I’ve been to some pretty scenic spots: the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, the Camargue in the south of France, the beaches of Barbados, Cabo da Roca in Portugal. I’m not sure, but Yellow Mountain in Anhui Province, PRC, may have them all beat. Hence, there will be many pictures offered here.
My goals were to figure out Chinese trains on my own, from one town to another (check), to see a sunset (check: saw four), and to see a sunrise (check). Keeping one’s goals manageable is a good way to achieve them. I did not get to see monkeys, which was disappointing; but the bonus were the stars—simply incredible on the clear nights— where one could see that long cloud of stars that makes me realize the vastness of the Milky Way (银河) and, by extension, the universe. As Kant famously said: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”
On the other hand, getting to the hotel (as outlined in the previous entry, #18) was a bit of a problem, and getting back to the train station was a bit of a problem. My hotel, which was quite nice, was up on the mountain. I was informed the only way to get back down the mountain was via cable car, or walking down the mountain. Since I had a suitcase and briefcase, the latter was not viable. The same guy who told me I had to eat in the hotel restaurant (cf., again, #18) told me it was a 14-minute walk to the cable car. So I set out, nice and early. After walking, almost entirely straight up some rather steep inclines, for an hour, I wasn’t close. I ran into a friendly Aussie who told me I had another hour. Sweating, panting, lugging, and unsure of where to go: it was all a pretty good time. I asked five or six more people, in English and in Chinese, how to get to the cable car: I was given five or six different answers. I finally ran into a very nice Chinese gentleman who spoke excellent English, and he gave me what seemed to be the most reliable answer, which it was. Then the cable car down to a bus, then to another bus, then a train, on to the Suzhou subway, and I’m almost home. I just need to catch the bus back to my flat; after standing around for 30 minutes, all of us waiting for a specific bus realized it had quit running for the evening, so that was another mile and a half walk with the baggage. I don’t believe in God, but if she were to exist, I would compliment her for having a surprisingly wicked sense of humor.
A couple of interesting encounters. The first was when I was walking down a steep set of stairs, and passed a group of eight or so Chinese walking up them. A rather portly fellow in the group saw me, and said slowly and in a very unpleasant way “lao wai,” which is a term for foreigner that can be used neutrally or as an insult; the way this guy said it, it was pretty clearly the latter. So as I walk by, I respond “对对对，胖子，我是一个老外”—more or less, “that’s right, fat boy, I’m a foreigner.” Later that same day, I’m enjoying the scenery, and a Chinese fellow comes up to me and asks me (in quasi-English) where I’m from. I respond in my quasi-Chinese that I’m from the US, and ask him where he is from (assuming he would tell me what province or city). His answer is “China!” For some reason, his group regarded this as the single most humorous thing ever uttered by any human being: they were in stitches, and I could hear them laughing still as they walked off a couple of minutes later. Cultural differences in humor, I guess.
The rest of this will be pictures, with occasional brief captions; as good as I hope some of them are, I don’t think they do justice to the majesty of Huang Shan. If you get the chance to see it someday . . . .