Huangshan – Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Woke up at 4am, and thought I’d take advantage of being one of the first ones up, to charge my phone. There weren’t any outlets in the train cabin, so I sat in the hallway charging my phone (slooooowly).

Got to Huangshan station right on time, and the gentleman from my train cabin that spoke some English pointed me in the direction of the buses to Tangkou. They would’ve been hard to miss anyway – not only were they straight ahead of the exit, but a lady had a speaker and was loudly directing people to various buses. I couldn’t understand any of it (all in Chinese) so I asked to make sure I was getting on the right bus, and settled in for an hour long ride with my legs and pack stacked above the wheel well. Cozy!

Then, on to buy a ticket for the next bus, and a twisty ride later, we were at the base of the east stairs (and gondola).

There were very few people around – it was not the mass of tourists I’d been expecting. I probably could have ridden the gondola up without too long a wait, but I came intending to hike up, so I did. Many times, I couldn’t see anyone ahead of or behind me. I also didn’t see much in the way of mountainous scenery – it was so misty all you could see was the trail and a few hazy trees.

There were quite a few porters on the trail, lugging up their heavy loads. I thought of myself as the (wo)man in black, scaling the cliffs of insanity, and gaining on them. Inconceivable! Of course, I wasn’t carrying their load. I didn’t see anyone get carried up.

I had started out with a warm jacket and ski hat, but as I climbed, shed a lot of layers since the stairs were a good way to work up a sweat. It wasn’t until the very top when the wind came up, and the mist/clouds really socked in, that I felt cold again. But I didn’t want to stop to get bundled up, so just held my poncho in place around me and hurried on to my hotel.

Visibility was so poor that you had to get really close to the signs to read them, but I eventually found the right place.

It’s supposed to clear up tomorrow, so instead of hiking in the chilly mist this afternoon, only to not be able to see anything, I’m staying warm and catching up on…this!

And I have to say, backpacking that ends with a hot meal, shower, and comfy bed is pretty excellent.


Shanghai – Tuesday, November 20, 2018

My strategy of (mostly) staying awake on the long flight to Shanghai seemed to have worked. I was ready for a hot shower and a comfy bed by the time I got to my hotel, and got a good nights sleep. The extra walking around that I did as a result of “favoriting” the wrong Central Hotel Shanghai might’ve helped. I circled a completely wrong block a couple of times (and even went down a dark and narrow alley) trying to figure out where the hotel entrance was, before ultimately going back to my reservation information and mapping the address again.

Anyway. I made it, and after some quality pillow time, was up fairly early. Greeted by a hazy morning, I walked a bit looking for something just right for breakfast.

I found the hotel where A and I had stayed a few years back, and walked the street where I’d remembered having amazing scallion pancakes, but I couldn’t find them. I eventually ducked into a restaurant whose entrance was in the back of a food hall, with an upstairs seating area overlooking the pedestrian street, where I had some unremarkable noodles and a “latte” that lacked milk. Disappointing first meal. It might’ve been the view of the M&Ms store across the street, but I had a sudden craving for chocolate, and picked up a hot chocolate at a nearby bubble tea place.

After packing up my things and leaving my bag at the hotel desk, I wandered the city some more. After following the concierge’s suggestion, I wound up in the Yu Garden area – a total tourist trap.

Walked a bunch more. I was finally hungry for lunch, and was looking for something tasty from some smaller restaurant north of the pedestrian street. Then, something caught my eye in the street. A rat. A dead rat? A dead rat. And then along came a man with a giggling toddler in his arms. He kicked the rat (again) and she burst into a fresh round of giggles. One more thwack and it was in the gutter. I suppose one dead rat in the street is one less rat in the kitchen…but I decided to walk a bit further before eating.

Eventually found a place with hand pulled noodles with braised beef. Now THIS is what I’m talking about. Slurp!

And then, I was tired of walking so decided to indulge in a foot/body massage combo, before going back to the hotel to grab my pack and head to the train station just as rush hour was beginning.

I was glad I’d given myself some extra time at the station, as the ticket counter was in a totally separate building from the station. After asking directions several times, I eventually wound up in the right place, and was able to pick up all my train tickets while I was there.

Then dumplings, and a night train to Huangshan. Seemed like I didn’t actually do much, but my phone says I did indeed walk a lot.