Monthly Archives: September 2014

One tortoise, 3 Vases, and 2 Bowls

Some ceramic works that I did, since becoming a member of the Ceramic Club@AMK CC recently …

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(final coat of glaze by Mr Vincent Lim, the instructor, to give the cracked effect or other effects)

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Huangshan: independent travel (Part 3 Side trips)

There are lots of other interesting places to visit if you prefer some variety before or after taking in the Huangshan summit views. Part 3 is about the other places we managed to sight see or things to do, in our 6 day 4 night itinerary (= 4 full days)

In more or less chronological order, …

1) Hangzhou West Lake 西湖

The famous  West Lake in Hangzhou

The famous West Lake in Hangzhou

Flying from Singapore to Hangzhou (5 h 30 min) on the 6 pm flight, we reach the Lotus Youth Hostel around 1 am. This youth hostel is rather hard to find on Shuguang Lu, but the driver will have a way to locate it. It is very near to the West Lake (lotus pond end) and we took the chance to visit it, before checking out and taking a taxi to the West Bus Station (Tianmushan Lu) to buy tickets for the bus (earliest we could buy departs 10:10 am; earlier ones sold out) to Tangkou.

TIP: to catch an earlier bus,  stay at the PodInn Hotel that is just around the West Bus Station so that you can go there early to buy the earliest bus ticket in advance.

2) Fei Cui Gu 翡翠谷/Jiu Long Waterfall 九龙瀑布

At the end of the 3 hr 30 min bus journey to Tangkou (with one rest/toilet stop at a petrol station), a lady came up the bus to make announcements about the onward journey (to Huangshan cable car, bus booking back to Hangzhou the next day, etc) before the bus entered into the Tangkou bus terminal. We were escorted into this travel agency/restaurant type place (where tour/bus tickets were sold) and given a Huangshan map and advised on other possible things to do, after finding out about our plans and where we were staying for the next 2 days.

As a result, we decided to take in the two recommended sights at the mountain base instead of going up by the Yuping cable way (as there was not a lot of time to spend up there); this was after a quick lunch at the restaurant. This tour took about 4 plus hours, (1 hr 30 min Fei Cui Gu, 1 hr plus Jiu Long Waterfall, travelling time in taxi).

(NOTE: a point that I am still puzzled about is how people up on the mountain get down, if they are unable to take the last cable car down .. does it mean they have to walk down? The cable car stops operating around 4:30, from  guidebooks that I read)

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Beautiful colours at the Fei Cui Gu, where scenes from the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed

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“Love locks” at Fei cui gu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poster on the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Poster on the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

zip line, only RMB30, over the bamboo forest@Fei Cui Gu

zip line, only RMB30, over the bamboo forest@Fei Cui Gu

Bamboo trail

Bamboo trail in Fei Cui Gu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map in Jiu Long Waterfall area

Map in Jiu Long Waterfall area

the upper falls, a "short" distance uphill from the lower falls

the upper falls, a “short” distance uphill from the lower falls

The lower falls

The lower falls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Hot Spa

After taking in the two sights above, we had dinner in Tangkou, before catching a mini bus (RMB11, the tour desk mentioned earlier will help arrange) to go up to our hotel (Best Western Huangshan Resort and Spa Hotel) near the HOT SPA area, a short way up the mountain.

The spa is very near the hotel (a walk of less than 200 m) and opened till late (like 11 pm). Tickets are heavily discounted if one is a hotel guest and we paid RMB100 each for the spa (normal price if buying at the spa entrance is RMB240, but the tour desk in Tangkou can also offer discounted tickets, maybe about 10 or 20 % cheaper).

One of the bigger spa pools ... with paintings and TV and water available

One of the bigger spa pools … with paintings and TV and water available

It was more crowded than what was described in most of the reviews I saw, but guess this could be due to the public holiday weekend (a Saturday); nearly all the pools (big and small) were occupied by local tourists but there was still space for us to join in.

A good way to relax after the warm up walks we took earlier, before the ascent to Huangshan summit the next day!

TIP: Towels, slippers, lockers are all included in the entrance fee.

TIP: If staying in Tangkou, buy the discounted tickets first rather than pay the full rate at the spa entrance; however, if staying at spa hotel, buy it at the hotel (for the lowest price of RMB100), or together with your spa hotel room booking.

4) MASSAGE (FOOT and/or Body)

After dinner at Beihai Hotel, we did this to  loosen up after a whole day’s climbing up and down stairs. (RMB150 for 50 min foot massage, RMB200 for foot + body, EXCLUDES tips)

5) HONGCUN 宏村

There are tourist buses from Tangkou to Hongcun (UNESCO World Heritage Site), about an hour away. However, we could not get on the one that departs 1:40 pm (Tangkou to Hongcun) after coming down the summit ; the next bus was at 3:40. The ticket agents at the Hot Spa bus “station” recommended that we get a taxi, which they could help to arrange for RMB180, so that we could connect with it the moment we reached Tangkou. In the end, the amount agreed upon was RMB150 by car, and we reached Hongcun in a brand new car that the driver (cum relative of the ticket seller) had just got. The driver even managed to help us get group discounted tickets (at least 4 pax, about RMB90, normal price is RMB104) for entry to the village and helped direct us to when and where to catch the bus that goes to Tunxi after our visit to Hongcun (give around 1 hr 30 min to 2 hours).

