Before sending my son to 新东方 for the summer camp, we wanted to do something fun together.  We choose黄山 . Five of us, my two sons and I, my sister and her daughter embarked the adventure together in early July, 2009.

We took the Overnight train ride from Shanghai to黄山 one day after landing in Shanghai. The train finally arrived after 9:00 am the next morning.  But, by the time we were ready to climb the mountain, it was already 12:00 pm, since we had to take a bus ride for over an hour to get to the foot of the mountain and feed ourselves first.   Anybody who wants to go to 黄山, I’d suggest you not to take the train from Shanghai, which is a total waste of time.

I did some research before the trip, most of the travel guides on the website suggested that we took the gondola  first to save energy for the ultimate climb since the scenery  before the gondola station is not as impressive as the ones in the second part of the mountain . However, my fourteen-year-old son claims that it would not be a real climb if we take the gondola. We estimated that it would take about 6 hours to climb the mountain and we would stay at the hotel near 光明顶(The top of the mountain) overnight so that we can watch the sun rise the next morning. A woman, dressed like a park ranger, approached us as soon as we entered the park. After a while, I finally figured out that the woman tried to offer us the porter service at a very cheap price. My son refused since he wanted the real experience of mountain climbing with a loaded backpack. We had to be very persistent to make the woman give up pursuing us.

We were soon overtaken by the July heat and the heavy load of the back pack. We made frequent stops. My two kids tried to cool down by dipping their shirts into the cool running creek. Didi started the usual whining process: the heat, the mosquito bite he got from the overnight train, the decision of not taking the Gondola, etc.  We noticed a lot more people coming down than the people climbing up.   Most of the people coming down the mountain are with wobbling feet and have to use their hands on the rail or walking canes to steady themselves. Every time we ask them how far the top of the mountain is, they would smile and say: “还早着那“, which really dampened our spirit. I started to doubt whether I made a wise decision not to take the Gondola. However, it was too late to change our course now.  One of the other groups that were climbing up has a Grandpa over Seventy years old, after witnessing the constant whining and our peculiar behavior, the Grandpa made a comment that our hiking shoes, specially purchased for this climbing trip in the U.S., were too heavy to make the kids tired. HaHa, what an irony it is.

One lady gave me her bamboo cane saying she no longer needed it and told me to rush upwards for the 2nd one since they just abandoned one a few hundred meters up. We hurried on and picked up the second bamboo stick for us to use as walking canes and the kids use them as 金箍棒. Didi’s spirit perked up.

We finally reach the Gondola station, where the 迎客松 is.

The second part of the climb turned out to be more interesting and challenging. As the night was approaching, with no idea how far our hotel is, we were so rushed to get to the hotel, we skipped so many scenery spots. 

一线天, 天呀, 怎么这么陡。I was the last one up. By this time, two back packs have landed on my shoulder plus the camera。 I climbed all these steps on four, shaking with fear. Once a while I have to lift one of my hands to steady the camera and bag in front me to avoid banging at the steps.

百步云梯,妈呀,怎么才能下得来。No hand rails, steep steps by the cliff. My sister almost passed out. Her daughter had to walk in the front  and my son stayed behind to make her feel safe.

Finally, we spotted our hotel, just below  光明顶 where we will watch the sunrise the next morning .

We’ve made it! We made it within 7 hours. I had my best meal that night, my kids never saw me eating with such good appetite, they commented that I should walk up and down the stairs when at home instead of supervising them to do homework and practice piano. Not a chance, I will not give up the pleasure of watching them.

I asked my sister to book the hotel for us since it would be cheaper for a Chinese resident to do so. Without any travel experience, she booked the hotel for one night only, thinking that we could always extend if we wanted to. However, we were told, once we checked in, that the hotel was fully booked and we had no chance to extend our stay. Now I started to appreciate my husband who always plans our trips and activities ahead of time. I really want to explore the mountain for several days, now we had no choice but go down the mountain the next day.

The sun rise was predicated around 5:15 am the next morning. Still with jet lag, I woke up around 3:30 to get the rest up and we took about 30 minutes to get to 光明顶。  To our surprise, every spot was occupied. They probably just camped there with their blankets and most of them were with tour groups. I finally found a spot that I thought was the best that I could manage (behind many trees) and installed my fourteen-year-old son there; then I went to search for my second son and my sister. Didi was so tired and cold that he decided to just sit at a rock, fretting. I went back to the older one. Oh, my God, the America raised kid. He has been squeezed out!!! He was too polite not to let the people nudge in front of him. One of them was a guy, a head taller than my son. Out of desperation, he snapped some pictures with the camera on top of his head, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sun rise.

We waited and waited, the sun did not rise, people got impatient, I took some pictures when I saw lots of people waiting for the sun rise as well on the other side of the mountain . The tour guides got impatient as well, they started to gather their groups and ready to move on. Not wanting to give up, I grabbed the opportunity and climbed to a premium spot. Just then, the Sun started to rise, people exclaimed with joy and rushed back, by then I was secure with my spot and started to snap pictures.  My son tried to get to me but only got his fingers stepped by a woman trying to steady her feet while snapping some pictures of the sunrise.


 We went down the mountain with ease and without exploring more of the mountain (what a pity). My niece was complaining about the blisters on her feet and my sons are too tired to talk. I was the only one that wanted to do more. 

 The hotel we stayed overnight locates at about 6,000 meter higher in the mountain. The girls at the front desk informed us they did not have any laundry facilities and advised us to take short showers since everything was carried up by hard labors (food, water, towels, etc). We took some pictures of the hard laborers. Some of the laborers did not want to have their pictures taken; we had to take them secretly. Can you guess how much they make by carrying a load of Tofu, bottled water, propane gas to the hotel from the bottom of the mountain? Only 70RMB a trip. However, these rickshaw carriers make a little more, about 400 RMB a trip. But I prefer to walk by myself. Standing and climbing with my own feet are more secure than sitting on the shaking rickshaw and overlooking the steep steps and mountains.

 We finally took the gondola down the mountainBy the time we got down the mountain it was only 12:00 pm (we should have stayed and explored more on the top of the mountain). The taxi driver was a very nice guy. He drove us to the bus station and we bought our bus tickets (I would have stayed one night in that town if I knew it was that pretty. Anyway, planning ahead of time will always payoff.  I relied on my husband too much on planning trips. I made several regrettable decisions without him this time);  he drove us to purchase the tickets for Lovers’ Valley 情人谷, this is the place 李安shot the movie卧龙藏虎, finally he dropped us off at his brother’s house. His brother has a restaurant and a 民宿楼. We had the best meal ever there. When asked what the 毛豆付was, the sister-in-law suggested that we gave it a try. Remembering the night at the mountain top hotel, the waitress did not suggest us to try it, we ordered it with comprehension. What a surprise! What a delight! It was better than 臭豆付. They both are biscally fermented 豆付. But 毛豆付 did not have the smell that the臭豆付has. Another amazing experience is豆付馄饨,到现在想起来还直流口水。Sorry, we did not take any pictures.

Rested, we left the home and walked to the情人谷 gate. On the way there, some home was 晒菜干, it reminds me of my childhood.

It was so hot we decided to wade through the cool creek. Didi fell into the water and gave up wading and started to swim. Oops, there was a “no swimming” sign.     

 With no time to explore more, we left 情人谷 in a hurry to catch our bus, and it is only a 5 hours ride to reach Shanghai. Oh, how I wish that we could have spent a little more time there. Friends, please plan your trip to avoid regrets like I did.


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