11 Days Free and Easy China Tour – Day 4 Huangshan and Tunxi Ancient Street

Breakfast at Cheng Jin Hotel

This would be one of the most exciting days for our China Tour. We would be doing the Huangshan hike in the morning before heading over to Tunxi City for the night to prepare for our southward train ride to Wuyishan the next day. It was still very dark when we went to the restaurant for breakfast. We were the first guests at the restaurant while breakfast was getting ready.

We weren’t having very high expectation for breakfast at the hotel. However, while the breakfast spread wasn’t comparable to any four star hotels in major cities, the food available was quite decent for this three star hotel in a rural area of scenic mountain site. Food was hot and sufficient and we were fed.

After breakfast, we returned to our room, got our backpacks with some food and water and then returned to the hotel lobby to check out. We left our main luggage with Cheng Jin Hotel. We could also borrow raincoats to standby just in case we needed them up in the mountains. The hotel also loaned us walking sticks but after trying them out, we decided not to bring them along for our hike.

Bus from Tangkou to Cloud Valley

So we left Cheng Jin Hotel and walked up to the bus terminal nearby. It was 7 am and it was getting brighter. There were self-service bus ticket machines but we preferred not to use them. We queued for a short while and bought our bus tickets. The bus ticket cost CNY 19 each. Next we walked over to the bus departure hall. We were required to go through security screening and had our bags scanned. An old man in front of us decided to challenge the procedure and was rebuked by the security staff.

For the past few days, residents of Anhui Province were given free entry into Huangshan National Park. The mountain was packed with visitors exceeding thirty thousand people. Hence, we decided to go up to Huangshan first thing in the morning to beat the crowd. Even so early in the morning, there was a sizeable crowd at the bus station.

After queuing for a short while, we boarded the bus heading up to the cable car station at Cloud Valley. It had been raining almost the whole night so the roads were still wet. It was also very misty as the bus drove along winding roads towards Cloud Valley. At least one passenger vomited during the journey. We were glad we didn’t eat too much during breakfast. Notwithstanding, the scenic views along the way were quite astounding even before our actual hike up Huangshan. About thirty minutes later, we arrived at Cloud Valley Station.

Cable Car up to Huangshan

The surrounding was wet and misty but not very cold. The air was of course fresh but humidity was rather high. There were quite a number of visitors at the base here. We made a quick visit to the toilet here and then proceeded to the ticketing office to purchase tickets into the park to take the cable car up Huangshan. Entrance fee was CNY 150 per person and cable car ride was CNY 65 each during low season. Those under 18 enjoys discounted fare.

So armed with tickets, we made our way into the station excitedly and soon boarded an empty cable car for our whole family. The cable car ride took us into clouds and mists and we saw the sea of clouds below. It was so beautiful and what a way to start our morning. The ride didn’t take too long and we soon exited and started our Huangshan hike proper.

Cloud Valley Station to White Goose Park

The whole area after the cable car station was like a park. Visitors were walking along the way and taking pictures. The sight of the mountains surrounding the exit of this cable car station was already so pretty with clouds and mists coming and going blocking the rugged mountains from our views. We couldn’t stay too long here blocking the crowds of visitors coming out from the cable car station and we still had a long way to go for the day to explore Huangshan.

We then walked on and continued admiring the mountains and taking pictures along the way. The views of those mountains were like Chinese paintings. It was truly stunning. So walking along, we reached some stairs. Walking up those stairs through the mists wasn’t too strenuous yet. There were some mysterious effects to this hike walking in a park like environment with trees on both sides of the staircase.

Signboards were visible along the way. Soon, we reached a stream with a little waterfall. The overnight rain no doubt provided this wet canopy on the mountain and the sea of clouds we witnessed earlier was really amazing. We were on top of the clouds as well as into the clouds.

We then crossed a small stone bridge. The metal chains on the bridge was adorned with metal locks left behind by visitors symbolizing some kinds of special relationship. These padlocks were actually overflowing interlocking unto other locks on the metal chains. There were so many locks here and they looked interesting.