The photos taken in Hongcun below say it all: very “pretty”, and definitely worth a visit!!

(another village, Xidi (UNESCO heritage site as well), is nearby but seems to be fairly similar to Hongcun; our driver suggested that doing one will be sufficient and that Hongcun was the better choice).

This is where the opening scene in the show Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed!

This is where the opening scene in the show Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed!

the narrow alleys, like a maze inside the village

the narrow alleys, like a maze inside the village

Lotus, adding to the beauty of the ox bow lake

Lotus, adding to the beauty of the ox bow lake

exquisitely carved window

exquisitely carved window

 

 

 

 

 

 

the pond in the middle of the village ... very nice reflection, and one of the top places   to view the moon during the mid autumn festival

the pond in the middle of the village … very nice reflection, and one of the top places to view the moon during the mid autumn festival

 

interesting architecture and fine wood carvings in the houses that we visited ...

interesting architecture and fine wood carvings in the houses that we visited

A rich man's house

A rich man’s house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6) TUNXI 屯溪 (aka Huangshan Shi 黄山市 )

Stay in Tunxi to visit the Lao Jie (老街), eat the delicious wanton (thinnest skin ever!!) at Gaotang yunDun (高汤 云吞)and other yummy food at Meishi Renjia (美食人家)and do some shopping! Stay in restored “old houses”, like the Hui Boutique Hotel (we stayed here, very nice place but not easy to find as it is in a small lane off the Lao Jie, so good to have the hotel number to get help if needed) or the Youth Hostel, for a different rooming experience.

Best to walk the Lao Jie at night, when the lights are on.

Best to walk the Lao Jie at night, when the lights are on.

Interior of Meishirenjia (open for lunch till 2 pm only, and for dinner)... worth while to eat there!

Interior of Meishirenjia (open for lunch till 2 pm only, and for dinner)… worth while to eat there!

eat wanton and other home made food in this 12th generation wanton seller's living room...

eat wanton and other home made food in this 12th generation wanton seller’s living room…

really fresh wanton,   made only after customer order is made ... the skin is super thin

really fresh wanton, made only after customer order is made … the skin is super thin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bought some brushes and paper and ink stick ... the Lao Jie has many such shops, selling traditional stuff (tea, ceramics, local snacks)

Bought some brushes and paper and ink stick … the Lao Jie has many such shops, selling traditional stuff (tea, ceramics, local snacks)

Look out for this sign to the hotel (visible when walking along the Lao Jie, right side when heading towards the river end, but easy to miss otherwise ... just ask the friendly locals for help, including the shopkeepers.

Look out for this sign to the hotel (visible when walking along the Lao Jie, right side when heading towards the river end, but easy to miss otherwise … just ask the friendly locals for help, including the shopkeepers.

Hui Boutique Hotel, where we spent the last night of our trip.

Hui Boutique Hotel, where we spent the last night of our trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7) QIYUNSHAN 齐云山

This is a Taoist mountain near Tunxi (about 40 minutes away) that we visited on our last day, as we needed to be in Hangzhou only late in the evening for our midnight flight back home. For RMB100, the hotel arranged a driver to bring us there (but it is possible to take a bus there too, from the Tunxi bus station), and also to the bus station to buy our bus tickets for our journey back to Hangzhou (the 3:40 pm bus seems to be a good time to depart, leaving enough time in case of traffic, for the 3 hr trip to Hangzhou West Station, and then from there to catch airport bus RMB20 for the 1 hr journey to the airport).

Qiyunshan is totally different mountain from Huangshan, and indeed, largely overshadowed by it (hence, not as many visitors). Still, with time to spare (give about 2 hours up on the mountain itself), it makes for a good option on our final day, since we were “nearby”. Catch a local bus (from the main road RMB11) or tourist bus back to Tunxi bus station from here (ask at the ticket booth about availability) after visiting.

Red stone cliffs with carvings and grottoes with statues ...

Red stone cliffs with carvings and grottoes with statues …

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village in the middle of the mountain

village in the middle of the mountain

 

a  picturesque scene, from the cable car

a picturesque scene, from the cable car

scene from the cable car

scene from the cable car

the "cab" (RMB5) we took at the exit of the car park area to bring us to the main road to take a bus to Tunxi

the “cab” (RMB5) we took at the exit of the car park area to bring us to the main road to take a bus to Tunxi

the "cab" driver took us to this place to catch a mini bus back to Tunxi (instead of the main road)

the “cab” driver took us to this place to catch a mini bus back to Tunxi (instead of the main road)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHEW! finally completed the trilogy of our trip to Huangshan ..

A wonderful trip and certainly the most scenic one ever!  🙂

More Scenic views on the 3 hr bus journey from Tunxi to Hangzhou West Bus Station

More Scenic views on the 3 hr bus journey from Tunxi to Hangzhou West Bus Station

 

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Huangshan: notes for independent travel Part 2

(this post is about day 2 in Huangshan, and some pointers about routes and accommodation, and other practical matters).

