When you are an exchange student it is easy to be caught in the monotony of everyday life in your new country. I came to China as a naive student who expected the majority of Chinese cities to be similar with no major differences and I could not have been more wrong! As I held this misconception, I did not make plans to leave Shanghai and explore greater China however the cultural and historical differences between these two cities could not have been more different!
Shanghai and Huangshan may be in the same country but in many ways they are worlds apart! Shanghai is a large international city with large crowds, fast paced life, air pollution and extremely high prices (by regular Chinese standards). However HuangShan is so different in that while there are large crowds, they are dispersed over a large area which makes the environment seem so serene.
My first trip outside Shanghai was to HuangShan (Yellow Mountain) which is one of the main tourist attractions for Chinese citizens. To take advantage of both the international culture of my classmates and to experience the historical significance, I began this journey with seven of my classmates. We paid 150 RMB (30 dollars) for a 14 hour train ride which we all slept through. As we stepped off the train we expected to see many other western tourists there however 99% of tourists at HuanShan were Chinese people who were shocked to see such a large group of foriegners. We paid 60RMB (12 dollars) to stay in a hotel close to the foot of the mountain in order to prepare our bodies to climb HuangShan the following day.
Prior to my departure from Shanghai I had googled what to expect from HuangShan and HuangShan certainly delivered. I had read online that HuangShan has lots of steps and a many gondolas (cable cars), however I was flabbergasted by the amount of both for one mountain. As we arrived at the mountain our original plan was to use a cable car to reach the first waypoint however the wait was 2.5 hours long so we decided to climb the stairs. Tripadvisor advised me to expect lots of stairs however the sheer amount of truly incomprehensible! Huangshan has over 30,000 stairs! I had been told by friends to expect a workout but this sheer number of stairs was absolutely incredible and truly highlighted the work ethic of the Chinese citizens. While we took rest breaks every 30 minutes to heal it was truly incredible and humbling to see so many Chinese people powering through with big loads without even thinking about taking a break.
We were never able to reach the summit of HuangShan due to the sheer number of stairs. However the view from the mountain itself was absolutely incredible and it was a relief to be able to breathe in fresh air (which is a rare commodity in China). HuangShan has many famous waypoints and scenery and it was truly incredible to be able to experience this Chnese cultural masterpiece.