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Travel in China – Huangshan/Yellow Mountain – Day 2

Day 2  汤口 (Tangkou Town)    –>     慈光阁 (entrance of the front side of mountain)    –>     迎客松 (Welcome Pine)    –>    光明顶  (Bright Peak)   –>    飞来石 (Flying Rock)    –>    排云亭 (Paiyun Pavilion, for sunset)    –>    排云楼 (Paiyun Lou, hotel)

 

I think we successfully avoided crowds!  Here’s the Day 2 in our Yellow Mountain trip, or the first day we were actually IN Yellow Mountain.

As mentioned in the overview post, one needs to take the shuttle bus to the entrance of Yellow Mountain.  The bus firstly took us to the 慈光阁 cable car station.  From there, another bus is available to take us further to somewhere close to the entrance.  (Only a few people were on the bus.) There’s still some distance from where the second bus dropped us to the actual entrance, as we joked: “We are already tired before we even start to climb Yellow Mountain”.

We were among a very small number of people who were able to enjoy Yellow Mountain in peace.  Many times, we couldn’t see any other people at all.

yellow_mountain avoid crowds
No crowds at all

Climbing Yellow Mountain is tough, especially from the front side.  We were extremely slow.  Even if Heaven Capital Peak were open, we would not have enough time to do it.

Heaven Capital Peak closed
Heaven Capital Peak (天都峰) closed due to weather

The first time when we met with crowds was at Yupin Lou (玉屏楼), where the Welcome Pine is located.   Nearby there are also a cable car station and a hotel, so no wonder it’s always crowded.  We could find a stone table, and enjoyed lunch – the takeout fried rice and homemade bamboo shoot.  D was very happy that he could carry less stuffs.  We were really exhausted.

Then we kept going towards Bright Peak (光明顶).  Again, nobody was around.  Probably because of the timing, we really did not see much people this day (see photos).  Most people climb from the back side of Yellow Mountain, and we did from the front side.  Therefore, we kinda of “missed” each other?!

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After Yupin Lou (玉屏楼)
thread of the sky down
At the bottom of Thread of the sky (一线天)
At the top of Thread of the sky (一线天)
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Lotus Peak (莲花峰)

On the way, we saw West Sea Canyon.  Wow!  we couldn’t wait to explore it – we got excited for the next day.

west sea canyon
west sea canyon (西海大峡谷)
west sea canyon cable car
west sea canyon (西海大峡谷) cable car

After passing the Flying Rock (飞来石), we finally arrived at hotel!  So tired!

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Flying Rock (飞来石)
flying rock
Amazing Flying Rock

How much time did we use?  From the entrance to Welcome Pine was about 4 hours! Then, from there to hotel (Paiyun Lou) was another 4 hours!  What a day!  If the Heaven Capital Peak (requires 3 hours) were open, we would have had to hike in dark…

However, we still went to see sunset at Paiyun Pavilion (排云亭).  It was cloudy… unfortunately.  But we enjoyed the peace.

Paiyun Pavilion sunset
Paiyun Pavilion sunset
Paiyun Pavilion locks
Paiyun Pavilion locks

Although the hotel room was a bit wet, we had a good night sleep with sour legs.

 

 

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Travel in China – Huangshan/Yellow Mountain – Avoid crowds

If you have been to China, you know that it’s almost crowded everywhere.  Since Yellow Mountain is one of the favorites of Chinese people, you can be assured that it is crowded everyday, rain or shine.  But, you still want to ask this question: how do I avoid the crowds … as much as possible?  As a Chinese, as somebody who has been to Yellow Mountain before, I also asked myself the same exact question.

Here is my answer —- There is no way to avoid crowds, but there are ways to avoid large crowds!

Rule No.1   Do not join tour groups.  Yes you know the reasons.

Rule No.2   Try climb up the mountain from the front side (慈光阁), and try not to use the cable cars.  Most tour groups go from the back side (云谷寺).  And to save time and energy, they always use the cable cars.

Rule No.3   Visit the West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷), where the tour groups do not go.  Be assured that it is really worth going, even if you have to give up some other sites of interest!