Day 2 of Huangshan, after staying overnight at Beihai Hotel:

The next morning, waking up at 5 am, we prepared to set off for the sunrise viewing points near to our hotel, having checked them out the day before (see earlier post, Part 1). It was not that cold, so we did not have to use the down jackets provided by the hotel, but we had to still wear two layers of clothes and a rain/wind breaker. Now, the thing is, there are only small areas available to stand and to view the sunrise, so it is important to set off early.

We were not early enough and found ourselves behind two or three layers of people who had already “set up shop” at the Dawn Pavilion viewpoint. However, we were still able to capture these shots when the sun finally appeared (by shooting with the camera held overhead):

The sun suddenly appears, already fairly high up, above the mist or clouds ...

The sun suddenly appears, already fairly high up, above the mist or clouds …

Holding the camera high to avoid the  people in front of her, Chien captures this shot ...

Holding the camera high to avoid the people in front of her, Chien captures this shot …

The two to three layers of people in front of us also trying to catch the sunrise... :(

The two to three layers of people in front of us also trying to catch the sunrise… 😦

I decided to change my position and shoot through the branches of a pine tree instead of over people's heads

I decided to change my position and shoot through the branches of a pine tree instead of over people’s heads

Staying on a for a bit longer after the crowd disperses brings this shot with the sun behind the clouds ...

Staying on a for a bit longer after the crowd disperses brings this shot with the sun behind the clouds …

The time was about 6 am and we decided to go up the the “Beginning to Believe Peak” and “Stalagmite Peak” before breakfast, and to avoid the crowds that would come by later (i.e. once the cable car starts to bring the tour groups up from 7 or 8 am ). These peaks are fairly near to the Beihai hotel (at the North Sea, in map below), and it was a very peaceful walk to reach them, less the loud hailers and crowds!.

TIP: try to do these peaks when you arrive from the cable car to check it out, and consider viewing the sunrise from them the next day; it is likely to be far less crowded which means you are more assured of a good viewing position (provided there is a good sunrise though, which no one can predict!!). The scenery is also really awesome from here, so two visits at different times of the day may be worthwhile 🙂

the distances between sights are very near, relative to most other places in Huangshan

In this map, the distances between sights are very near, relative to most other places in Huangshan, except for the 6.5 km route down the Eastern Steps from White Goose Ridge to Cloud Valley Temple (bottom station of the Yungu cable way). Don’t let the length of the path shown fool you as it is NOT drawn to scale; see the distance shown instead!!!

Early morning shot taken from one of the two peaks (Stalagmite or Beginning to Believe ... )

Early morning shot taken from one of the two peaks (Stalagmite or Beginning to Believe … )

Love those  pines!

Love those pines… so full of character!

 

The tour groups are early, but we were earlier; it was a good decision to have a later breakfast ... :)

The tour groups are early, but we were earlier; it was a good decision to have a later breakfast and to visit the two peaks immediately after sunrise … 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this, it was time to head back to the hotel for breakfast, check out and then make our way down the mountain via the Eastern steps (i.e. the 6.5 km walk down from White Goose Ridge to Cloud Valley Temple, shown in the map earlier on)

This route down took us 3 hours (including plenty of photo and rest stops) and has its own interesting sights (see below) … however, it is only good if your legs and knees can take the downhill; otherwise, just take the 8 minute cable car ride down, and perhaps spend some more time up on the summit area…

White Goose Ridge viewing platform scene

View from White Goose Ridge, just before the descent down the Eastern Steps

many workers going uphill will pass you by ... give way to them when road narrows! Also meet the gung ho tourists panting their way up ...

many workers with heavy loads going uphill will pass you by on the Eastern Steps … give way to them when road narrows! Also meet gung ho tourists panting their way up …

this one is really cute - "Two Cats and a Mouse"

this one is really cute – “Two Cats and a Mouse”

 

Zooming in, see the two cats on the right and the mouse on the left (separated by the mound)

Zooming in, see the two cats on the right and the mouse on the left (separated by the mound)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signage for Immortal (or God) pointing the way

Signage for Immortal (or God) pointing the way

Immortal pointing the way ... the angle shown here is different from the signage

Immortal pointing the way (near the bottom edge of image)… the angle shown here is different from the signage

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 3 hrs (+ a bit), we reach the exit!

The exit after 3 hrs of downhill walking ...

Made it! The exit after 3 hrs of downhill walking …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From here, we caught the tourist bus down to the Hot Spa stop (RMB8), to collect our bags from the hotel ( we had deposited the main luggage there on the previous day), and then took the bus to get down to Tangkou (RMB11). Both connections were smooth and we did not have to wait long (however, believe that departures are not based on a fixed schedule but likely depends on the number of passengers AND how long the longest waiting passengers have already waited).

