large fenced corridor leading to a big parking lot.  There you take the free shuttle bus up the mountain to the cable car station, from where you go to the top to start your hiking tour.    We were lucky. We were on the first bus and could take the cable car without any queuing while watching the sunrise.

Once up, you cant really go wrong and get lost.  The trail guides you around the best viewing points and there are regular stops where you can get refreshments.  The views are everything you expect them to be and more.  The sharp mountain peaks and the characteristic pine trees create a unique fairy-tail landscape.

We didn’t get to see the famous ‘see of clouds’ as it was a clear and sunny day, but we did get mind blowing panoramas and snowy landscapes.  No wonder that the Yellow Mountains are being depicted in so many paintings and artwork and no wonder they attract millions of Chinese tourists every year.  As we would soon discover….

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A little tired but satisfied we return to our hotel.  By than it is early evening.  As the hotel is good and the restaurant looks nicer than most of the restaurants outside, we decide to stay in the hotel for dinner and try out some local dishes : beef, and venison, tofu with mushrooms and of course the famous ‘Smelly Fish’.  A fermented fish delicacy that sounds much worse than it is.  In fact, if you get past the smell (which I found not even so bad), you are in for a real treat.  I have to dig far into my memory to remember having such a delicious fish.  Simply delicious.  A must.  And what a climax to an already fantastic day…

 

After a good night sleep, I wake up before my alarm.  There is this noise outside… It’s only about 8 am..  I get up.  clearly its the sound of people talking.  Lots of people.  I stumble to my window to take a peak outside and I see what can only be described as a see of people, all queuing in the street in front of the hotel and in the adjacent streets.  All waiting to get through the gate that leads to the parking lot for the shuttle bus.  There must be thousands and thousands…  They are not even at the bus  yet,  and than there is still the cable car to take…  I am shocked.  This is my first encounter with Chinese mass tourism at full scale after getting a little taste of it yesterday afternoon getting to cable car to get down.   I am so relieved that i decided to visit the Yellow Mountains a day before !  And it’s raining…

I look down.  Some people are looking up.  They are laughing.   They probably think i overslept..   I laugh back when i think about what time they would reach the bus..  and how long they would queue for the cable car…  It only takes 6 people at the time.  Would they reach the top before lunch?   And after that?  The whole afternoon stuck in a people-jam…  I spot some young  westerners in the back.  They are smiling still and waving to me.  I smile and wave back.  I feel sorry for them.   I hope at least with the rain they will get to see the sea of clouds….  or maybe just clouds..

But there is no time to lose.  I take my breakfast downstairs while watching the masses shuffle by.  Police is there now.  Organizing the flood of people.  And it works too.  By the time i check out most people have gone.  I wait for my driver.  I am excited because today I am going to see some of the most beautiful villages in all of China.  Unesco World Heritage Sites.   But that’s for the next post.

 

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