After crossing this bridge, we reached a small pond with water in dark green colour. Warnings in Chinese informing visitors the waters here are deep and cold and not to enter the pond. The reflections on the water were really nice. This was a nice place to stop for a break to enjoy the tranquility of the pretty surrounding. We hadn’t come across any smokers in the park yet and visitors were few over here.

White Goose Park to  White Goose Hotel

We didn’t stay very long here. Continuing our walk along the walking paths with stairs that were more gradual here brought us to another nice spot. We had arrived at White Goose Park. This place was quite elevated and the whole ambiance here was quite mysterious as we made our way into the clouds and mists. It was alike a portrait of black and white canvass before us while walking towards the edge to view the mountains further off this park.

We saw padlocks on chains again at the edge with amazing views of the mountains from off a few vintage points. It was like Chinese paintings all over again with clouds passing rugged mountains not too far away. We stayed around to enjoy the great views of the changing scenes created by the passing clouds. It was so beautiful. The feelings were great here for all of us inhaling the fresh and moist air up here in Huangshan. The effects of the overnight rain was pretty good. It did somehow obstructed the otherwise perfect views of the surrounding.

Having enjoyed the views this site offered, we moved on. It was still the same gradual steps along the nicely paved walking path with tall trees lining both sides of the path. It was such a nice walk in the park. We were still pretty energetic at this point with few visitors in sight. Most of those visitors who exited the cable car station at Cloud Valley took a different path towards the north to explore other sites. We were simply following the route recommended by the manageress of Cheng Jin Hotel because we only had a morning to explore Huangshan before leaving for Tunxi City.

So our family took this walk like enjoying a visit to a park but at an elevation with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. Not long after, we arrived White Goose Hotel. The hotel looked lovely up here. There were some renovation works going on as we approached the hotel looking for spots to take pictures. White Goose Hotel has a big courtyard in front of the hotel. This might be a good place to come out at night to look at stars. This hotel is probably one of those hotels up here where visitors might stay for a night to watch sunrise in the morning.

White Goose Hotel to Bright Submit Peak

We then moved on after staying a while to enjoy the surrounding. It was still the relatively easy paths to walk on as we enjoyed the mountain views along the way. The distant mountains seemed to become clearer as the morning wore on. It was a really nice walk where the temperature was perfect, not too hot and not too cold. We then saw a transmission tower while approaching to our next point of interest.

The vegetation up here became more interesting with grass in bright brown or yellow in colour. We needed more effort here with the elevation and more stairs with greater height to climb. It then leveled off with a smooth walking path through shelters and stone benches for visitors to stop to rest a while and enjoy this part of the park.

The views further away became more intriguing. Signage along the way provided names of those mountains and the rocks on top of one of the mountains. One such rock was so unique that stood there was called the Flying Rock. This pointed rock seemed to be looking out to the other mountains but sitting precariously on top of another huge rock ready to take its flight. This strange and special rock certainly provided photo taking opportunity to curious visitors to unwind for a while forgetting about the strenuous walk to this point of the hike.

Walking on we reached another pond with a small little water stream falling down from a small height. It was the interesting vegetation again with long orange brown grass on a hill among tall trees. Soon we reached a tall huge rock and more great views of the surrounding. Signage showed we were heading in the correct direction. We also met some police officers at some spots. Their presence was great assurance of law and order for visitors to Huangshan.

Bright Submit Peak Meteorological Station

After this, we arrived at one of our main attractions on Huangshan. We were now at the Meteorological Station. The name of this place on the stone signage is called Brightness Top, not a very good translation from Chinese. Bright Height in English would sound better for a name to this place. Anyway, this place here is known as the Bright Summit Peak. The elevation at this place is 1860 m above sea level. There were quite a lot of visitors here. There were quite a few lookout points over here where the views were simply stunning.

One of the lookout points was some rugged rocks up here. Many visitors would climb up for a better view of the surrounding mountains. It was a little precarious though. A wrong step would surely cost some nasty bruise and skinning of limbs and more serious consequence might be head injury. Nevertheless, those spots up there command premium views.

