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29/10/2013

Fantastic Vacation in Huangsha

Last Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we were finally able to spend a few days with all eight of us together! Although we had been Zhenjiang for nearly three weeks, our sisters had been very busy attending school Monday through Saturday and preparing for their final exams. But as their school year came to a close on Tuesday we were finally able to all be together for the first time since we arrived! To celebrate, Stephanie, Michelle, and Megan’s parents brought us to stay and explore in the Huangshan Mountains (famous attraction for your China travel deals) of the Anhui province, just Southwest of Zhenjiang and Jiangsu.

 

We all set off on Wednesday morning and arrived at our bed and breakfast hotel in a small valley-town just in time for lunch. The weather was wonderful, much cooler than Zhenjiang, and surrounded by beautiful mountains and bamboo forests. We headed out to explore right away, taking a short, guided hike through the mountains nearby. At one point we stopped to rest in front of a bamboo-covered stage and the kind performers from a mountain tribe offered to demonstrate and even teach us their traditional dances! It was amazing to see!

 

As we reached the bottom of the small mountain we decided to try one more thing: rafting! Oh it was so much more difficult than I had expected, though! I think we completed most of the course spinning in circles, and we probably set a record for the number of times we got stuck on rocks . . . but it was great!

 

That evening we played cards, teaching our sisters “Uno!”, then watched Harry Potter (a common cultural joy, that along with Titianic, as you can see from the picture below), and taught our sisters the fundamental understanding that when your parents say “Go to bed early so you’ll be ready for the big hike tomorrow” it is truly code for “Stay up late and watch two more movies”!

 

We probably could have used a bit more sleep, though, as we were downstairs for breakfast at 5:30 the next morning, then heading off for a 10 km (just over 6 mile) hike through the mountains! We had quite a ride to get there, though: a small van to a big bus and then a gondola up to our starting spot. By the time we were ready to begin it was past 9:00!

 

The hike was amazing, with cool, fresh air and spectacular views looking out into an endless sea of solid rock mountains. We took our time at first, snacking, taking pictures (we were so excited to have our first full group picture!), and resting . . . almost too much, though, as with six kilometers to go we suddenly realized we had just two and a half hours to reach the gondola before the final round to the bottom of the mountain was made at 4:30!!! We pretty much bolted the rest of the way, sliding in coolly with ten minutes to spare.

 

Friday we were out and about again as we drove to visit an old, traditionally-built neighboring mountain town, Hongcun (famous ancient village should be contained in top 10 China tour packages). The tiny settlement was beautiful, with fresh water from the mountains flowing right through and around it. Little canals ran along the ground beside each of the walking paths, bringing water to all of the homes. We toured the old, lavishly built homes of the wealthy families who once lived here, filled with fine wood carvings, colorful scrolls, and displays to honor their ancestors. It was really interesting to witness the paradox between the modern people living in the old homes of Hongcun as the antique buildings which lack running water (unless you count the side canals outside their homes) are filled with wifi, televisions, and cell phones galore!

 

In the afternoon we returned to the hotel, still quite worn from the previous day’s hike. After short naps and a nice dinner we all gathered to watch a scary movie in honor of Friday the 13th! I think it may be appropriate at this point to label this last section as “Our Misadventures in China #6”: Well, as I was saying, we agreed to watch a scary movie, right? Of course, sitting in the middle of the mountains, our options were quite limited, so we consented to watching the scariest movie we had: Pirates of the Caribbean. I think perhaps Katherine, Julie, and I were quite relieved by the limited horror and gore . . . The others, not so much. But it turned out to be quite scary indeed.

 

Around 8:00 we all made our way to Chara and Stephanie’s room where, all eight of us cramming onto their bed, we turned out the lights and each clambered to find a spot where we could view the film on the iPad. About half way through we noticed with surprise that the stormy seas were not alone. The thunder outside nearly blocked out the movie’s sound and the lightning lit the entire room every few seconds. We continued watching anyway, as our surroundings added to the suspense. Then, all of a sudden there was a knock at the door. We all jumped up, each attempting to untangle herself from the mass of seven other girls piled on the bed. It probably sounded like a herd of elephants tumbling down the stairs, but six of us scrambled to hide behind the wall anyway, while Stephanie and Chara answered the door to their room.

 

Then Stephanie screamed! We all sprinted toward her at the door (blowing whatever limited cover we’d had behind the wall, as we were supposed to be asleep right now, not watching movies together), but we were terrified as we looked to see what could have caused such a fright and found a two large men standing in the dark hallway holding candles.

 

“How many girls?” one demanded, struggling to ask in English. We were scared out of our minds! Then as he raised the candle to count for himself we realized . . . It was Katherine and Chara’s fathers.

 

“The light is gone,” Chara’s dad pointed out, reaching inside to demonstrate the lack of response as he flicked the switch.

 

“The electricity has gone out from the storm?” Megan asked. Her father nodded, handing her the candle. There was a collective sigh of relief and a few spouts of nervous laughter. We had not noticed as we had already been without lights, watching the movie from the iPad. Now, sitting around a single candle with lightning flashing through the blinds and thunder blocking out our sound as we watched Pirates together, it was the perfect Friday the 13th.

Tags: popular China tours and travel to China

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