Rule No.4   Stay on the mountain, and enjoy the early morning and late afternoon (before tour groups come up, and after they are gone).  Plus, you may be lucky to catch a breathtaking sunrise or sunset!

Rule No.5   Discover your own Yellow Mountain.  I mean, do not just look for those iconic sites, where are always packed with people.  For example, there is always a long line in front of the Welcome Pine Tree for photos.  In fact, there are so many things to see in Yellow Mountain!  Please do not ignore them!

We stayed two nights on the mountain.  If you are interested in our itinerary, please check out this overview post and Day 2 and Day 3 in details.

 

 

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Travel in Hokkaido ~beautiful flower gardens in Biei

This is a second day of 11 days travel in Hokkaido, Japan. We , my wife and my parents, visited Biei. Biei is famous for beautiful nature, such as patchwork hill, flower gardens, famous trees and so on.

We woke up late this morning and we left Sapporo around 10. We stopped at the rest area “Sunagawa high way oasis”. This is a very good rest area. There are so many gift shops and many of them provide free tasting. So this is a good place to try Japanese snacks. It’s tasty 🙂

hokkaido biei zerubu no oka

Flower garden in “Zerubu no oka” in Biei

The drive to Biei was about an hour. We visited “zerubu-no-oka” at first. As you can see in above photo, flowers are well aligned. It is very beautiful place to see in summer! Zerubu does not require entrance fee, but you can donate some if you liked this place 🙂

hokkaido biei

 

Next, we visited another flower garden “Shikisai-no-oka”.  This garden is similar to Zerubu, but it has larger garden area. Also, it’s busier. I saw many tour groups here.
You can walk around the garden. You can also use sightseeing bus (5$) in the garden if you don’t want to walk much. I was not interested in but there was alpaca zoo in the garden (5$). “Shikisai-no-oka” is also admission free and it welcomes small donation.

hokkaido aoi ike (blue pond)

Aoi ike? Not that blue!

After “Shikisai-no-oka”, we visited “Aoi-ike”. Aoi ike means blue pond. Recently, it is getting more attention because of beautiful blue color of the pond. But as you can see in my photo, it was not blue at all this day. This depends on the weather and some conditions. So you need some good luck to see the blue pond. If you google image of “aoi ike”, you can see amazing photos. BTW, this pond was used as a wallpaper of Mac.

After “aoi ike” we visited a few famous trees in Biei. It was so-so. We drove to Asahikawa city to prepare for next day visit to “Asahiyama zoo”..

Hotel: Toyoko INN Asahikawa, Asahikawa (東横イン)

Toyoko inn is everywhere 🙂

Breakfast:Toyoko INN provides complementary breakfast!

Lunch: “Furokkusuhoru “, Biei Shikisai-no-Oka(フロックスホール)☆☆☆☆

We ate lunch at the restaurant in “Shikisai-no-oka”. We did not expect very good food in sightseeing place, but their curry was surprisingly good. Also, the price was reasonable. It was good experience 😉

Dinner: “Matsuda”, Asahikawa(まつ田) ☆☆☆

This is Japanese noodle “ra-men” restaurant. Taste was good enough, but not special. We ate ra-men and dumplings “gyoza”.

D&X

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Travel in Hokkaido ~Big city Sapporo and deserted town Yubari

I want to write about 1st day of our 11 days Hokkaido trip. If you want to see the overview of our 11 days trip, please visit the summary post.

The first day was moving day from Tokyo to Shinchitose. I wanted to meet my wife in Tokyo but her flight from China was badly delayed. Her first flight was  from Hangzhou airport to Beijing airport in China, and this flight delayed about half a day. She needed to stay in Beijing airport and airplane company compensate only 30$, which is cheaper than the cheapest hotel around airport!

