December 6-8??, 1999
In Hangzhou we were in the tourist office and we saw a bus tour advertised to Huangshan, our likely next destination. Huangshan (or Yellow Mountain) is the most famous mountain in China. It is 1800 m high and we'd heard it had great views. We hadn't actually decided to go there because we weren't sure how to do it. But this tour made it easy, at least theoretically. Gerry spent several hours over two visits asking lots of questions — in Chinese. When he came away we were signed up, without certainty what we would get since his Chinese is less than basic.
Anyway, on a Sunday morning, the day after we'd visited the doctor, we took a cross country bus for eight hours the 250 km to Huangshan. An hour after leaving Hangzhou we were in true rural country. It remained that way all day; the largest towns only took a few minutes to pass. We arrived at Tangkou, at the base of Huangshan, late in the day and Jan went straight to bed, for 36 hours — until we left town. We learned, to our regret, that the hotel was not heated in spite of overnight lows below zero Celsius. After much hard bargaining (and confusion since this too was in Chinese) we convinced them to turn on some heat for us, which in the end they did not charge us for. The heater, alas, barely took the chill off the room so Jan stayed fully dressed (including woolen hat) under two quilts the whole time. We considered changing hotels but it was so cold out that day, that we didn't want to mess with changing rooms.
The morning after arrival, and leaving Jan behind, Gerry took the minibus to the cable car and went to near the top. He too had had a cold a few weeks earlier and he tried to come down in the least energy-using way. But he got lost and climbed more than he wanted. Along the way he got some spectacular views and came down some very scary steps. He walked from the peak all the way back to the hotel, about 20 km, ending with food shopping in the old, old part of Tangkou.
Tunxi (or Huangshan City)
Tunxi is the gateway city to Huangshan. To help tourists and promote tourism it has been renamed Huangshan City. It is 63 km between the two. Our bus from Hangzhou passed through Tunxi on the way to Huangshan and we took a minibus back from Huangshan. Our original intent was not to even spend the night there; we wanted to catch the first train to Guangzhou. It took us about two hours using our broken Chinese to learn to our surprise, that the train only ran every other day — and that we had arrived on the wrong day. So we took a room in the best hotel in town, which was a 4-star hotel, so that Jan could have a shower and keep warm. And then we argued on and off with the management that for a 4-star hotel the room was pretty cold. In the end, they gave us a small additional discount for our trouble. The hotel did have a very nice Chinese restaurant, however, that we ate in twice and quite enjoyed.
In the 36-hours that we were in town we went down to Lao Jie, literally "old street", two blocks of old-time China amidst modern blah; we found it pretty interesting. Outside of two are two villages that have some of the best preserved traditional gateways but we, alas, never made it to them.