Getting to Hongcun and Tunxi (from Tangkou)

While we had next intended to head to Hongcun (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) enroute to our overnight base in Tunxi by tourist bus, the ticket seller at the Hot Spa (they can also sell these connecting tickets) informed us that the 1:40 bus was already full, and the next one available was at 3:40 pm! How now???  (to be continued in Part 3: Huangshan side trips …)

Routes, Accommodation and Other Matters

Routes – there is really no fixed route as we realised soon after we reached the summit. Even the tour groups from the same company take in different sights at different times, even though they all headed up early in the morning (we heard the tour guide explain this to their groups, as a reason to stick to his instructions and not just follow others from the same tour company).

The signage near the Black Tiger Pine spot has one of the more comprehensive maps available, including possible routes to take and even shows the new funicular (cable car from Xihai Canyon (bottom station to the top near Baiyun Hotel):

An updated and detailed map can be found near the Black Tiger Pine (can't miss it; another one near Baiyun side)

An updated and detailed map can be found near the Black Tiger Pine (can’t miss it; another map like this is found around the Baiyun hotel, which is near to the Heavenly Sea station)

Planning the route should be based on the cable car you come up from, accommodation for the night, number of days, fitness level, willingness to retrace paths, patience to stand in queues if a route gets crowded, and how to get down ( cable car or walk,  from which end of the mountain (front or Western steps, back or Eastern steps).

From what we saw from Turtle Peak, it appears that the Western Steps area (Front mountain, Yuping cable car end) is the more crowded area. Also, the Xihai Grand Canyon route from the south entrance is less crowded (the one going to Fairy Walking Bridge), but possibly tougher direction if attempting to go the entire circuit.

Also, ask about route closures before trying the Xihai circuit (you wouldn’t want to walk for 3 hours, and then find out that you have to turn around!)

The route that we missed this time (for our 1.5 day up on the mountain) are basically the parts from the

i) Greeting Guest Pine, Lotus Peak and Hundred Ladders, and

ii) from Baiyun hotel onwards, the two paths, one of which goes to Bright Top (Guang Ming Ding) and then to Flying-Over-Rock (Fei Lai Shi), and the other heading into the Xihai Canyon southern entrance and Fairy Walking Bridge.

A 2.5 days or 3 full days on the summit should allow one to take in all these (2 full days would be rather tight, based on the map distances and timings shown in my earlier post, Part 1 ).

Accommodation – if possible, stay overnight for at least one night up in the mountains (note: standard rooms are not cheap for what they offer, but hey, it is on Huangshan, where everything is carried up! if you want cheaper, then either camp in a tent or choose the dorm beds) (two  nights will be better, three nights may lead to mountain fatigue though!) at one of the hotels. Beihai Hotel is the nearest one to Yungu cable car station (i.e. about half an hour away if you head directly for it after alighting from the Yungu cable car), while Yupinglou is very near the Yuping cable car top station. Xihai Hotel is another hour away from Beihai if coming up from the Yungu side, and even further away from the Yuping cable car side.

Check with sites like Agoda and Booking.com, or Tripadvisor to get the best deals/reviews for these hotels up on the summit (bear in mind the need to walk to them, while carrying your overnight luggage, which should be light, as there will be stairs up and down when you walk to your hotel). To my best knowledge, these are the ones on the mountain top:

  1. Beihai Hotel (nearest hotel from Yungu cable car top station)
  2. Shilin Hotel (very near Beihai Hotel)
  3. Xihai Hotel
  4. Paiyunlou Hotel (near Purple Cloud station, using the Taiping cable car)
  5. White Goose Guesthouse
  6. Baiyun Hotel
  7. Yupinglou Hotel ( very near Yuping cable car top station)

VERY IMPORTANT – when using above sites to book accommodation on the summit, make sure you don’t “accidentally” book hotels that says they are in Huangshan but are NOT actually on the mountain (e.g. in Huangshan Shi or Tunxi, which is more than an hour away from Tangkou; these places confusingly also designate themselves to be in/on Huangshan, or Huangshan summit too!!).

 Other Matters

1. MONEY – make sure to carry enough YUAN and not to rely on credit cards … assume your credit cards are not accepted in most places (including the entrance fees and cable car)

2. SHOES – don’t wear what she is wearing; instead wear either proper trekking shoes or good walking shoes as there is A LOT of walking to do!

High platform shoes on Huangshan are a NO NO!

High platform shoes on Huangshan are a NO NO!

3.Try very hard to avoid weekend and public holidays!! unless you don’t mind even bigger crowds and longer waits to use the cable cars, or to visit some of the sights (e.g. heading to Lotus Peak area from Baiyun Hotel direction – can get very crowded, probably due to jam/slowdown at “Hundred Ladders” )

4. Get used to the local tourists and guides – e.g. the loud hailers used, the jostling while in queues, spitting, etc – it is the way things are done locally and getting upset/frustrated will not help your enjoyment.

5. No one controls the weather or sunrise – so, you may or may not see the Sea of Clouds, or Sunrise and it could be the only chance you have, or it could be totally misty and the views are blocked, or it rains – hope for better luck at the next sight/next day (which is why it is good to stay as long as you can to increase the chances of good views)

6. Bring rain gear (umbrella, rain jacket … poncho) – it rains very often in Huangshan!

7. Do some training before going – it is NOT a friendly place for the physically unfit, as there are many many stairs up and down. However, it is possible to be ferried around on a sedan chair if you don’t mind paying, but this can be quite scary as some of the steps are rather steep. However, the Xihai Grand Canyon area is then definitely not possible to do, as no sedan chairs go there due to the occasional narrow and very steep paths.