On top of one of those rocks were more padlocks left behind probably by couples or lovers secured on a protruding metal bar. A good sense of balance would be necessary to stand and stay up there to enjoy the views. However, if this place is wet and raining, it would be very treacherous to climb those rocks for a better view of the surrounding. Safety is paramount and the wind is quite strong up there.

Indeed the views were magnificent. The changing scenes of the distant mountains brought about by the unpredictable clouds were great. A small reservoir could be seen from up here as well. It was quite windy up there while we were standing up there on the uneven rocks. Further down from the rocks at the edge were railings and of course more padlocks left there, a testimony for some having been to this lovely place. Those viewing locations are actually safer with just a slightly blocked view. So those who are not so young should not climb up the rocks for just a little more views of the area.

We then moved on to another part of this main attraction to view the south side of Huangshan. There were some flights of stairs and then more rocks to climb to the edge on top of those rocks. But it was so crowded with visitors, we only managed to get up to one side of those rock edges. Anyway, it was so foggy southward, we could not see very much over here looking outward and downward of Huangshan. Nevertheless, it was still a good experience to climb up there for a look. This was another one of those lookout points of the attraction here.

Now we knew why the manageress from Cheng Jin Hotel didn’t recommend our original plan to visit Huangshan just near the cable car station on each day for a short hike and look around. Some of these main attractions were gorgeous and we would have missed the real idea and fun of visiting Huangshan. But in order to really enjoy Huangshan, some efforts are required.

It was already 10 am when we reached Bright Summit Peak which meant we had already spent two hours hiking up in Huangshan. We imagined we were only half way through our hike. At that point in time, we were still quite alright and not too tired yet. So far this location was where we met the most number of visitors. It was however not overwhelming yet.

Bright Submit Peak to Baiyun Hotel

After this we left the Meteorological Station at this Bright Summit Peak attraction to move on to the next attraction not too far away. We continued to witness the awesome views on our left southward of Huangshan. We could see cable cars traversing between mountains through the clouds. Those rugged mountains swarmed with ongoing clouds were fascinating indeed. It was so picturesque very much like Chinese paintings as we made our way onward to the next stop.

Soon along the gradual steps and nicely paved stone paths, we encountered more visitors. Some workers were carrying loads of stuff on the shoulders probably meant for those hotels up here on Huangshan. Every commercially available goods are carried up by manual labour so do expect to pay more for food and drinks as well as other stuff and services up here on the mountain. Encountering more visitors here signaled we were near the next attraction.

Huangshan Baiyun Hotel

Not long after, we entered Baiyun Hotel rest area. This place was very crowded with so many tour groups with their tour guides blaring away on loudhailers. The quiet and tranquil Huangshan Park we experienced much earlier was gone. Moreover, at every major rest area, visitors are allowed to smoke whereas smoking is prohibited anywhere else in Huangshan National Park. So this was not the favourite rest area to linger for us.

Nevertheless Baiyun Hotel rest area is one of the major attractions up on Huangshan. Naturally, this would attract visitors to congregate. Moreover, there is a huge food court up here. Hence, do expect crowds here.

Baiyun Hotel looked much better than the White Goose Hotel we passed by earlier. This hotel probably commands a premium offering better creature comfort and services. In addition, the area around here also offer visitors more space and places to explore with eating and entertainment venues other than just staying in the hotel.

The crowd here offered little comfort for us especially the pungent cigarette smoke spoilt our otherwise perfect fresh air hike in the mountains. We couldn’t imagine had we been up here on the mountains a day or two earlier when over thirty thousand visitors swamped the mountains due to the free entry for residents of Anhui Province, we would be very miserable. So we moved on to our next destination, Aoyu Feng – the Ao-Fish Peak.

Baiyun Hotel to Aoyu Peak

The walking paths were still the nicely paved stones passing long yellow grass vegetation with pine tress and distant mountains with rugged granite peaks. We could make up Aoyu Peak from a distance with visitors up there looking out to the surrounding mountains. As we approached the peak area, the walk became a little more strenuous ascending up the elevation of stairs towards this attraction.

