The Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. Someone should note that it’s less of a floating market than it is a giant market alongside a canal with a few vendors on boats but I guess that doesn’t roll off your tongue as well as “floating market.” It was still super cool with a myriad of food vendors
Alyssa and I finally reunited in Thailand, of all places! We spent 3 full days in Bangkok, which we saw many temples and even more Buddhas. We hit all the typical tourist attractions and then some smaller ones. I personally enjoyed the lesser known ones, they were cheaper/free, no crowds, and still super beautiful.
Markets are very common throughout Bangkok so even if we didn’t try to, we would end up walking through one some point of the day. We had to empty out our bags to make room for some clothes and gifts we already picked up. We realized we probably shouldn’t buy anything else since this is only the first place we’ve visited; but when a shirt or pair of pants is $3, how can you resist??
The second day we went to Khlong Lat Mayom floating market about 20 km out of the city. To our surprise, this was more of a food market (a rather huge market) along a canal. There were a few vendors paddling up and down with whatever they were selling, but for the most part, everything was on land. There’s 3 floating markets outside I the city. The more authentic floating market, Damneon floating market, is about 50 km out. Even so, it was cool to see all the different food that was available and see what the locals do on weekends. Due to rain delays, we ended up having 2 lunches at this market.
That night, we tried to go to a sky bar near our hostel, which so happens to be features on the Hangover 2. It was unsuccessful as we are not classy enough for this rooftop bar. Actually, we had slippers on and we needed fashionable shoes or, not kidding, “running sneakers”. Side note: my shoes are white and neon orange accented with a few layers of dirt on it. We went to a different sky bar the night before so we opted for a fish spa and foot massage instead.
The next day we did more walking around and sightseeing including an attempt to see fish in a basement of an abandoned mall only to have had it barricaded and us turned away by a Thai man who saw us, waved, and consistently said, “no, no, no.” We ended Bangkok with an exorbitantly priced sunset dinner of 20 USD on the river as we watched the Wat Arun light up.
I left China yesterday. It was a wonderful journey that I’ll never forget. I knew ever since going back in February that I was going to be leaving in July but, honestly, July came too quickly and I had to say goodbye to some amazing people.
What’s next? I’m traveling South East Asia for a month and a half with one of my longest and closest friend!
Huangshan is beautiful but I also had 2 emotions while there. There’s no doubt about the beauty but… it’s China’ed.
First of all, it’s a tourist attraction so basically every movement you make costs something. The entrance fee alone is 230 ¥. After that, you have to take a bus to the trail; that costs you 19¥ each way, if you decide to take a cable car instead of walking, that’s another 100¥ one way, and then the typical doubling of the snacks and drinks. That’s not a huge issue, more just annoying.
Along the way, there’s many little shops selling souvenirs and snacks and making it known to you by yelling at you while you walk by. Fruits, vegetables, and water, ok. I appreciated it because I did get at least 3 bottles and couple tomatoes on the way up. Other snacks such as chocolate, sweet hotdogs, beer, and baijiu (China’s very strong and potent alcoholic beverage) aren’t exactly my cup of tea while hiking but I guess it’s nice to have options. Here’s my take on the souvenirs and it’s strictly personal: It’s fine at the bottom of the mountain, after you’ve conquered and viewed the beauty of the mountain. Any shopping I do will not be while I’m out of breath, sweaty, and trekking up a mountain and no, I do not think it’s necessary to buy myself a gold or bronze medal for climbing the mountain especially when I haven’t even made it up yet. Also, why is there even a bronze medal?? If I am going to buy myself a medal, I’m going for the gold.
^^^This was a smaller and quieter vendor tucked away in the trees
^^^A hotel at the top of the mountain. The sunrise is very popular to watch so there is not a few hotels situated at the top of the mountain for a very hefty price. If you don’t want to splurge, you can rent a tent for a little less. You can see some tents set up to the right of the picture
There’s a billion people in this country. A “small” city that you probably haven’t ever heard of has a few million people. Huangshan being one of the biggest tourist attractions in China, you definitely feel an overcrowdedness at times, especially when you are being herded through buildings like cattle, being pushed and elbowed by people, having to wait in a ridiculous line to take a picture in designated photograph areas, and when you have to cover your ears from the screeching sounds of tour guides.
^^^ Designated smoking areas overfilling with smokers?
Tours are a very popular thing in China. Every tourist destination, really, but when you join a tour group in China, you receive a tour hat that is worn to distinguish you from other tour groups. The styles range from full neon hats, over-sized brims, or wide brims that look like a hat you’d wear to go fishing except white with blue floral designs. Once on the top of the mountain, no matter where you walk, it’s almost impossible to get away from a tour guide equipped with a microphone and speaker, who, I think is required to turn it up as loud as possible. Instead of attempting to shimmy our way through the crowd to look at the main viewpoint, we walked as quickly as possible to wherever we thought would have less of a crowd. It was quite a walk. We actually never got away from crowds but we walked to the other side of the mountain and eventually it became a more organized/manageable crowd.
^^^ You can see one of the tour hats
^^^ A tour guide and his speaker
^^^ Most of the hiking was developed trails to ensure you don’t wander off track going to and from designated photographic areas. The mist was really cool though.
