Huangshan (黄山), Anhui Province
If you tell a Chinese friend that you are going to Anhui,they will almost certainly expect that the purpose of your trip is to climb Huangshan, the Yellow Mountains. Huangshan is a World Heritage Site and one of the most famous sites in China, at least for domestic tourists. When we visited, fog obscured most of the views, which definitely diminished the experience. But the glimpses we did catch of pink-tinged peaks and steep precipices did hint at the beauty that lay beneath the mists. Sunrise is supposed to be especially magnificent if the weather is clear.
Hiking the Mountain
Like most of the famous mountains in China, Huangshan has been entirely domesticated. There are two long stone staircases that are the primary means of ascent and descent for hikers. Since there is no road to the summit, the staircases are also used by porters hauling vegetables, laundry and construction materials up and down the mountain. The eastern steps are supposed to be significantly easier than the western steps, and it took us about 2 1/2 hours to get to the summit, including one long break at the halfway point. If you’re not feeling the stairs, there are also three gondolas to the summit. But they’re pricey — a one-way journey on the Yungu Cableway costs 80 RMB.
Once you get to the top, there are numerous trails to different vantage points and summits. Both the Bright Summit Peak and the Refreshing Terrace are supposed to be ideal places to catch the sunrise — one of the main attractions Huangshan, if you are so lucky as to see it.
Huangshan is expensive — and I’m not just talking about the entrance ticket. At the summit, everything is carried up by hand, which is why you will compete for space on the steps with porters carrying 85+ pounds of food, laundry and other supplies. Naturally, this adds quite a bit to the prices. Here’s what I spent over the course of my day-and-a-half visit:
- Admission ticket: 115 RMB (full price 230 RMB)
- Hostel bed: 100 RMB
- Cable car on the way down: 80 RMB
- Transportation from Tunxi to the mountain and back: 63 RMB
- Snacks & Meals: 63 RMB (Our only hot meal was a 10 RMB bowl of instant noodles)
- Map & Postcards: 26 RMB
Total: 447 RMB (562 RMB without the student discount)
Food and Accommodation
If you’re on a backpacker’s budget, it’s safe to say that you will not be able to afford hot food on the mountain. Dinner alone at the Beihai Hotel cost 120 RMB — and breakfast cost 60 RMB! The only restaurants are in the large hotels, so on top of the expensive ingredients, you are paying for way more service than you wanted in the first place. We stuck to the snacks that we brought — peanut butter, crackers, fruit, Oreos — and supplemented them with packaged snacks from the hotel convenience store. But don’t underestimate how satisfying such meals can be: Instant noodles were a filling and tasty “bargain” at 10 RMB per bowl, and the hot water was free!
There are dorms in unexpected locations around the mountain — even the nice hotels like Beihai or Xihai have them. But the catch is that a night in a dorm can cost upwards of 200 RMB. For those truly on a budget, read on.
Huangshan Gongshangsuo (黄山工商所)
This is a barebones operation: Managed by the guy who works at the China Mobile store down the hill, sans shower, with toilets in the building behind it, and nothing in the room but bunk beds. Even the sheets are a bit undersized. But it seemed fairly clean. As a result, it’s the cheapest place to stay on the mountain. Dorm beds cost 100 RMB If price is your only concern, this is the place for you.
The Huangshan Gongshangsuo is across from the Beihai Hotel. You’ll see a row of offices, including a Bank of China branch and a China Mobile store. Ask at the China Mobile store for the manager. The hostel itself is located in a one-story white building behind and up the hill from the China Mobile/Bank of China building. If you speak Chinese, you can make a reservation by phone at 13956268168.
The transport hub for Huangshan is the city of Tunxi. It is so closely linked to the mountain that it is actually called Huangshan on the train schedule. But it is about an hour away from the mountain itself.
Getting to Huangshan requires two bus transfers. You can catch a minibus to Tangkou, the gateway to the mountain, right outside the Tunxi train station. You won’t have any trouble finding it — the proprietor is quick to seize on potential passengers as they leave the train station. It costs 15 RMB and leaves when full. From Tangkou, you will need to take a bus or a cab to one of the official starting points on the mountain. Yungu Station (13 RMB) is the beginning of the eastern steps. The Yuping cable car is the beginning of the western steps.