Mountains in China – Huangshan vs Huashan

Huashan
Huashan with Emma & Emma

Shan in Chinese means Mountain. Sometimes I will use: Mount Hua/Huang or Hua/Huangshan.

I’m sure I am not the only one who gets all excited about a big long hike then an hour in complains about being too hot, tired or hungry etc. But that feeling of accomplishment when you reach the top is priceless and you can’t remember why you were complaining for the last 3-6 hours. Yup that’s me all over!

Hiking is a long standing hobby of mine. I don’t hike all the time but I do like to include it in my travel experiences. Living and working in China has been the perfect place to continue that hobby. Of course there are many mountains to hike here in China but I have decided to compare two particular mountains based on their fairly similar names and reasonably similar level of difficulty.

Let me briefly introduce the two mountains I have chosen.  I will intertwine my experiences as to not repeat myself. Huangshan or Mount Huang is located in Anhui Province. The highest point is 1,864 metres. Huashan or Mount Hua is located in Shaanxi Province. The highest point is 2,154 metres.

About four/five years ago myself and a group of friends took off to  climb HuangShan. You could say this is when my passion for hiking really began.

huangshan
The group at the half way point of Mountain Huang

For those of you that share my interest in hiking, Mount Huang is absolutely stunning from top to bottom making it a must  see.

In our group our level of fitness was similar except for one who at one point ran up a very large stairway with little to no effort. For him this hike was a piece of cake. For the rest of us it was a reasonable hike. Not too easy, not too difficult.

huangshan
Some parts of the Huangshan hike include steep stairways

The stairways for Mount Hua were equally steep, if not steeper and far more dangerous looking. I am not easily stunted by fear but I was tested this time.  The group for this mountain was much smaller and we were physically not ready for the endurance test at all. We hiked this mountain around two years ago.

Huashan with optional steep staiways
Huashan with optional steep staiways

Along the way the scenery is breathtaking and having a good camera is a must to truly capture your moments. Unfortunately for me, I did this hike many years ago so my pictures are not perfect but still, you can feel what I felt…amazed!

huangshan
Huangshan view

Along the way up any mountain in China it is normal to see padlocks and/or red ribbons. These are left by previous hikers, either from couples who use the padlock to represent their love or red ribbons for religious reasons.

huangshan
Huangshan padlocked bridge
Huashan padlocks & red ribbons
Huashan padlocked & red ribbons walkway

On both of these hikes I decided to hike up, stay at the top and hike down the following day. I did this for a couple of reasons: one being that I knew I would want to rest and take in the view once I reached the peak and second, I had every intention of waking up to watch the spectacular sunrise to start my day. On both occasions I was not disappointed.

Huangshan
Huangshan sunrise
Huashan sunrise
Huashan sunrise

Generally speaking both mountains are beautiful and definitely worth the hike.  In terms of prices they are not so different. Hiking time up and down, again not a huge difference.  Things to see on the way up such as bamboo forests, steep stairway challenges and places to pray, they are very similar.

huangshan
Huangshan bamboo forest/pathway
Huashan steep walkway
Huashan steep walkway

The big differences for me would have to be the overall scenery which I would say Huangshan is in the lead due to the constant breathtaking views. In terms of a sense of achievement and adventure it has to be Huashan because of the realm of danger all the way up and the infamous plank crossing.

 

huashan plank
Huashan plank crossing at about 2000m
Huangshan at nightfall
Huangshan at nightfall

 

Guesthouse on Huashan

Approximately an hour from the highest point of Huashan we found a small guest-house. It was cheap considering the location, the owner and staff were extremely friendly, we were able to take a shower, eat a large bowl of home-made noodles and sink a few beers before getting some shut eye.  As the three of us girls were getting ready to sleep the owner bursts through the door to offer his massage skills for free. I turned him down as I felt fine and just wanted to sleep but one of the other girls took him up on his offer. Needless to say she got a bit more than she bargained for. The man started off on her shoulders. From there he then moved towards her breasts but later he went from her legs and worked his way up to her crotch where he really seemed to focus his attention. Myself and our other friend happened to glance over as he approached the region and hysterical laughter took place. A sudden “oh my god, what are you doing?” then the massage was over. No happy ending for anyone.

Camping on Huangshan

After a long day of hiking and visiting each of the peaks our group was beyond exhausted. We had already planned to camp and you can rent the tent and sleeping bags at the top to save yourself the hassle of carrying extra weight. We each bought a packet of instant noodles and sat outside eating them while others played basketball or football. We had two to a tent which was fine but I had caught a cold so spent the whole night coughing whereas a friend of ours who literally snores like a walrus kept the others awake all night. Remember to pack some warm clothes as the temperatures drop quickly and it takes a few hours to warm back up in the morning.

The Verdict

 

I personally recommend hiking both mountains if you have the time and energy.  Both are challenging and beautiful but for many Huashan wins due to the infamous and dangerous plank crossing. Cross at your own risk!

Sun, Sea & Sand in Qingdao, China

mmexport1467963643174



Voted the Number 1 city to live in China, Qingdao is the place to be. It is located in ShanDong Province in the East of China. From sea to mountains, fresh fruit to fresh seafood, Chinese culture to Western culture and coffee shops to bars. The list is endless and the possibilities more so.

