Fabulous Mountains of China
For mountain lovers like me, China is a destination of choice to witness breathtaking views and -- bonus for the Western animal lover -- encounter a few wild monkeys. Unlike hiking trails in notorious Canadian mountains, such as Sulphur Mountain in the Banff National Park, or sometimes awfully muddy trekking paths in the jungles of Thailand or Vietnam, all Chinese mountains Ive been to have stairs all the way to the top. It might seem to make the journey easier at first glance, but dont be fooled: after a few hours you WILL be tired and the next day you WILL hurt at the mere sight of the shortest flight of stairs.
The list of Chinese mountains is quite long and I have only seen three of them, but all three are listed by China Highlights in their top 6 of the most beautiful mountains of the country.
Huangshan, Yellow Mountain, lying in the deep south of Anhui province in the eastern part of the country, is probably one of the most mystical places youll ever visit. Whether the sun shines in a pristine sky or hides in the thick morning mist, whether you walk on its summit in the early hours of the morning, when the sun reaches its zenith or sets behind the peaks, Huangshan will not fail to bewilder you.
Wandering through its paths, and going up and down its countless stairways will make you feel like youve magically stepped into a celestial Chinese painting. Its heavenly views, which you would think can only be imagined, are absolutely worth every step and all the pain that will kill your legs the next day.
You should definitely sleep on the summit, at least one night, to gather on Guangmingding with other early birds to admire the sunrise. Guangmingding, Huangshans famous Brightest Peak, is well known for being home to Yangxiao, a fictional swordsman featured in the classic 60s novel by Jin Yong The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, set in the late Yuan dynasty.
Huangshan is a must-see, and so is Jiuhuashan, the Mountain of the Nine Lotuses, one of the Four Sacred Mountains of China.
Also in Anhui province, only 2 or 3 hours away from Huangshan, Jiuhuashan offers so many splendid landscapes for everyone to marvel at and will please amateur and pro photographers alike with its colourful temples on mountain tops and its little waterfalls and creeks which lie deep down in the valley between tortuous stairways.
The sweet smell of incense, the friendly, welcoming monks all along the way and the majestic beauty of traditional Chinese architecture wrapped in an emerald green backdrop will leave you with the impression that you have been in touch with the essence of the divine.
China might not be famous for its beaches, there are two, however, totally worth getting up in the middle of the night to go wander on and catch the sun gloriously rising from the ocean: the One Thousand Step and the One Hundred Step beaches at the foot of another sacred mountain, Putuoshan.
Putuoshan, is located on the island of the same name in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai, and is very different from Huangshan and Jiuhuashan. Climbing up the mountain to sit in the setting sun wont be as satisfying as it is in the Anhui mountains, since its not very high, but the place certainly has great sights to offer. Walking around the luxuriant paths all around the island and going up and down tiny stairs carved in stone will lead you to mysterious caves, including one where you can drink water from a magic well that will give you eternal life or so says the sign at the entrance. It might be just another bad translation, but I didnt take any chances and had a full bottle.
Whether the well really is magical or not, there surely is something enchanted emanating from Putuoshan. Something otherworldly dwells in all three mountains, and each will charm you in its very own mysterious ways.