Monday, July 2, 2012

Travel Advice in China: Anhui Province

Anhui Province: Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) and the Villages


The Yellow Mountain, Huangshan, is one of the most famous places in China for the Chinese people.  You’ll see it constantly in their traditional art, on money (can’t remember which bill right now), etc.  It is a unique landscape.  I stayed in the town of Tunxi (there are several great hostels there), and from there I could get a bus (about an hour) to the base of the mountain.   Tunxi has a train station and a bus station, so it’s not hard to reach.  

The thing most people do is go up the mountain on one day, spend the night at one of the hostels near the summit, get up really really early the next morning and watch the sunrise, and then hike down.  The hostel in Tunxi should be willing to store your bag for you while you’re gone; I just took my day bag with a change of clothes in it with me.  Unfortunately, when I was there, it was too foggy the next morning to see the sunrise.  I hope to get the chance to go again while I’m in China.

There is a cable car up part of the way that makes the hike much more manageable if you’re not super athletic (I took it).  The hardest part of the hike is the ascent without the cable car; once you get past the cable car area the hiking is not very strenuous; the trails are well-maintained and mostly paved.   

Also in Anhui province, and also easily reachable as a day trip from Tunxi, there are two ancient villages which are really beautiful to visit.  Xidi and Hongcun Ancient Villages were listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2000.  Xidi was begun between 960-1127, so it is over 900 years old.  Most of the buildings were built in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and the whole town is considered a museum of the residences from that time period.  Hongcun is about six miles away, and the town is built in the shape of an ox (only the Chinese would think of this). Read the Travel China Guide article about it for a little more info. 

I went to the village of Xidi. There are buses fairly frequently from the  main bus station--the bus station is not near the train station, but you can take a taxi to it for about  7-8 Yuan. The desk person at your hotel should be able to point you in the right direction.  The bus ride out was beautiful: rolling hills through the countryside on a perfect summer day (okay, a little hot).  It took about an hour from Tunxi.  All the buildings in the village were whitewashed, with slate tile roofs.  Inside (you can go into the temples and a few designated houses), they were full of elaborately carved wooden partitions.  There was a traditional arch near the entrance of the town, and there was a trail to go up to a gazebo on the hillside where you can relax and take pictures of the town from above.  It’s small; you can easily explore it all in one day.  I definitely recommend going and seeing some of the most picturesque little villages in rural China.

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