Once we reached there, visitors were heading up to the viewing area on top of those huge rocks. The area was also covered with clouds from time to time. Our children climbed up those rocks to the lookout points. The views up there must be marvelous.

My dear wife and I were simply content with the views from below the peak watching those visitors heading up and down the mountains in the distance. The walking paths over there were quite narrow with stairs leading up and down the mountains. It was really crazy and must be very tiring to do that stretch of the hike. We certainly didn’t want to join them. We told ourselves we would avoid going there.

When the children were back down with us and having had indulged ourselves thoroughly with the views here, we moved on. We were a little tired by now having hiked for three and a half hours up and down stairs and walking paths. So far, those stairs up and down the mountains were not too bad compared to the stairs we observed those visitors treading in the distance from Aoyu Peak. Those people seemed to be hiking up and down the mountains on the north while we were trying to head west towards Jade Screen Cable Car Station to head back to Tangkou. So we were pretty confident we would avoid the horrible hike those people we saw were trying to navigate through those paths along the mountain sides.

Aoyu Peak to Ladder on the Clouds

We came from the east after Baiyun Hotel. So we left Aoyu Peak and there was only one way to leave this place towards the west. Soon we found ourselves walking into the clouds and could hardly see the paths ahead. In addition, we had to walk up and down narrow stairs. Not long after, we were met with a massive human traffic jam. After a few turns, we realized we were heading to the area we saw from Aoyu Peak we so badly wanted to avoid.

So we were stuck with the crowd moving slowly but gradually along. Turning back wasn’t an option. We wouldn’t want to make another nearly four hours hike back to Cloud Valley Cable Car Station where we first took to head up to Huangshan. Our joy and enthusiasm quickly vanished as despair began to set in. It was certainly no fun to tread these stairways to heaven in the clouds not knowing how far and how much more we had to tread. There were times we had to enter stone caves up and down the stairs squeezing through the crowd. These visitors were not too exuberant either having to punish themselves through this part of the hike.

After a while, we found a small lookout point where we could sit on a stone bench near the edge of the mountain to rest our tired legs. It was also time to bring out the bread and cakes we bought the day before to recharge a little before we continued with this punishing hike. We were right in the clouds and there was little we could see here other than the massive crowd walking up and down the mountains before us, the old and the young and even the little ones. Pity those little ones up here who could hardly make the hike on their own. The poor parents were equally miserable having to carry their little ones along.

Ladder on the Clouds to Lotus Peak

Having caught our breathe and the much needed rest, we trod on bravely reminding ourselves Jade Screen Cable Car Station was not too far away. It was still the same up and down stairs through the mountains. Looking up those stairs at times certainly looked like stairways to heaven going up through clouds of the unknown. Some visitors apparently couldn’t move on anymore and had to stop. This caused obstruction to those who wished to move on.

Anyway, there were sedan chair operators up here waiting to be hired. We didn’t check the price though. Notwithstanding, looking at those sedan chairs, we won’t be too confident we might move from point to point safely through the crowd squeezing through those narrow stairs. Any misstep would surely mean a very nasty fall onto the stairs for a minor incident and a jolly good ride down the mountain if falling over the edge. You will either have great faith to trust the carriers or simply too exhausted to leave your life to fate.

Having gone through stairs after stairs and squeezing through crowds of people, we finally emerged to a wider walking path. We had arrived at a rest stop near Lotus Peak. There is a food kiosk over there selling hot food and drinks. Many visitors were resting having a lunch break during this time which was already past noon time. We didn’t stay at this rest area for very long as we would like to return to Cheng Jin Hotel for lunch as soon as possible. Of course we were in no mood to locate Lotus Peak for a nice look around.

Lotus Peak to Jade Screen Cable Car Station

So we continued our hike up and down stairs again but this time with lesser visitors in the way. We were heading towards Jade Screen Cable Car Station and were much encouraged but each time when we made a turn around the corner expecting to see the cable car station, we were disappointed. We walked on through the misty stairs and hardly able to see much through the clouds knowing the mountains were definitely pretty awesome everywhere but we were not much in the mood to admire anymore. There was an interesting looking rock that caught our attention though. This strange looking rock was sitting on top of another huge rock as we made our way up and passed this strange sight.

