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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?!

yellow_mountain avoid crowds 3
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)
yellow_mountain_lotus peak
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!

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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Aloha Hawaii – Flying to my dream land – Big Island

I had one free day after the conference.  The problem was there were too many attractions in Hawaii!  Where should I go?  The Big Island!  Simply because the Keck Telescopes are there!

The round trip (HNL – ITO) airline ticket was ~$200 each.  Hawaiian Airlines.  We had an early flight, at 5:32 AM.  It’s a short flight – 49 min.   The returning flight was 8:59 – 9:48 PM.  From our hostel to the airport, we arranged a shuttle, which came to pick us up.  At Hilo Airport on the Big Island, we had a rental car.  Originally I booked an economy car from Advantage, for $37.  However, at the counter, the Advantage lady highly recommended us to get a SUV (after hearing us going to the Observatories).  I forgot how much I paid to upgrade the economy car to SUV.  I guess it’s a right decision.

It was an enjoyable early morning flight.  We saw beautiful sunrise:

Hawaii big island sunrise

Hawaii big island sunrise 2

After the sun was up, we were descending.

Hawaii big island sunrise 3

Hawaii big island sunrise 4

After picking up the car, we headed towards Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Then we went to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.  The garden is close to the ocean.

Hawaii tropical botanical garden
Hawaii tropical botanical garden

The garden is not very big.  We followed the trail, and saw a lot of strange plants.

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Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park – sunrise again?

Monument Valley kinda represents The West, as one can see in some movies about Westerns.  It’s the second major stop, following Arches National Park, in our Grand Circle trip.  Driving from Moab to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park takes almost 3 hours.  We were hoping to catch the sunset!  So we kept driving, except for a brief break at Mexican Hat.  The weather was actually not promising.  When we got closer to Monument Valley, we were caught in a storm.  My plan of taking a photo of the straight road going towards those iconic sandstone buttes vanished!

When we arrived at the park, the storm has just passed.  After paying the entrance fee ($20), we went ahead to the hotel – The View Hotel – the only hotel inside of the park.  It’s the most expensive hotel we booked in our entire Grand Circle trip, almost $300 (on top of that, we also paid for the breakfast).  Obviously we had high expectations for it.  The style and color of the building match the surrounding very well.  The hotel is almost like part of the park itself.  The terrace is big, providing good views of the valley.  The room is a typical American standard room.  Not a bad size!  The best part – also the most expensive part – is the private balcony!  We could see the whole valley without going out of the room.  Plus, the balcony faces east, which means sunrise can be seen directly from the room as well!  To be honest, I have never been to a balcony that gives such extraordinary view…  The whole valley was there for me to enjoy, in peace.

Sunset was not possible that day.  But the air felt fresh after the storm.  The temperature was very pleasant!  And the valley looked more peaceful.  I couldn’t help to admire those sandstone buttes, which have been standing there for who knows how many centuries.  We didn’t go to the restaurant for dinner.  Somehow we had a crave for instant noodles 🙂

The sky got darker and darker.  We saw a few cars (lights) were driving in the valley.  Were they local Navajo residents?

The second day, I got up early, and went out to the terrace with my camera (+ tripod).  Yes, sunrise again!  Why not?  No need to drive, no need to hike – it’s probably the easiest sunrise (although people often miss the easiest things).  I took many photos, with different settings.  D and my mom didn’t come out.  They saw sunrise on the balcony – a slightly different angle but equally good.  I had to come out because I wanted a bigger view.  It was a bit cloudy!  But not too bad.  The sun rose behind the center butte.

As mentioned earlier, we bought tickets for the breakfast buffet.  The restaurant has big windows so people can enjoy the view of the valley while enjoying their meals.  However the buffet was normal… not many choices.  I kinda missed the breakfast in Best Western.

After the breakfast, we checked out.  But we didn’t leave!  Instead, we went for hiking.  The only hiking trail in the park is called Wildcat, starting from the hotel.  We spent some time looking for the start point of the trail.  It was not as straightforward as we thought.  Anyways, we found it!  We hiked around one of the sandstone buttes.  The closeup view was a totally different experience!  We had to look up the sandstone butte –  it’s so tall.  Also, we got to get close to the local plants and animals.  The temperature raised quickly as the day proceeded towards noon.  We took many water breaks, and enjoyed the company of a dog (may belong to somebody).

Then we went for the 17 miles scenic drive.  The road condition was much better than we thought.  A 4WD was not necessary.  Since hiking is not allowed without a guide, we basically stayed on the main road, and finished the loop quickly.  I am surprised that I don’t have much to say about the drive… but it’s definitely worthing going!

With all the good memories of Monument Valley, we hit the road towards Page, Arizona.  


