Shandong Excursion: Day Two (Mount Tai)

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» Shandong Excursion: Day Two (Mount Tai)
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Posted on: July 16th, 2010

There’s a lot of videos in this one, so the page might take a while to fully load!

What a tiring day, it’s been fun though! We started off quite early, leaving the hotel around half 8 in the morning. During the drive, we kept excitedly pointing out mountains in the distance asking if any of them were Mount Tai; although they all paled in comparison to the mountain we saw when we actually reached our destination. The view was spectacular; and the misty weather added to the atmosphere. It was hard to grasp the true grandeur of the mountain because the visibility was quite low (and it was going to get even foggier as we went up!)

We had to get a coach to the starting point of the steps; there were huge queues for these coaches, clearly Mount Tai was a popular destination. During the ride up, we had the obligatory conversation with a Chinese person excited to be meeting foreigners. The ride was even more shaky and swervy than our usual experiences on the road due to the many twists and turns on the mountain route. Many times all the passengers were flung to the side, crushing me and Gemma into the half-open window! On our arrival at the base, about five minutes after getting off the coach, Gemma realised she’d lost her bag with all her money and ID so that held us up for about 20 minutes! In the meantime, it was a great opportunity to get a few pictures from the base, although it was a little hard to move around due to the multitude of people getting off the coaches.

Once Gemma found her bag, we all set off and started our trek up the steps! I’d been waiting a long time for this so I was more than ready to charge along, but decided I should pace myself considering how far we had to go! Satnam didn’t have the same idea, but I’ll get back to that 😛

Bracing ourselves for the journey ahead

As our lunch had been pre-prepared (although a whole loaf of sweet bread, some nasty-looking sausages and cucumber flavour crisps aren’t what I’d call lunch!) and given to us in huge carrier bags; we felt really lumbered having to carry it all the way up the mountain. So Rex and I decided to buy a super-cheap Mount Tai backpack to stuff everything in. I think the trip up would have been much more of a pain if we hadn’t got the backpacks, so it was a good call!

With that out the way and a few group photos later, we spent the rest of the 2-3 hours focusing on getting up there (with a few pit stops to rest, have water and get some pictures of the beautiful scenery).

Originally we’d planned to all stick as a group but as the mountain began to take its toll on us, we split into two groups depending on how hard it hit us.

Satnam foolishly decided to RUN up the steps, big mistake! After the first couple of hundred, he was absolutely exhausted. Actually in the end he was one of the last people to make it to the top! He also threw up half way through the trek due to exhaustion. Nice one! 😛 So he was one of the back group.

The trek also took its toll on Bhavneet, who had to take a long break about a third of the way up and had trouble breathing. Although she suprised us at the end by making a huge push to the top in the last few minutes, coming up not too far behind our front group!

On the way up there was a lot to take in; waterfalls, valleys, bridges, cliff-faces with huge writing etched into them…and of course, intimidating steep climbs ahead of us!

Lots of great scenery to take our minds off the fact our legs were dead!

About half-way up, we saw people being carried up and down on wooden seats. We debated whether they were injured or just plain lazy, still not sure to be honest!

As we approached the final gate at the peak, I gotta say I was very relieved! I made one more push up the last set of stairs and dropped myself down on the ground beneath the gate. I think I was about fourth or fifth to the top just a few steps behind Rex, Sam and Issac.

Just...a few....more....steps!

Worth every step 🙂

As time went on, more of our group arrived at the top with cheers and sighs of relief. We got a few celebratory pictures by the final gate (South Gate to Heaven) and went through to admire the views over the other side of the mountain. We also ‘enjoyed’ our lunch….less said about that the better 😛

Didn't really have the energy to walk through to the other side but we couldn't sit on the edge of the gate all day! 😛

Worth coming through to the other side for this view though! 🙂

We headed up one more set of steps to browse the souvenir stalls and after another half hour or so decided to head back down to the base. Naturally we went by cable car! It was pretty nerve-wracking, even moreso than the dodgy ski-lift ride up to the Great Wall; probably because of the fact it was so misty and we were basically diving into what looked like a bottomless valley.

Down into the fog we drop!

We spent most of the ride with butterflies in our stomach from the many big drops but we still were able to enjoy the spectacular views from our cable car. Satnam decided to scare the hell out of Bhavneet and Reem by shaking the car and to be honest he had me worried for a bit as the car swung back and forth! Sam told him off and put him in his place though; owned. 😛

Yeah, thanks for the reassuring words Satnam!

I'm about ready to collapse on the coach seat and go to sleep! 😛

Once we reached the base, tired and drained; we made our way back to the coach to take us to our next hotel for the night; in Jinan.

The hotel in Jinan wasn’t as impressive as the one in Tai’an, but it was alright, not worth any pictures though, so there’s none in the gallery 😛

In the evening we decided to explore Jinan, and to be honest we weren’t very impressed! The whole place was a bit depressing and dingy, not very good considering it’s the capital of Shandong province! Originally we’d planned to walk about five minutes down the main road from our hotel to find somewhere to eat. Although in the end we actually walked for about 40-50 minutes down that road all the way into the main city downtown…and still didn’t find anything! Eventually, we walked all the way back and found a place to eat about 5 minutes from the hotel…typical!

We spent the majority of the meal laughing because the restaurant staff seemed to completely lack common sense! When we first came in, we asked for a menu and did the hand signal of opening and closing pages and they looked at us cluelessly. It’s a pretty universal hand signal! Not to mention the fact we did ask for the menu in Chinese (and every other restaurant we’ve been to understood us!)

Rather than wait for them to understand us, we grabbed a menu ourselves. We then needed a table for four, this is where the staff went from slightly clueless to completely braindead! By the window, was a free table with four seats. As we headed to that table to sit down, the waiter stopped us in our tracks and instead directed us to a table in the middle of the restaurant with only two seats….and two people already sitting down on them having their meal!! The waiter then made the two people take their meals to the table for four by the window, then transferred two seats from the window table to the middle table. It was the most pointless and illogical procedure we’ve ever seen! Oh and the diners that were moved looked pretty irritated!

After our food was ordered and brought out, we had no cutlery. We asked for chopsticks but they’d run out (seriously?!) and so we instead asked for regular cutlery, which they agreed to go and get…but never did. We asked a total of three times before they eventually brought them out! The whole time they all had blank, clueless looks on their faces. I don’t think the language barrier made a difference either, the Chinese customers looked just as annoyed as we did! The food was fantastic though. So 10/10 for food, 1/10 for customer service (they get 1 point for entertaining us with their stupidity!) 😛

After our meal, we stopped by a small store to grab a few drinks. We saw one drink that even I didn’t want to try: asparagus juice. I have my limits! I also bought some really weird nose aroma things that sober you up and help you study. Whether they really work is another question. That said, it’s in my nose right now and it seems to be helping me write out this long blog entry despite having had a long, tiring day!

Tomorrow is our last day travelling round Shandong province. After exploring some of the tourist spots in Jinan, we’ll be taking our long coach journey back to Weihai! It’s another early start tomorrow, so I’ll finish here. Until tomorrow, 再见!

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I'm a 21-year-old university student currently living in Oxford, UK. I love travelling and hope someday to move abroad permanently. The best part about travelling for me is having new experiences, soaking up all the culture and making new friends from around the world. As well as travel, I love music (live or otherwise), gaming and cinema.
Marc
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