A Happy New Year in Huangshan

We wanted to hit the ground running with travelling in 2016, so on 1st January Mitch and I headed west of Hangzhou to the town of Tunxi. Nestled in the south of Anhui Province, it’s a great base to explore the surrounding area. Our plan was to visit Mount Huangshan (the Yellow Mountain) on the Saturday, but if the weather wasn’t right there are plenty of other places within easy access of Tunxi to explore.

Exploring the Old Street
Exploring the Old Street

Thankfully, the weather was wonderful! We arrived on Friday evening and found our hostel, located in a very swish, more modern area of town with coffee shops, a cinema and bustling restaurants. Five minutes’ stroll away from our hostel was the old bridge, across from which we were greeted by the old street. It’s essentially a long lane but one where, if you look up, you can observe old Chinese architecture at its best. The street is lined with shops selling everything you can imagine: tea, selfie sticks, hip flasks, clothes, shoes, and books. We stopped off for some food with a badly translated English menu (I did not, in fact, have braised pork with carrots). Nevertheless, it was a lovely evening. We went back to the hostel for an early night as our bus to the mountain was due to leave at 6.30am the following day!

After our early pick up we arrived at the foot of the mountain about 7.45am. A noodle breakfast set us up for the day and we were ready to climb. The process to get up to the mountain takes a while as your first take a shuttle bus and then a cable car. It took even longer because of the ridiculous amount of other tourists. I’ve been to a lot of busy touristy places, but this was something else.

Pretty epic views
Pretty epic views

It bothered us at first but we soon accepted that this was how it was going to be. To be fair, it was a beautiful day and we were on a freaking mountain, so we couldn’t really complain. We also soon realised that the places where we were stood still queuing for the longest were on the very steep and narrow parts of the mountain. You need to go slow for your own safety.

The mountain itself is spectacular, and I’d say we only covered about one tenth of it in our day there. You get some breath-taking views and can really breath fresh air being up that high (a nice break from smoggy Hangzhou air). I’m no geologist but the rock formation is really something. There were a few moments where the sound of tour guides diminished and there were no shouting children. In those moments, there was a real sense of tranquillity and calmness, which I think you can only find that high up and immersed in nature.

Learning how to write 'Helen' in Chinese - difficult!
Learning how to write ‘Helen’ in Chinese – difficult!

On Sunday morning we had a blissful lie in. Before leaving we went for another stroll around the old street and sat outside for a drink (yes, it was warm enough to sit outside on January 3rd!). It was while we were sat at our table that a local girl asked to sit with us because she wanted to practise her English, and just generally talk to us foreigners.  She had no mobile phone to take a photo or exchange numbers but said she was very happy to meet us. She was very kind and another reason why I need to improve my Chinese speaking skills!

It was a great weekend and if we were to go again we’d definitely want more time on the mountain. Starting 2016 by exploring  beautiful places China has to offer was perfect.

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