Around Anhui – Ancient towns and Huangshan Mountain

posted in: China, STORIES | 0

From Hangzhou we took a fast train to Tungxi, in Anhui Province. There is some confusion regarding the name of the city. Some people call it Huangshan City, but the real name is Tungxi. In any case, the place is merely a transport hub (the fast train arrives there). Located an hour away from the mountain it lacks scenery and has no special tourist interest. That’s why we decided to stay in the town of Tangkou, the perfect base to visit the famous Huangshan Mountain (Yellow Mountain) and some historical towns.

Our train arrived almost at midnight so we hopped on a taxi to reach Tangkou. The road is in great condition and takes you through lush greenery. We finally got to our Cheng Jin Hotel late and tired. The hotel is conveniently located next to the bus station from where buses to Huangshan leave, but it’s very quiet since it is off the main road. Rooms are clean and spacious, and they have great filtered coffee.

After a well-deserved rest, we woke up and grabbed two coffees from our hotel. It had rained the whole night but cleared a bit so we decided to drink it outside to enjoy the views. Something magical happened. A local man approached us. He started talking to us offering tours around the area. We were planning to visit the historical towns of Xidi and Hongcun, but he insisted they were overly touristic and suggested two different towns with no tourists. I believed the less touristic part, but wondered if they were pretty enough. They turned out to be spectacular! Why was I so skeptical!?

Tangmo village

To get to Tangmo village we had to go back closer to Tungxi city. I was skeptical again. How could an ancient town be so close to a large metropolis? It was! We first saw two ducks walking freely and a bunch of locals getting on with their everyday life. The village completely blew our minds: Narrow streets, ancient houses, locals chatting and smiling at us and a 500-year-old Ginkgo tree. There was no tourist infrastructure and only a small group of Chinese tourists. We couldn’t believe it; we witnessed life as it was centuries ago. At the end of the village there was a small temple inside a beautiful garden.

Chengkan Town

On the way to Chengkan Town we stopped near an old pagoda to take some pictures. We were now wondering if the second place would be equally beautiful? And once again our jaws drop: a fairy tale town with outstanding architecture, gorgeous scenery and people so nice they seemed out of a movie. We spent hours wondering around its crumbled streets, taking pictures and smiling back at the locals. We were offered a meal in a local’s house which we ate with special joy. Besides us there was only a group of professional photographers and few fancy Chinese artists. On our way back we passed through a mountain range and again enjoyed some outstanding views (our favorite hobby).

Special thanks to our guide Mike. He drove us safely everywhere, told us great stories and showed us the best places for pictures. It was his idea to visit Chengkan and Tangmo!

Huangshan – Yellow Mountain

Huangshan Mountain is the last national park we visited in China. The first was Jiuzhaigou National Park and the second one Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. We were very lucky both times, enjoying great weather and not so many tourists. Not this time. Tourists were everywhere, it was raining like hell and there was a very dense fog. We almost couldn’t see a thing! We walked up and down thousands of stairs and in the middle of the mountain, took a funicular, two cable cars and went for coffee in a hotel inside the National Park.

There were many paths and the visibility was low so finding our way was very difficult. Luckily Chinese, as friendly as anywhere in the country, helped us a lot. The whole experience was beyond belief. We were cold, tired, walking amid dense fog and so happy. We took some pics when the rain stopped. They don’t reveal the beauty of the Yellow Mountain nor the intensity of our day. Yeah, visibility sucked but we could sense the immensity of the mountain. The sun came out when we were leaving the park. Bad luck, huh? Not really, we experienced firsthand one of the most portrayed natural sites in Chinese art and literature. And now we have a reason to go back.

Massive tourism in China

Some visitors complain about the massive number of tourists in China. Many people asked me how could I possibly enjoy the country with so many people around? A very cool Dutch guy we met in Zhangjiajie complained so much about Chinese overpopulation. He was in shock when we told him that his country is more densely populated than China! There is no space for anyone!

I don’t want to sound pretentious; we planned our 2-month trip around China outstandingly well, so we were mostly able to beat the crowds. The only place we were overwhelmed was in Huangshan Mountain. But even this time with a little help from our driver we were able to enjoy two beautiful historical towns on our own. And all that only 4 hours away from China’s largest city Shanghai.

Dreams do come true for us who dream!

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