8. To avoid the cable car queues (and 1 to 2 hr wait) going up in the morning, do it later (like around noon(?), as we did not see any crowds at all at the cable car entrance, after our walk down the Eastern steps). Tour groups either do a one day up/down trip and must start early, or if staying overnight, also do an early morning start to maximise the itinerary on the summit; in other words, be a contrarian to avoid the crowds!

9. Food and Drinks – a few stalls dotted here and there selling simple snacks, apples cucumbers corn, sausages, but NONE in the Xihai Grand Canyon. Best to have some energy bars or nuts, and water, when moving around.

10. Guides are not really necessary to tackle the various routes as the signage/maps are good enough to move around independently. From our experience this time, the main advantage of a guide is to help buy tickets (saves you queueing up), tell stories (but as mentioned earlier, you can just eavesdrop if you understand Chinese), and their local knowledge may enable you to take in more sights (provided you are fit enough to walk the whole day) and avoid some crowds (by starting earlier or later than the typical tour group) .

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Planet Earth in Concert@Esplanade

before the start of the concert, at Circle 3 first row (row AA) ...

before the start of the concert, at Circle 3 first row (row AA) …

WOW!

Went to catch Planet Earth in Concert at the Esplande Concert Hall last night (12 Sep 2014, Friday) with the family, and we were totally mesmerised and awed in each of the ten(?) “acts” (each act had a theme, like “The Hunter and the Hunted” or “The Snow Leopard ” (link takes you to video of a Planet Earth TV documentary on the Snow Leopards of Pakistan) with the conductor Joshua Tan giving a short narration at its start to give the audience a sense of what was coming up)

Every high definition scene on the giant screen was just super amazing and the lengths and patience taken by the camera men who captured the various animal sequences was simply unbelievable  (like waiting for weeks in hideouts,  for the animals to appear, or to capture the perfect moment). The entire night was made more magical, with the SSO providing the live orchestral accompaniment.

This concert is part of a trilogy, by the BBC (link to the BBC webpage on this concert for trailer). Last year, Blue Planet in Concert was held in Singapore,  for one night only, and all tickets were all sold out by the time I came to know about it. This time, it was by a  fortunate stroke of luck that we managed to be at the concert.

I was visiting two exhibitions earlier in August (see post on Genesis@National Museum and ceramic works@ACM). While walking from the ACM to the National museum, I dropped by the newly refurbished Victoria Concert Hall, hoping that it was opened for public viewing (which it was not). At the info/reception area browsing the “what’s on” section in one brochure, I noticed this concert was on, and very eagerly booked it the very same day after checking with the rest that they could attend.

The last instalment of the trilogy is The Frozen Planet in Concert, and will certainly be eagerly awaiting its arrival in Singapore! (or any where that I happen to be 🙂 and btw, Planet Earth in Concert plays again, but in various cities in Germany, February 2015).

Filmed entirely in high definition on an unimaginable scale from seemingly impossible locations and enlivened by an emotive score by award-winning composer George Fenton, Planet Earth takes us on an unforgettable journey through the challenging seasons and the daily struggle for survival in earth’s most extreme habitats. Five years in production, over 2,000 days in the field, with 40 cameramen filming across 200 locations, this amazing endeavour is now transported onto the big screen, enhanced by the magic of live orchestral accompaniment.”
SSO Publicity Write up on the concert

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Huangshan: notes for independent travel Part 1

For anyone thinking of going to Huangshan, here are some things that may be helpful to know … (e.g. travel time needed, fees, where to stay,  … ), based on my recent trip there (5-10 Sep 2014, 6D/4N, see my other post Huangshan!!!).

Part 1 (this post) details the following – how to get to Huangshan, and how to get up the summit of Huangshan, and our route  on the mountain summit (Day1). Part 2, details of Day2 of our route, some pointers about routes and accommodation matters, and getting down the mountain. Part 3 is about other side trips around the Huangshan region which we went to.

A) Getting to Huangshan area (map below is good as it spells out time and distance from key scenic spots)

 

1) Hangzhou is a pretty good place to fly in, to go to Huangshan, as the bus from the Hangzhou West Bus Station (Tianmushan Rd) takes only about 3.5 hrs to reach Tang(1)kou(3), in the Huangshan Scenic Area (where all tourists must pass through). From Tangkou, take a special tourist bus up to the mountain entrance/cable car either at the Yuping or Yungu station/Hot Spa area.