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Sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

It’s the second day of our Grand Circle trip, and we planned to see sunrise at Mesa Arch.  Since my mom got a little injury in Arches National Park the previous day, she didn’t join us for the sunrise.  We also thought it’s better for her to rest more so that she would have energy later.  However, it’s really a pity that she missed the best sunrise in the whole trip!

The driving from Moab to Mesa Arch, which is in Canyonlands National Park, was about 45min.  In order to get a good spot for photography, we got up and hit the road very early (4:30am, 2h before the sunrise).  I kinda remember that I was in the driver’s seat, so that D (my husband) could rest.  After all, I am the one who is crazy about sunrise and sunset!  It was still dark when we arrived at the trailhead parking area.  But don’t worry – we had headlights!  So prepared!  The trail was said to be a 0.7 mile loop, so it should be only ~600m to the Mesa Arch.  However, it took us a while to figure out which way to go, because the trail was not that obvious (remember? It’s dark).

We were among the earliest at Mesa Arch!  I tested a few spots with my camera, and finally settled down.  More and more people came.  My spot was probably good, because several tripods were set up besides me.  We were all quietly waiting for the moment.  On the other hand, D was walking around – climbing up and down.

Canyonlands National Park
Waiting to see sunrise

The east started to show some red.  After a while, the first sunshine came out and lighted up the quiet canyonlands.

Canyonlands National Park
Sunrise at Mesa Arch

We were still waiting.  The moment has not come yet!  People’s eyes were all on Mesa Arch.  Slowly, the bottom part of the arch started to turn to a burning orange-red color!  This magic didn’t last long, as the sun was rising.

Canyonlands National Park
Burning Mesa Arch

After the color faded on Mesa Arch, it’s officially post-sunrise.  The sky was already bright.  We realized that Mesa Arch was right on the cliff edge.  Overlooking the vast canyonlands was also an unforgettable experience to us. Unfortunately, not a good time for photos (against the sun).

Canyonlands National Park
Overlooking the canyonlands

On the way back to hotel, we were quite excited.  Plus, the breakfast in the hotel (Best Western Plus Canyonlands) was great!


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Bryce Canyon National Park – the unforgettable starry night

Bryce Canyon National Park was the last stop in our Grand Circle trip.  Since we spent three days around Kanab (for The Wave lottery), and we needed to drive 6 hours to Grand Junction, we didn’t have much time in Bryce – only one night and one morning!

When we arrived at Bryce, it’s almost the sunset time.  I think we went to the sunrise point for the sunset (counterintuitive).  Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy that day.  Thinking about our whole Grand Circle trip, we seemed to have better luck for sunrise than sunset.  Anyways, we were still impressed by the hoodoos!

Shortly after the sunset, we went to our hotel Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn (right outside of the park).  The hotel is like a big resort.  The lobby is Mountain style, and has a lot to offer.  Still, the best part is its easy access to the park!

For the first time in our Grand Circle trip, we went out to do star gazing.  And truly, Bryce is the best place that I have been for stars.  The clouds were all gone, and the starry night sky is breathtaking! I  have never seen so many stars before!  I felt my body was immersed in stars.  I felt lost… it seemed more difficult to tell constellations with so many stars.  To me, who has loved star gazing for two decades, that place was like heaven!

I took out my camera, and tried a few long exposures.  I have always wanted to shoot the Milky Way and the star trails!  It’s cold and windy up there, but I was excited.  If I was more crazy, I should have gone down the canyon and took the shots on one of those hiking trails so that I could have hoodoos in the foreground… Next time!

Since we planned to see sunrise, and we would have long driving the following day, we went back to the hotel to catch some sleep.  Then, the second day we went into Bryce for the third time!  I forgot where exactly we went to see the sunrise… probably the Inspiration Point?  Again, it was a bit cloudy… but better than the previous day.  Where did the clouds come from?  It was clear in the night!  We were among the early ones, and could find a good place to see the amphitheater.  Just like those hoodoos – we were waiting quietly.   It also felt like we were waiting for a show.  It’s a amphitheater, isn’t it?  When the light shined upon the hoodoos, they became alive.  So, at one moment, this part of the amphitheater was playing; and at another moment, the other part of the amphitheater became active.   With sunlight, the color of stones are so glorious – burning orange.  In my eyes, that color felt young and full of energy!

We then drove back to the sunset point, and did about one hour’s hiking on the Navajo Loop Trail.  It was a nice morning hike in the sunshine and cool air – very different from other hikes we did earlier.  Getting close to the hoodoos also allowed us to admire those creatures in another angle.  We were very pleased to finish our Grand Circle trip with such a relaxing hike.