05 June 2017

On our way to Cangyangshan

Yesterday was a non event. Travel days usually are, but this one had a twist. Our trains were late (very unusual) and then we ended up in the big city of Shijiazhuang. We were planning on finding a hotel here and going out to some mountains tomorrow, but it took us half an hour to get out of the train station. By luck we ended up on the bus platform for the bus out to the west bus station, but the driver had never heard of it?!? Well, not an auspicious start. Asking around, we confirmed that it is the right bus so caught another one. This took a while, and looking around outside the station didn’t make us want to stay near here. Too many big roads and fences, and how the hell do you get off this platform to road level anyway? It is a really big station!

So, bus 9. Going north. Eventually it went west, but there were very few people on it, and no luggage. Not what you would expect of a bus going to one of the four main bus stations. Still, we had the info from online, confirmed by security. No worries.

The bus basically left town. At the terminus there was nothing. A few carts with people trying to sell us squashed or mouldy fruit and veg, and a traffic police building (These are always huge buildings. We never knew why as it seems as if there are no road laws or if there are, they are not enforced. But then we found out that over 600 people a day die on Chinese roads. That makes a lot of paperwork). Plus a lot of city buses arriving and departing the station. No intercity buses, and we hadn’t passed anything that looked like a bus station.

Anna asked in the terminus, and got told to take the bus we had just caught?!? Then we were taken across the road, and as luck would have it, the bus we needed appeared. Struggling to get our bags on, we paid and set off to Cangyanshan. We hoped.

We were dumped on the side of the road in what for china, was the middle of nowhere. Looking on our map we appeared to be in Jingxing. The town closest to Cangyanshan. It is still 30km away or so, but we were getting closer. It wasn’t as bad as it seemed, as the bus had dropped us at another small bus station, and in twenty minutes a bus would leave here and go to the mountain!
So, the last leg of the journey. This took us through villages, along and through a dry river. The roads and bridges didn’t seem to be working any longer, so we had to go over the river bed in places. Past a lot of bee keepers with hundreds of hives (each) and up into the mountains. The view, when you could get it through the trees, was spectacular. Orange cliffs dominating the landscape and green trees everywhere else. A few cropping areas and villages, but mostly just mountains.

Then we arrived at Cangyanshan. This is a famous place where a princess turned monk reached enlightenment back in the day. It was already close to 5pm, so the park was closing, but we knew there was a hotel here that we could stay in. Turned out that we couldn’t. They no longer accept foreigners (Or the person on duty couldn’t be bothered). We knew that we could get a police dispensation as it is the only hotel here, but on talking to the police they couldn’t be bothered. All talk and no action. A young couple tried to help out, but the concept was too alien for them to understand. Why would we want to stay out here when there is a perfectly good city 2 hours away (well, it was 3 hours for us, as we didn’t know we could get a train to that last town, and the train station didn’t let us know either)

This was a very frustrating time, as the police officer just had to register us and let the hotel know that we could stay there. 10Min tops.

So back to Jingxing, then probably to Shijiazhuang. The young couple didn’t even think that Jingxing was big enough to have a hotel as it only has 700,000 odd people (I don’t know what the population is). Or was it because it is so close to the city?

Our hotel

Someone asked if we wanted a taxi, and we said hotel, then everyone was pointing across the street! Walking over we found out that they would accept us! Yay. No going all the way back to Shijiazhuang to come back out again tomorrow (it was likely that we would skip the entire thing if that was the case). By now it was after 7. Dinner time.

The hills are covered in Solar panels

We were near the train station apparently (we still haven’t seen it yet) and the bus station, and a small polluted creek. There is a small market place serving up all sorts of things, and a great place to eat. We thought it was a little expensive, until the food came out. Hoping it was not a mistake and the dishes were single sizes rather than two orders on one plate, we tucked in. It was huge. And good. Just what we needed after a long gruelling day.