Anyhow, she was still in Beijing when I arrived Hokkaido. So, my parents and I went ahead to one of the most deserted town in Japan, Yubari. Yubari is an economically collapsed town, and now a young mayor is doing big efforts to reconstruct the town.
Yubari prospered as a coal-mine town before 1950, and gradually declined afterwards. There was a movie about this city “The Yellow Handkerchief “. We visited the town to see filming location of this movie.
There was a parking to visit this location. It looked like a free visiting site, but actually there was a gatekeeper to collect the entrance fee of about 5 $. In this site, you can feel the life in coal-mine town.

hokkaido yubari

The filming location of “The Yellow Handkerchief “

Just by looking, the Yubari town was just a country town. But, I did not see many people in this town. I would like to visit this kinda small town, but life should not be that easy. BTW, Yubari is very famous for melon. If you like melon, it is worth trying “Yubari melon”.

After Yubari, we visited Sapporo city. It took only 1 hour. In contrast to Yubari, Sapporo is the biggest city in Hokkaido. There are not so many tall buildings, but you can still find a lot of people.
After checking in the hotel, we visited Sapporo JR train station. In japan, big train stations usually have a lot of shopping and eating place. We visited a “Sushi-go-round” restaurant in the station.
I would write information about hotel and restaurant at the bottom of this post. When I was eating Sushi, my wife X arrived Tokyo HND airport. Finally at midnight, she could arrive Shinchitose airport. Fortunately there was a last train to come back to Sapporo. FYI, there should be buses till midnight from Shinchitose to Sapporo even if you miss the last train 🙂

Hotel: Toyoko Inn Hokkaido Sapporo-eki Minami-guchi, Sapporo (東横イン)

If you want to just sleep in the hotel (no complementary dinner), Toyoko-inn is one of the safe choices. Plus, Toyoko-inn provide complementary breakfast. The room is small but it has bed, shower and some amenities. There are some this type of hotels so called “business hotel” in Japan. The room is relatively cheap and has standard quality. Of course, you can find cheaper hotels, but you may get good or bad experience by your luck.

Lunch: “restaurant oyama”, Yubari(おーやまレストラン)

This was a nice restaurant. The price is a bit expensive but we need to think that they are maintaining the restaurant in this small town. They have many order menus so you should be able to find one you like. I tried their speciality using yam which is well-known product in Yubari.

Dinner: “Hokkaido Shikisaitei”, Sapporo station北海道四季彩亭

Actually, we wanted to go to a different famous sushi restaurant (根室花まる), but almost 100 people were waiting at that time.  So we visited the sushi restaurant (北海道四季彩亭). Actually, this restaurant did not have very good review. I say the restaurant is good enough unless you are expecting something special for Hokkaido. At least, it was good that we did not need to wait long time to eat :*)

D & X

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Travel in China – Huangshan/Yellow Mountain – Tips

Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, is truly my favorite place to visit in China.  It is not far from my hometown, Hangzhou.  The first time I visited Yellow Mountain, I was about 10 years old.  At that time, there was no cable car, so we climbed up on foot.  The second time was in 2016 summer, when I took D there.  Although most people are using the cable car to climb up and even come down, we chose the tougher way.

Chinese people say: you do not need to visit any other mountain after you come back from Yellow Mountain.  Maybe that’s why I have not been to other famous mountains in China 🙂

Yellow Mountain is known for “Four Specialties”: unique pine-trees, strange rocks, cloud sea, and hot springs.

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Welcome Pine Tree (迎客松)
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Flying Rock (飞来石)
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Monkey watching the cloud sea (猴子观海)

However, my favorite part is the newly opened West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷).  I will talk about it more in the next blog, but here is a photo:

yellow_mountain_14
West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷)

 

In this blog, I would like to share some tips.

How many days in Yellow Mountain?

Depends on how much you want to see, and whether you plan to use the cable car (which significantly saves time).  We climbed up from the front (慈光阁) side of Yellow Mountain, which is the more difficult side.  In order to see sunrise and sunset, we stayed in Yellow Mountain for two nights.

Day 1   Hangzhou    –>   Tangkou (汤口)  Hotel

Day 2  Tangkou (汤口)    –>     慈光阁     –>     迎客松     –>    光明顶     –>    飞来石     –>    排云亭 (sunset)    –>    排云楼 (hotel)

Day 3  排云楼    –>    丹霞峰(sunrise) –>    排云楼    –>    狮林大酒店(hotel checkin)  –>     排云亭     –>     西海大峡谷    –>   cable car to 天海 station    –>    光明顶    –>    狮林大酒店
–>     狮子峰 (猴子观海, sunset)     –>     狮林大酒店

Day 4  狮林大酒店     –>      始信峰 (sunrise)     –>     云谷寺     –>   Tangkou (汤口)     –>     Hangzhou

* Day 2 was tough.  Probably better to have stayed at 白云宾馆 or 光明顶.