Bus fares and approximate travel times, and frequency –

a)Hangzhou West Bus Station to Tangkou (or equivalently, Huangshan Scenic Area [Huang(2)Shan(1)Jin(3)Qu(1)], RMB110 adult, 3.5 hrs, hourly (can be even half-hourly, during morning and weekends, see note below)

(note: there is another place near to Huangshan call Tun(2)Xi(1) (also called Huangshan Shi(4)), which is slightly more than one hour away from the actual scenic mountain area; don’t mix up the two places when buying tickets!!)

b) Tangkou to Hotspa area and beyond to cableway by special tourist bus (frequent, travel time about 20 min or so)

Tangkou to Hotspa area bus – RMB11

Tangkou to cableway – RMB19 (think this is the fare, not 100% sure though)

Hotspa area to cableway – RMB8

B) Getting up the mountain

Most tourists who come in from the Tangkou area either spend the night at Tangkou (cheaper accommodation),  at the Hotspa area hotels (medium $$), or up in the mountains( $$$$), or some combination of these. In the first two options, the main luggage can be left at the mountain base, and a light day or overnight bag carried up. If staying straight away on the mountain summit, either get porters to help carry luggage to your summit hotel or leave main luggage for a small fee at the restaurants in Tangkou (and pack an overnight bag to ascend).

To get up the mountain in the first place, the choices are 1) cable car or 2) walk up (FREE but very tough climb, especially if carrying heavy bag/heavy camera and lenses). The ideal route is to either go up the Front (qian2 shan) which is via the Yuping cableway side (or walk up Western steps), and down from the Back (hou4 shan) of the mountain via the Yunggu cableway (or walk down by the Eastern steps) OR vice versa (up from Eastern side and down Western side).

Here are some things to bear in mind –

i) the RMB230 entrance fee (cheaper in winter) is good for more than one entry into the mountain summit (this point is important for those who stay at the base and ascend more than once up to the summit; there is no need to pay each time you go up).  However, you will need to somehow get yourself “registered” for re-entry (am not sure how this is done though, as did not personally have to do it on my trip)

ii) cableway fee of RMB80 (one way up) (see map above – most coming from Tangkou will choose either the Yuping or Yungu cableway, but note there is another from the Northern side, the Taiping cableway).

iii) both fees can be bought at the ticket counter once the special tourist bus drops you off at either cableway station (Yungu or Yuping)

the queue starts early with many many local tour groups in the cable car entrance queue, while their travel guide queues to buy their tickets

the queue starts early with many many local tour groups in the cable car entrance queue, while their travel guide buys their tickets at the ticketing booth (next pic)

a very slow queue and this lane has the tour guides buying a lot of tickets and cutting queue!! (second lane from the right, avoid it!!) ... in spite of this, all queues moved more or less at the same rate!! cos other queues, people had to produce concession cards, etc ...

a very slow queue and this lane has the tour guides buying a lot of tickets and cutting queue!! (second lane from the right, avoid it!!) … in spite of this, all queues moved more or less at the same rate!! cos other queues, people had to produce concession cards, etc which slowed things down … train your patience!!

iv) Be prepared to queue for some time to buy tickets (we took at least 30 min), and an even longer wait to finally get into the cable car, after joining the queue (we took 1 hr 30 min). There will be people who will offer to sell you tickets while in the ticket buying queue – not sure if they are genuine tickets, but suspect so; these touts probably buy at Group/TravelAgent rates, and sell at “normal” prices stated above – we chose NOT to buy from them, just in case they are not legit.

v) Be prepared for the squeeze while in the cable car queue (PRC people are very good at squeezing/overtaking, especially around the U-turns)

vi) the choice of route up (from East or Western side) is largely determined by where you intend to stay if one is overnight at the summit (and, btw, staying on the summit is a must for sunrise viewing!!)

vii) if time in the queue and squeezing with local tourists is not your cup of tea, try the following – go up in the afternoon (when we reach the cable car station after walking down the Eastern Steps, around 1 pm, there was no queues to be seen!); avoid the weekend and public holidays (unfortunately, we were there on Sunday+mid-autumn festival holiday :()

 C) Choice of routes – OUR ROUTE (next post will spell out our considerations if we were to redo it)

This is quite a tricky thing, as it largely depends on how much time you have, and how strong your legs are, and where you stay overnight, and how far do you want to “double back” on certain paths. For us, we managed to do quite a lot (details later) but missed out on some key sights if we had been able to be near to the area around the “Greeting Guests Pine” at the top of the Yuping cableway. Sign postings are good, on the whole along the various routes:

route map

route map 1 we got off the cable car and took the path leading to Black Tiger Pine and BeiHai (North Sea); alternative is to go to Stalamite Peak and Beginning to Believe Peak.

So, here was our route:

Day 1 after getting off the Yungu cable car (about 10 min to go up, 6 passengers per car):

We walked up the steps of the building where we alighted from the Yungu cable car around 10+ am, following what some tour groups were doing, to head towards BeiHai hotel, (where we were staying overnight) to lighten our load as much as possible, passing by the Black Tiger Pine, on a mainly downward path. (note: a good alternative, in hindsight, is  to just follow the sign to the “Beginning to Believe Peak” instead of going up the building steps … a right turn, clearly sign posted, will point the way to this fantastic peak, which is worth a second visit in the morning for sunrise!! (this note is made in hindsight, after we visited it just after catching the sunrise the next day).