By the time we were near Jade Screen Cable Car Station, it was nearly 1 pm, a good 45 minutes walk after passing Lotus Peak rest area. Visibility around this area here was slightly better. A Chinese tour guide was holding a stack of cable car tickets to sell to his tour group some way before the cable car station. We went to him and bought ours as well. He told us if we didn’t trust him we could walk over to the ticketing office to queue up and buy them on our own. The price of the ticket was still the same at CNY 75 each. He didn’t make a profit as far as we could tell.

Eventually we reached the cable car station and there weren’t many visitors over here. We entered an empty cable car and were relieved we were on the way down from Huangshan. We were quite exhausted by now and were too happy to be heading downhill. In about ten minutes, we reached the base station. We then walked out to the huge car park where many buses were waiting.

Jade Screen Cable Car Station to Tangkou

Firstly, we went over to the ticketing counter to purchase our bus tickets. The bus fare was CNY 19 each. Not long after, we boarded a waiting bus that was about to depart to Tangkou. Soon the bus moved off and we were on our way back to Cheng Jin Hotel. About 20 minutes later, we arrived at the bus station.

It was nearly 1.30 pm when we made our way to Cheng Jin Hotel. The electronic signboard indicated over ten thousand visitors had entered Huangshan that day by noon. We couldn’t imagine how crowded it would be up there when we were told over 35,000 visitors were up in Huangshan the day before. We were thankful we had a pretty good time up there that morning.

Lunch at Cheng Jin Hotel

Back in Cheng Jin Hotel, we returned the raincoats that we didn’t use. On hind sight, it might better had we borrowed the walking sticks from the hotel as well. Anyway, walking sticks could be purchased at cable car stations and some stalls at rest area up in Huangshan. We wasted no time to head to the restaurant to order food for lunch. We were tired and famished.

The food from the hotel’s restaurant didn’t disappoint us. It was very good again. The 12% discounts for hotel guests were appreciated. The friendly manageress attended to us again. Her recommendation for our hike was good. We spent about five hours hiking Huangshan. This was a good experience indeed. Had we come with a tour group, we might not have enjoyed ourselves as much.

After lunch, we asked Cheng Jin Hotel to help arrange transfer to Tunxi. We could have taken the public buses to head to Tunxi and then hire two taxis to bring us to Parrion Huangshan Hotel. This would be more time consuming and won’t result in too much cost savings. We needed an MPV for our family and we were quoted CNY 200 for the transfer direct to Parrion Huangshan Hotel. This cost slightly more than the public transportation we could secure on our own. Most importantly, it saved us time and offered us comfort rather than having to lug our bags around taking public transport. So we happily accepted the offer.

Tangkou to Tunxi Parrion Hotel

Once we were ready, we set off for Tunxi. Cheng Jin Hotel was a great place to stay. Their customer service was outstanding to say the least. The quality of the food and the reasonableness of the food prices surely are pluses for anyone wishing to use Cheng Jin Hotel as a base to explore Huangshan. Should we return another time, Cheng Jin Hotel would be our first choice hotel to consider. The people in Huangshan were genuinely friendly and helpful as well. In addition, the hotel’s manageress made our stay so much more enjoyable with her help and recommendations for our tours in Huangshan.

The friendly driver drove along and about an hour later we entered Tunxi City. He had to stop a while to check for direction to Parrion Huangshan Hotel. It was drizzling as we made our way into the city. We soon arrived Parrion Huangshan Hotel. The driver helped us carry our bags into the hotel. He then made his way back to Tangkou. So for CNY 200 to bring us to Tunxi and then return to Tangkou, it wasn’t really expensive at all. Usually the drivers are friends or relatives of hotel staff. So such arrangements are win-win situation for both the hotel and guests.

Tunxi Parrion Hotel

It was 3.30 pm when we checked into Parrion Huangshan Hotel. The lobby of this four star hotel was very grand, much like a five star hotel. It was rather quiet though. We wondered where the hotel guests had gone. Of course we were aware this was off peak season but still this quietness at the hotel was a little strange. We were given three rooms on the fifth floor. Unfortunately, we were not given inter-connecting rooms. Some rooms were already occupied so there were hotel guests staying at the hotel but we hadn’t met them yet, that’s all.

