Last weekend, 5 of us took a coach to the Huangshan (“Yellow Mountain”, named after the Yellow Emporer) mountain range in Anhui province. As it was the October national holiday weekend, we probably chose the absolute busiest time of year to go, but we were too excited about seeing the most famous mountain range in China to care. Bad traffic meant that it took us 11 hours to actually get to our hotel below the mountains, but at least this gave us some time to relax and unwind after a busy week, and the views along the way were beautiful.
For our first night, we stayed in a small hotel in the village below the mountain range. The hotel owner also owned a Chinese restaurant, where we tried a range of questionable food including ‘stinky tofu’ and a soup with a whole chicken in – including the feet and head… I did not go near this!
In the morning, we got the coach to the mountain entrance. You could immediately see how busy it was going to get – a display board showed a count of nearly 10,000 people in the park before 9am. A couple of days later this actually increased to 45,000 people!
Surrounded by people staring at us and trying to start conversations, we queued for 1.5 hours for the cable car up the front of the mountain range. Most people wore matching hats to show which tour group they were in:
When we finally got higher up, the views were amazing right from the start.
We were really lucky to get some good weather that morning, because as time went on, the clouds completely shrouded all visibility and it got quite stormy. Luckily we all got matching raincoats from Taobao, which made us look like turtles over our backpacks.
The climb up the mountain was honestly one of the physically hardest things I’ve had to do – the combination of such intense humidity, rain and the endless concrete steps was too much for me! We ended up going most of it alone as nobody could keep up with each other. It was also difficult to get a good pace going when you’re surrounded by queues of thousands of Chinese people having a casual stroll, stopping to ask for selfies with us. I couldn’t figure out whether I felt more like a celebrity being stared at or just an animal in a zoo. It was so strange to see how many children did double-takes when they noticed us Westerners, and we all wondered what these people must do with the photos they take of us with their children. They must have a photo album of weird things they’ve seen on their holidays.
Finally we reached our bed for the night – mine happened to be a lower bunk in a room of 7 strangers in a hostel, featuring this interesting sign. All part of the adventure!
The next day was our descent back down the mountain. Half of our little group chose to stay for another night to see more of the vast mountain range, but I decided I’d had just enough of the hiking!
Luckily, the weather was amazing. I was so relieved to be going down rather than up in the roasting hot sunshine. It was shocking to see that some people had paid for men to carry them on their shoulders in chairs made of bamboo all the way up to the top. It’s hard to believe the level of strength and will power these men must have had to carry someone up so many hundreds of steep, dangerous steps, let alone in that heat.
The views were incredible, it felt like I was on a movie set for Jurassic Park or the Lion King.
Overall, a beautiful, must-see location. Just make sure if you plan to go, maybe try to get a bit fitter first and research which time of year is best to go! I will remember this trip forever.