May 6, 2005

View near the top of Taishan

Crowds walking to one of the viewing points at the summit of Taishan.

An old gentleman strolling at the summit of Taishan. Is he related to Pai Mei from the movie Kill Bill?

Snacks at the midpoint of climbing Taishan

Army jackets for rent at the midpoint of climbing Taishan.

Inside of a mid-sized bus to Qufu from Taishan

Labor day holiday week

The tomato slurpers of Taishan

The first week of May is the Labor Day holiday week. I took a train to Taishan (泰山) for a couple days. The train was more crowded than normal due to the holiday but it was tolerable since it was only a 6 hour ride. The main highlight of Taishan is viewing the sunrise, which means that you need to start climbing up it at night. At a leisurely pace it took about 4 hours to get to the summit. It's not a "hike" as in hiking Half Dome, Yosemite, but more like climbing a long staircase with various vendors and temples along the way. It's still strenuous and requires that you have a flashlight if you'll be climbing at night. The vendors have plenty of tasty locally grown food along the way like cucumbers, tomatoes, and crepe-like wraps (煎饼). The tomatoes were popular and people would eat them like apples, noisily slurping and sucking the tomato juice. I kept my eyes peeled for anyone biting into raw onions like they were apples.

It's possible to take a cable car to the summit rather than walking up, but that defeats the purpose. Besides, there are all kinds of men and women that appear to be 70 or older climbing up without any help. At the top there are some hotels and places to eat, but the main thing to do is take in the scenery along the way and the sunrise. If I wanted to see natural beauty in China and I only had one mountain to choose, I would definitely go to Huangshan in Anhui province instead, but Taishan was interesting in itself. Taishan is richer in history but Huangshan is more scenic.

The food near Taishan was quite good. I enjoyed the cucumbers, and the local seafood that I tried (scallops, clams, calamari) was also very tasty.

The town of Confucius

About a one hour bus ride from Taishan is Qufu, a one-horse town where Confucius lived in 6th century BC and is now buried. I went there and toured the temple where he taught (孔庙). Afterwards I used the Confucian lavatory (孔厕) and ate some Confucian style food before taking a bus back to Beijing.

Sleeper bus

Due to lack of choices (2 choices, in fact, either take the one available bus or stay in Qufu) the method of transport back to Beijing was a sleeper bus in need of refurnishing. It's a standard sized bus, gutted and replaced with bunk beds, 3 beds wide and 4 beds long (24 total). The bus was chilly inside and smelled of gym socks and cigarettes. I was really cold for most of the ride since the windows weren't sealed very well, and I didn't use the blankets they provided since they smelled like they hadn't been cleaned in years. I got back to Beijing in the early morning, deloused myself like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption, and went to sleep.