The rooms were super huge and the facilities available from bedroom to bathroom were simply five star setup. The balcony accessible from the bedroom was really huge as well. The room in front has a river view while those facing the back are looking at some residential apartments. Other than some minor maintenance issue with the mixer in one of the bathtubs, everything was fine and perfect.

So it was a great time for a good bath and a good time to relax to recuperate from the strenuous Huangshan hike earlier in the day. It was so good to stretch out on bed to watch TV even though most of the programs were Chinese. There were so many channels to choose from and we watched Ipman again, the Mandarin version. The late afternoon rest was great.

Parrion Hotel to Tunxi Ancient Street

At around 6 pm, we were getting hungry. There was an Italian Restaurant in the hotel. So we went to the lobby to check out the restaurant. Unfortunately, it was close, low season perhaps. Anyway, we were intending to head out to explore the Ancient Street in Tunxi so we left Parrion Huangshan Hotel.

It was already dark when we ventured out. We crossed the road and walked along the river to the left. We then walked across the wide river following the road into town. Once we reached the traffic junction in town, we crossed over and walked towards Tunxi Ancient Street after passing some modern shops and malls. It was still drizzling lightly when we entered the Ancient Street.

Shops and restaurants on both sides of the Ancient Street were brightly lit but visitors were few and far between. The cold drizzle coupled with the lack of crowd, the warm lights from the streets and shops didn’t provide much warm or excitement here. We walked along and browsed through the shops and not long after, we had reached the end of the street. It was a far cry from the ancient towns we visited in other cities in China that were so full of life and action. We then turned back and looked for a restaurant to have dinner.

Dinner at Tunxi Old Street

We found a small café on a side street and decided to give this café a try. It was just a very small café with very limited sitting area. We found a table for our family nonetheless. Since we had Chinese food for the past two days so we opted to have a change. We ordered an Italian pizza, a Japanese Ramen, a western mushroom soup, a curry rice set and a stew beef rice set. So we had some international combo dinner that night. It was really nice.

We had the chance chat with two Australian ladies who were holidaying there having a cuppa before catching their flight out of Tunxi. We exchanged stories and while our evening away. The restaurant provided free wifi so it was very convenient to catch up with the happenings outside of this small little city. Soon these ladies had to go and we continued with our slow dining waiting for the drizzle to subside.

When dinner was done, we left this café and walked out of the Ancient Street towards the modern area of town. The boys wanted to try out the ice cream from MacDonalds where a special flavour was on offer. So we stopped by the Mac for a while. Next while we made our way towards the main road, we spotted Super Bakery on the street. It was a great find as we made our way into the bakery to buy more bread and cakes.

Return to Parrion Hotel Retire for the Night

With the latest purchase, we made our way back to Parrion Huangshan Hotel. It was the same route crossing the river and walking along the river back to the hotel. It was a good 15 minutes’ walk under some light drizzle from time to time. We saw a notice on front desk where we could arrange transfer to the train station for the next morning. This was a comforting piece of information as we would be catching a morning train ride to Wuyishan the next day. The hotel was still the quiet vibe like the afternoon when we arrived. A lone lady staff was stationed at the counter with nothing much to do.

Back in our room, we made coffee and tea to continue with our supper from the bakery stuff we bought earlier in town. It was another great time indulging in some sweet desserts post dinner event. When the final feasting was done, we retired to our own room to continue watching TV programs and surfing the internet with the wifi provided by the hotel. The luxury of these hotel rooms was quite a surprise to us staying in this four star hotel in a small city in China. So we just enjoyed the evening in style and allowed our tired bodies to rest to prepare for the next day’s destination.

More fun would be expected as we prepared to take our first high speed train ride in the morning. Meanwhile, it had to be sweet dreams after the tiring hike on Huangshan. Before we knew it, we were heading into the fifth day of our China Tour.

Continue to Day 5

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