About a 30 walk brought us to Beihai Hotel, where the reception allowed us to place our bags in our room (check-in time was actually later, but there was no problem; our room was actually ready).  You know you are there when you see the basketball court in front of the hotel, and also pass by this poster of DengXiaoPing (in front of the Presidential Suite):

Presidential Suite at BeiHai hotel

Presidential Suite at BeiHai hotel

basketball court, gathering place for tour groups to regroup, after the walk from cable car

basketball court in front of Beihai Hotel, gathering place for tour groups to regroup, after the walk from cable car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIP – if you understand Chinese, just listen to the explanations by the tour guides, at the various scenic viewspots. They are very funny and knowledgable, and you will have a better idea of the stories behind the view/pine/rocks … be prepared for noisy loudhailers though at these congregating places!!

We headed towards the north entrance of the Xihai Grand Canyon, after repacking our stuff  and leaving most things behind in the hotel room. This route took us pass other hotels (like the Xihai Hotel, the Paiyunlou Hotel) … at the Paiyunlou hotel, we decided that we had better take our lunch (right decision, as once we descended the canyon, there was no more food stalls):

Xihai Hotel

Xihai Hotel

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we shared this RMB50 lunch … at Paiyunlou hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch, we headed to the North Entrance of the Xihai Grand Canyon (a must do for independent travellers, unless you have a fear of heights; paths are often narrow, enough room for only one way traffic, many steps are not cut into the cliff but somehow “attached” to the side).

single lane only here

single lane only here

 

 

 

two way lane, but one side must hug the cliff

two way lane, but one side must hug the cliff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

crowded path at the start of the Xihai Grand Canyon North Entrance

crowded path at the start of the Xihai Grand Canyon North Entrance

 

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the drop …

Try not to imagine what happens if the stairs give way ...

Try not to imagine what happens if the stairs give way …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We follow the northern route of the Xihai Grand Canyon Trail, taking the two small loops (left or right path) heading down, based on what we hear the guides advise their own tour groups (i.e. which path is steeper, harder, and for those in high heels, take the easier left side  etc HAHA, you do see high heels up there!!). Note that “easier” is still STEEP! After the second ring, a further downward route brings us to the FUNICULAR!! (new, and not in many Huangshan maps).

The fairly new funicular brings tourists up from the bottom of the Xihai Grand Canyon, up to somewhere near Turtle Peak

The  new funicular brings tourists up from the bottom of the Xihai Grand Canyon, up to somewhere near Baiyun Hotel, near to Turtle Peak

Queue again, but not as long since it takes like 60 people at a go ... RMB80 up

Queue again, but not as long since it takes like 60 people at a go … RMB80 for ticket to go up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 TIP: unless you have a lot of time up in Huangshan (3 days or more) and intend to walk as much as possible all the routes, it would save you a lot of time and energy to just take the funicular up … it is a long walk uphill to complete the Xihai Grand Canyon Circuit from this point (from map, takes another 3 hours  of mostly uphill walking to reach Baiyun Hotel) – and it may be closed!!

Baiyun Hotel, near the funicular station (this is the top station, bottom one is at lower end of Xihai Grand Canyon)

Baiyun Hotel, near the funicular station (this is the top station, bottom one is at lower end of Xihai Grand Canyon)

 

the queue that heads towards the "Greeting Guest Pine" begins at Turtle Peak!! and it is about 2 hours away!!

the queue that heads towards the “Greeting Guest Pine” begins at Turtle Peak!! and it is still about 2 hours away!!

Turtle peak view (the queue to the famous welcome guest pine and Celestial Peak can be seen from where we were!)

View from Turtle peak  (the queue to the famous Greeting guest pine and Celestial Peak can be seen from where we were; in  this photo, queue is the light area, in the midst of the forested area of the tallest peak; click to see the queue in a larger image)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As there was no time to make the hike to “Greeting Guest Pine” and back to our hotel in Beihai in daylight (time was already about 3 pm), we decided to make our way back towards BeiHai, via Bright Top Peak (Guang1 Ming2 Ding3, 1860 m) which seems to be a key node in the summit route (see map) No wonder we were always hearing the tour guides talk to their groups about meeting there.

Up the steps to Bright Top, only 250 m, but feels a long way when going up   ...

Up the steps to Bright Top, only 250 m, but feels a long way when going up …

Reaching the top to be greeted by crowds watching the mist covered mountain peaks (i.e. no view to see )

Reaching the top to be greeted by crowds watching the mist covered mountain peaks (i.e. no view to see )

 

 

 

Guang Ming Ding or Bright Top, viewing area,  view totally blocked by mist ...:(

Guang Ming Ding or Bright Top, viewing area, view totally blocked by mist …:(

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then took the path going to the “Rock Watching Pavilion” where this was the highlight:

Scene at the Rock Watching Pavilion ... literally the Rock is watching the faraway mountain peaks!!

Scene at the Rock Watching Pavilion … literally the Rock is watching the faraway mountain peaks!!

