This weekend was Qing Ming festival in China, which meant a long weekend and time for trip. Myself and 3 colleagues decided to take a break from the city and head out into the countryside. As with many Chinese holidays you, get an extra day or two off, but have to work over the weekend. So, on Saturday morning we all went to school just as we would for any normal school day, then in the evening we caught the bus to a town called Tunxi, just outside of the Huangshan mountain region.
Tunxi is a small town about 2 hour 45mins away from Hangzhou. We arrived in the town at around 9pm and checked in hotel to drop bags off before heading out to see what was on offer. The ancient street was quite pretty, with typical souvenir sellers and food stalls. As we arrived on a late bus late the area was quiet, so we decided to see if we could find a bar. Surprise, surprise we managed to find the only bar in the town that had foreigners. We met an American and a Frenchman who, are pretty much the only forgivers in the town, so naturally they were excited to see us and wanted to share their knowledge of the town and surrounding area. They gave us some tips, while sipping on beers and the night finished with some street food BBQ!
The following morning, we had a lazy start and headed over to a small village called Cheng Kun. The village looked stunning in the sunshine and thankfully there weren’t too many tourists. We wandered around the village taking in the old village and tasting the local delicacies. It was nice to see a small village that still looked and felt truly Chinese, without all the modern enhancements of the larger cities that have almost lost their cultural identities. After a few hours, our driver took drove us to Tangkou, which is at the base of Huangshan mountain. After dinner, we settled into Hui Lai Hotel for the night.
The next morning Mr Hu the owner of the hotel drove us to the bus station, which would take us to the mountain. Naturally the bus station was extremely busy. We waited for around 40mins before we got a bus and then a further hour for the cable cart to take us up the mountain. This is the downside to travelling to tourist place in china during the holidays…the crowds!
Once we saw the views from the mountain, we had forgotten all about the crowds and the long queues! We were fortunate that the weather was quite warm and the air pollution wasn’t too bad, so the visibility was much better than we had expected. It was nice to get out in the fresh air and to be aware from all the hustle and bustle of a big city. The mountains were beautiful and there are paths all over, so it’s easy to escape the crowds of people. The only downside to visiting mountainous areas in China are the stairs. Unlike at home, where there is usually a dirt path for people hike up and down, in china its ALWAYS stairs and lots of them!
After a day hiking and hiking on very little food I must admit, as the prices on the mountains were at times 4 times as much as the original price at the bottom of the mountain, we were ready to tuck into a good meal almost as soon as we hit the base. Thankfully there are plenty of restaurants that have picture menus, which is such a blessing when your Chinese skills still aren’t too good.
On the Tuesday, we headed to the Nine Dragon Waterfall area, at the base of the mountains, to continue our hiking trip. As this was the official day for Qing Ming, most Chinese tourists had ended their trip and returned home to sweep the tombs and honour their dead family members (this is the reason for the holiday, it’s also known at the Tomb Sweeping Holiday!) so the area wasn’t too busy. As you wander through the trees and bamboo covered walk ways you follow the river and you encounter the nine different waterfall areas. I was surprised by the landscape and even more surprised by the colour of the water, it was so clear and very tempting to just jump in.
The weekend was a perfect get away from the city and it felt good to be out in nature. It was the first time I had heard the birds singing in a very long time and there were even moments where you could hear nothing at all, which for anyone who has ever lived here knows how rare silence can be!