Back at the hotel we got some bad news. We were not allowed to stay! They couldn’t accept foreigners. Deep sigh Just what we needed after all that. It was getting late. There doesn’t seem to be a large amount of hotels here. What to do? We got them to call the police and register us. 5 seconds. No problems. We were all sorted out and allowed to stay after all. Now if only the other hotel had done that, but then we wouldn’t have had the good dinner….

So today, the drive out is covered. A beautiful drive, with lots of mountain landscapes.

What I hadn’t mentioned was that there are 2 temple complexes that would be worth a look if you have your own car, as well as a couple of villages. We don’t, so we didn’t.

Arriving at Cangyanshan again at around 10am, we got our tickets. On line it said 30 yuan, but that has now gone up to 65 yuan. It is also a AAAA rated scenic spot. We think the price increase is because parts of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and other films have been set here.

Now our enlightened princess that used to live here had another story to tell us (We heard it yesterday waiting for the bus). She may be enlightened, but was also a bit devious. When she came to the region, there was a man here that also wanted the same mountain. There was a bit of an argument about who should have it. Later, she came back and buried her shoe under the road. The next day they were back at arguing over the mountain. The man said he was here first and the princess went “A Ha, no, I was here first, and dug up her shoe, proving that the mountain was hers.

Going in is a small temple complex, then lots of steps. 360 or so to go up to the bridge that you can see spanning the two cliffs. This is a beautiful site, that is only slightly marred by the new bridge built in front of it (to get your selfies) Climbing between the cliffs to come out just behind the bridge itself. Then you can walk around to it. There is a shrine within the building but it is all closed off now. You can walk the outside of the bridge and over the new one as well to get some good photos. A very relaxing, peaceful spot except the tour group that had come up by cable car and were screaming at each other up here. Half of them went down the steps so the other half could scream at them and take photos. Wait for long enough and they leave. Who knew that 10 people could make so much noise.

We headed off to explore the paths around the mountain. Apart from the tourist stalls set up, most of which were not working today, there are a few other things to see. There are small shrines on the cliff side, and at the top a “rebuilt” temple from 2003 for the princess that had her tomb. We could go into this, and it was a good thing we took our flash lights, as there were only two little holes near the roof providing the idea of light.

Further around the hill and there is another temple complex. Complete with selfi opportunities that ranged from sitting on a live horse to sitting together in a large fibreglass lock. You could even buy a lock to attach to the chain here to demonstrate the strength of your love for your partner (again closed today)

Now we were at the top of the cliff, and could walk around to the chairlift or take a different path down. There are three pagodas up here, but you are no longer allowed to go to them.

Then a couple of more temples, including a very nice Taoist temple. Going down the other side is mainly just mountain. This was fantastic. Although we enjoyed the temples, and loved the bridge it did seem as if the walk was just from temple to temple and not a walk through the mountain at all. Now we are on the mountain walk. There are sections where you can get up close and personal with the cliff looming above you, small (dry) creek beds in the trees, boulders that have come down in the past and now getting covered in moss, and steps. It was a really nice quiet walk. There were a few sections where you could see the bridge from the other side as well.

A quirky cave of the tiger, where you walk in (again with flash lights) and up some stairs to have a fibreglass tiger staring at you from behind. A bit of a fright if you are not expecting it. Then a pavilion looking out over the valley. It was a shame that the smog had come in during the walk, and everything now had a sheen of grey over it. It is still a great view though.

Finally back down the mountain and a small wait for the bus. We don’t know if we just have good timing today, or if buses run that frequently, but it was not a long wait at all.

In town it was time to work out where we will go tomorrow, then a walk around town. This was cut short as it started to rain, but we had a great big bowl of do-it-yourself noodles. The noodles were handmade in front of us, and you just choose what you want in it to flavour the broth. If you take too long to eat it (like we did) they bring you out another bowl of liquid to top up the broth and keep everything hot. Perfect!

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