Last week we climbed Tai Shan, one of the five sacred Dao mountains and a World Heritage Site. There were many, many, many, many steps! It was more or less four hours of??stair-stepping. The beginning was fine. The stairs weren’t so steep and there were long stretches of level ground between them. After we stopped to eat lunch at the Halfway Gate to Heaven, the climbing got really tough. My lungs were burning and for some reason I couldn’t take a deep breath without coughing. We had to take quite a few breaks on our way up.
We only saw four other Westerners on the entire mountain. Many giggling Chinese girls got their pictures taken with us and many more people said hello to us. When we finally reached the summit area at the South Gate of Heaven, we could only find an expensive four-star hotel. After wandering around, we did find a cheaper one and luckily there was a guest from Beijing there who spoke a bit of English. The staff led us on a fifteen minute walk away from the village (up more stairs!) to a different building. It was all under construction, so there were boards, cement, and dust everywhere. Our room was pretty dirty and the bathroom was one of the worst we’ve had. At least it had hot water!
We went walking and took some pictures during sunset when the lighting was really great. It was too hazy to really see anything in the distance, though. Then we went to a restaurant and paid a fortune (a Chinese fortune, not a Japanese one) for inedible chunks of chicken bone and gristle. You would think that by now I would know not to order chicken in China. We also tried a special type of jian bing. They use what looks like a potter’s wheel to make a very thin pancake, then put thick soy sauce on and wrap it around a green onion stalk. It was pretty good and even Brad tried it.
We had decided not to get up for sunrise (even though that was why we were spending the night) because it would be cold and too hazy to see anything. Well, at four in the morning, the hotel staff woke everyone up by banging on every single door. And I don’t just mean a simple knock and a yell, this was literally door pounding and screaming for about ten minutes. Since we were awake, we decided to just get up and see it. Outside there was a beautiful full moon and it was dawn already, so it was fairly bright. It wasn’t too cold, but all the Chinese had rented military surplus coats. It looked like we were hanging out with a detachment of the Chinese Army.
About ten minutes later we all marched up to a good spot to view the sunrise. I think it was the best spot on the whole mountain, actually. The sunrise itself wasn’t much, except for the brief period when we could actually see the bright red sun. When it appeared, the crowd went into a photo-taking frenzy. The most popular picture is to stand with your hand out, so it looks like you’re holding the sun. I don’t think the concept of “cheesy” exists in Asia.
After we had our fill of the sunrise, Brad and I headed up to the actual summit at the unimpressive Jade Emperor Temple. We got a fried dough thing for breakfast, then went back down, this time on the cable car.??All in all, it wasn’t my favorite hike, but I don’t regret it. The sunset and full moon were cool. And they say that if you climb Tai Shan you live to be 100, so that should be good.