* Tiandu Peak was closed due to weather.  Lotus Peak was closed till 2019.

* In my opinion, it’s worth to spend a day in West Sea Canyon, if the loop is fully accessible.  West Sea Canyon is like a fairyland, and is very quiet.  Tour groups do not go there, because they do not have much time.  We really enjoyed the peaceful hiking there.

 

Transportation

Bus from Hangzhou: Buses depart from Hangzhou West Bus Station.  Attention! The destination should be Tangkou (汤口), from where one can take shuttles to Yellow Mountain.  Private cars are not allowed to drive to Yellow Mountain.

Shuttles from Tangkou (汤口) to Yellow Mountain: There are two shuttle stations inTangkou (汤口): East (东岭) and West (寨西).  When you buy tickets there, you need to specify whether you are going to the front (慈光阁) or back (云谷寺) side of Yellow Mountain.  One-way ticket costs about $3, and the ride takes about 25 minutes.  Shuttles run every 20 minutes.  We used the East Shuttle Station (东岭) to go to the front side (慈光阁) of Yellow Mountain.  The station is quite small.  In comparison, the West (寨西) Shuttle Station is huge, and it’s close to Tangkou (汤口) Bus Station, which harbors inter-city buses.

Here is our itinerary:
Hangzhou West Bus Station –>
Tangkou Bus Station — >
picked up by hotel staff to go to hotel –>
walk to East Shuttle Station –>
front side (慈光阁) of Yellow Mountain –>
Yellow Mountain –>
back side (云谷寺) of Yellow Mountain –>
shuttle bus to West Shuttle Station –>
walk to Tangkou Bus Station –>
Hangzhou West Bus Station

 

Hotels and Restaurants

[Day 1] In Tangkou (汤口): 黄山自游人客栈, close to the East Shuttle Station. ~ $20 per night.  Basic and clean.  They have a very nice and popular restaurant.  We had dinner there: spicy pepper fish (泡椒鱼) and mountain veggie, both are delicious.  Actually we intended to order some local specialties, but were warned that we probably wouldn’t like. We also had breakfast the next day: noodle soup, and it’s really good.  We then ordered a fried rice to take to Yellow Mountain (as our lunch). The hotel offers free pick-up from Tangkou Bus Station, so just give them a call when you arrive.  It’s a very short ride.  The owner of the hotel is nice.  He sat down with us after dinner to discuss about our plan!  They also have wooden hiking pole free to borrow.

[Day 2] In Hunagshan:  Paiyunlou (排云楼), three star hotel.  $125 per night.  It is located on one end of West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷). It is very close to Danxia Peak (丹霞峰) and Paiyun Pavilion (排云亭), two good locations for sunrise and sunset.  Seems like many tour groups like to stay there, probably due to the good location.  The room is good size, but quite wet, very wet.  Interestingly ,winter coats are available for use.  Breakfast is provided, but better to get there early to have good selections.

[Day 3] In Huangshan: Shilin Hotel (狮林大酒店), four star hotel.  $140 per night.  Photographers’ pick.  It is very close to Lion Peak (狮子峰) and Qingliangtai (清凉台), great for sunrise.  In the lobby, there are a lot of photographs on the show.  The hotel is newer, thus the room is clean, bright and dry.  The restaurant is good as well.  We had great dinner and breakfast there.

 

Tickets

Tickets to Yellow Mountain can be purchased from hotels, to skip the lines.   Or, you can get tickets at the gate.

 

Preparation

You should definitely buy a disposable raincoat (no more than 5 Chinese yuan a piece)!  It rains a lot in Yellow Mountain.  Umbrellas just won’t do.

Hiking poles are very helpful, but not necessary.

Water and snacks.  In the mountain, there are not that many places selling stuffs.

Only take necessary things – travel light!

 

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