After another hour or so, we were back at BeiHai Hotel, and continued on to recce the places where we could watch the sunrise the next morning (these areas are very near to both Beihai and Shilin Hotel)-i.e. Dawn Pavillion, Refreshing Terrance, Stone Monkey Watching the Sea, and Lion Peak (see map).

Monkey Watching the Sea (but this is not Sea of Clouds, but mist blocking view of peaks)

Monkey Watching the Sea (but this is not Sea of Clouds, but mist blocking view of peaks)

We then ended the day with another view of this scene that we had passed by earlier in the morning … (at Beihai Hotel, just where the DengXiaoPing poster looks out towards; very crowded earlier as all the tour groups would stop by here for storys of the rock formations).

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Rock really looks like a person seated, (left side), whilst on the right, the pine growing out of the rock is called “meng4 bi3 shen1 hua1” – or “Flower Growing out of Brush”

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setting up the telescope for moon gazing!

concert at the basketball court

concert at the basketball court

view of full moon

view of full moon

 

A buffet dinner (RMB140 each), mid autumn festival concert, full moon gazing, and foot and body massage (RMB200) rounded up our exciting first day on Huangshan!

Beihai Hotel at night ..

Beihai Hotel at night ..

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Huangshan – totally awesome!!!

Amazing, awesome, inspiring, mesmerising, majestic … words cannot do justice to the magnificent Huangshan (literally, Yellow Mountains) in Anhui province, China!

immortal gazing at the mountain

immortal gazing at the mountain

 

Travelling to Huangshan in September (5th to 10th, 2014) was just such an incredible experience and a dream come true! And made even more special, having taken up Chinese ink painting since August last year. The trip was an eye opener to the wonders of nature depicted in Chinese landscape paintings – layer after layer of mountain peaks, the sea of clouds, the tenacious Huangshan pine trees that cling to the precipitous sides of the sheer granite cliffs, the mists, strange rock formations, … .

a wintry scene, when captured in b&w

a wintry scene, when captured in b&w

sunrise view from the Dawn Pavillion, 5 min walk from the Beihai Hotel (or Shilin Hotel) in the Beihai area.

sunrise view from the Dawn Pavillion, 5 min walk from the Beihai Hotel (or Shilin Hotel) in the Beihai area.

 

IMG_0380

the Huangshan pine, Pinus Huangshanensis

It was not just the scenery that took my breath away, the thousands of steps up and down the mountain trails from one scenic point  to the next also did that job, as well as the breaths of those of the 35 ooo tourists who were on the mountain that day (Sunday 7th Sep being the weekend of mid autumn festival, a public holiday in China), and …

Xihai Grand Canyon, where the steps are build against the cliffs … definitely not for those with fear of heights!

steep steps on the Xihai Grand Canyon loop

steep steps on the Xihai Grand Canyon loop

that of the (sadly, exploited and underpaid) workers who haul up supplies up the mountains every day …

SuperHuman … catching his breath on the more than 7 km walk UP the Eastern steps (btw, took me and spouse 3 hrs to go down on Day 2)

More photos in my Facebook page – (literally too many to upload here), or try the links below:

 Huangshan B&W images

Huangshan colour images

Huangshan sidetrips images

Please see my other post on how to DIY Huangshan (for the independent traveller Part 1   Part 2  ), and the post on Sidetrips around Huangshan (Part 3 ) (good for when you get Huangshan mountain fatigue, Huangshanifatigues Nomorepineausorsteps) .

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Going bananas …

Going bananas, amaized and corny, and coconuts …

the three most recent subjects of my Chinese painting class  … (here’s my attempts, from most recent (banana tree) to a few weeks back (maize and coconut) …  🙂

the banana tree at the back of the house ...

the banana tree at the back of the house …

the actual banana tree ... definitely very helpful to have the subject in your house!

the actual banana tree … definitely very helpful to have the subject in your house!

this attempt  was done at home after class ...

“Tug of war under the banana tree” – this attempt was done at home after class …

 

this was done in class on 22 Aug 2014 ... I was the only one who started painting during class (not sure why but the rest don't seem to want to get started nowadays except for Vivien ... )

this was done in class on 22 Aug 2014 … I was the only one who started painting during class (not sure why but the rest don’t seem to want to get started nowadays except for Vivien, me and the man who does figure drawings in the corner … )

"Drinking tea under the banana tree" - this one done even before the class on "banana tree", as I decided to try it for fun  after sketching the banana tree at the back of the garden ...

“Drinking tea under the banana tree” – this one done even before the class on “banana tree”, as I decided to try it for fun after sketching the banana tree in pencil, at the back of the garden …

maize in sunshine

maize in sunshine

maize in b&w

maize in b&w

maize in rain

maize in rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut trees in various states (close view in wind, in still air, and in a kampong) …

windy ...

windy …

coconut trees when the wind has gone ...

coconut trees when the wind has gone …

kampong with coconut trees in foreground ...

kampong with coconut trees in foreground …

boat and coconut tree ...

boat and coconut tree … (the most recent of the 4 works on coconut trees)

These subjects use up lots of green paint (by a mix of “rattan yellow” and “flower green” (more blue then green)) as the leaves take up a lot of the space, and so I did most of them using black ink instead …!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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