Chinese culture varies from one district to another but some aspects stay the same.Qingdao has a remarkable combination of the traditional and the modern so it’s difficult to be disappointed.

Let me paint a picture of a Summers day in Qingdao. Take a walk through the old town where you will come across various ancient buildings dotted with restaurants, local shops and much more. Here the prices are lower and the foreigners fewer. You will see a famous area known as Badaguan which is full of European style architecture and beautiful natural scenery. A really good place for those who love taking pictures. Walk further and find yourself at Zhongshan Park which is a beautiful, well-kept public area in which many locals and tourists wonder for hours admiring the scenery. Visit the various beaches dotted along the coast. Take a quick dip in the blue sea, fly a kite with the locals or better yet try the local BBQ and Qingdao beer whilst looking at the breathtaking view.

mmexport1444311927626mmexport1444311912775mmexport1444311918425

BBQ in Qingdao is a must and easily accessible from street vendors to in door restaurants. If you are looking for some good Chinese food you will find restaurants dotted all around the city from Lennon Bar (which also has a live band to entertain you while you eat) to Hong Kong 56 (which has a very large picture menu for those who cant read Chinese). For me I really miss a good English Breakfast but not anymore thanks to Kiwi cafe where the owner Danny makes a wonderful breakfast along with a variety of breakfast foods from around the world all made to perfection. If you’re travelling on a tight budget you can easily find numerous Lanzhou La Mian restaurants for a quick cheap fix.

When people learn about Qingdao, they usually hear about the beer. Qingdao Beer Museum, a place foreigners love to go to learn and try out the local beer. For just 50RMB you receive admission to the museum plus various tastings of QiIMAG0134ngdao beer. Each year August becomes quite a spectacle when Qingdao hosts the International Beer Festival. All you beer lovers out there, this is the time for you to visit. I have personally attended this festival three years running and each year more than once. The local people really let their hair down and you can have some funmmexport1444311831426 with them. Although the drinks are expensive, they’re worth it. Plus you can try a lot of food which is very cheap so it all balances out in the end.

Every city hMay 4thas that one place that is famous for one reason or another. Well Qingdao is no different.  The symbol of

Qingdao also known as May 4th Square is a large red statue which is always busting with tourists taking pictures. If you have time try to visit it both during the day and at night. It is located by the Marina and is overlooking the sea.

Qingdao nightlife can go from quiet to crazy in a minute depending on where you are and who you are with.  You can easily find a place to satisfy your musical needs from live music in New York Bar to Reggae music in Angelinas Bar. Reggae night is quickly becoming FB_IMG_1467873054538one of the most influential nights in Qingdao thanks to DJ Marcos. For all the ladies who are looking for a fun free night out, Wednesday is your night and the options are endless. To name a few: Venue Roof Top bar hosts a Foam Party including hot tubs, classy cocktails and DJ’s from all over the world; Q-Bar also has a live band and a great mix of music to suit everyone’s needs; Angelinas Bar also offers great music and cocktails.  For those looking for a chilled night of intellectual fun, try Little LPG’s Quiz night held on a Thursday. You can go with a team or just show up and offer up your knowledge to an existing group. The people here and always willing and happy to include new people into the fun. LPG is a bigger space owned by the same people where you can enjoy Happy Hour from 9-11pm, play some pool or table football.

The reason many people are attracted to Qingdao is the location. Qingdao has many beaches but one of the most common is ShiLaoRen Beach. It is very well maintained by the locals and you can easily spend a whole day just relaxing and looking out into the sea.

20160609_170600_001

Hiking might be more more speed. Qingdao has Mountain Lao which is a very good hike and a great way to spend your day. For those who are not smmexport1423709979216o active, you can visit Mountain Fu which is much smaller and less strenuous but still has great views and only takes a couple of hours total.

If you are like me and love to immerse yourself into a new culture then why not go that extra mile and take some Chinese classes to make your visit even more special. A well known school XManderin is a great choice to take a short course to pick up some basic Chinese but I should warn you, once you start learning you wont want to stop. Chinese (Manderin) is such an interesting language that you will become obsessed with the way  the characters are written and the tones used to speak.

I am not a typical female shopper but I do  have my moments so if you are one who likes to shop don’t worry, you have more options that you need. In terms of shopping malls the main ones are MixC, Marina City and Rock City where you can buy practically anything. For me I prefer to go to the markets where I can practice my Chinese by bargaining. Two very popular markets are TaiDong and Ji MoLu. Remember if you decide to test your luck at the market, be prepared to bargain politely but fairly and to watch out for your personal belongings.

Whether you are a tea/coffee drinker or a beer drinker you can check out two streets made just for that. Tea & Coffee Street (MingJiang Er Lu) has more coffee shops than you will ever need but its nice to have options. Some of the coffee shops even serve alcohol and decent meals and are great places to relax with a book or hang out with a few friends. Beer Street (PiJiu Jie) is very popular in the Summer time for its super chilled draft beer and varied BBQ. Its a great place for a medium sized group of friends to go and kill a few hours before possibly hitting the bars to end the night.

If you find yourself passing through China, don’t forget to check out Qingdao. For those travelling to South Korea, Qingdao is just a short flight away.