^^^ Constant flow of crowds walking up and down the stairs
Don’t get me wrong, Huangshan is stunning and it is a burn to walk up and down, but so much of what I love about hiking - the tranquility, exploring untouched areas, taking the time to appreciate the beauty of life, unpolluted areas, etc. - has been stripped to become a buzzing tourist destination. Go with that in mind, and you won’t be as surprised as I was to have the lack of crouching tiger, hidden dragon tranquility
As you know (or should know!) I’ve been living in Hefei, which is in the Anhui province located in Eastern China. Personal opinion, there’s not much in this province and it’s not anywhere you’d definitely would want to go, or even know about going, but then there’s Huangshan.
Huangshan is seriously something out of the movies. Literally. Apparently there are scenes in the movie, Avatar that is based or looks similar to Huangshan. I’ve never seen the movie so I can’t speak on it…just going mentioning what I’ve heard. We hiked - by hike, I mean walked up many, many steps – up the mountain and the whole time I would look over at the scenery and kept thinking how this is real. I was sure I was walking in front of a green screen the whole time.
Days leading up to the trip, the weather forecast was looking unfavorable so I was a bit skeptical on whether or not we would actually be able to go but we went and crossed our fingers that the weather would turn around. Luckily, the odds were in our favor! It stormed on the bus ride to Tunxi but once we got off, we didn’t see a drop of rain the rest of the trip.
We left Hongcun around 6 am and by the time we started our climb, it was just before 8 am. Perfect! We wanted to start early to beat the crowds and the mid-July, hot & humid summer heat. It took us around 2 hours to climb to the top. On the way up, we passed lots of older men carrying tons of things up to the random vendors along the way and the restaurants and hotels situated at the top. I saw a guy carrying a propane tank, another carrying 5 bags of rice among other things, and multiple men carrying cables. Once at the top, we walked around the mountain before descending on the opposite side, which had steeper stairs. I don’t think my calves ever been so sore than they did days after that hike.
Last I posted, I was on my way to Hongcun. A very bumpy ride, but I somehow managed to sleep half of the ride, only to be woken when I was launching out of my seat. When I woke, we were in the countryside - cows, oxes, farms, white buildings that all looked the same. I’m not sure how the last one is “countryside” but that’s what I saw.
Hongcun was great. Once we got there, we got our accommodation set up, which was a small hostel with lots of character ran by a man who, I’m pretty sure was making up prices of each room as he was showing us around. We walked around all of Hongcun, which isn’t very much, before getting an early dinner outside of the village.
Hongcun is what you think of when you think of ancient China minus the old Confucian grandpa smoking from a pipe and writing calligraphic poems. The village is (& I kid you not) a labyrinth of cobblestone pathways outlined by boxy, white, brick walled buildings sitting beneath tilted black rooftops with upward curved corners built, I think I read, in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Needless to say, with my grand sense of direction, I trailed away from the group and got lost. There’s a pond in the middle of the village; an all purpose pond that was used for - from what I saw - the housing of the largest (& ugliest) koi fish I’ve ever seen, washing of the dishes of the restaurants around the pond, washing of clothes, and cleaning a mop used to clean dog urination in aforementioned restaurants. As not to western standards of cleanliness or FDA standards, along with the dehydrating pig legs hanging from the outside of buildings, that just goes to show how small of a village this was.
After a full day of travel and exploring, we were pretty beat. This was perfect since the next day we were planning on getting a very early start the next to to beat the heat and crowds of Huangshan.
Currently, I am sitting at the bus station in Tunxi waiting for our bus to take us to Hongcun. The bus leaves every hour and we got to the bus station just missing the 10:00 bus so we have a little bit of a wait (~45 min by the time we bought our tickets; after having to be redirected to the correct ticket window).
As mentioned in the post right before this, I’m finally on my way to Huangshan! We left Hefei around noon yesterday and had about a 5 hour bus ride to Tunxi (aka. Huangshan City). Once in Tunxi, we got settled into our hostel, recommended by a friend from Hefei, which turned out to be smack dab in the center of the old town and, for a private room, only about 10 USD per person. Still blows my mind at how cheap accommodation can be.
After settling in, found some dinner and headed to an acrobatic show with seven acts interpreting the history of Huizhou. The stories, stunts, and costumes were absolutely phenomenal. Side note: I may have gotten some Halloween costume inspiration last night.
After the show, we walked around the old town a bit and had a relaxing night on the patio of our hostel before calling it a night.
Now, as I’m finishing this post, after getting the seats in the back of a small, bumpy, 24 and fully seated bus, we are officially Hongcun bound.
You can kind of see the bumpiness of the bus in the panoramic I tried taking while we were just out of the bus station. It’s the kind of bumpy that when I try to speak, my voice comes out as if I’m speaking into a fan. It’s more from the quality of the bus than the roads, which are actually paved quite nicely. Makes me regret quenching my thirst by indulging in the rest of my water bottle 30 minutes ago. Well, time to get cozy for the next hour back here!
Location update: Tunxi
I’ve attempted to go to Huangshan twice since arriving in China and both times it has been rained out. Well, I write to you ecstatic at the fact that I am making my way to feel the burning pains of walking straight up a mountain for 3 km.
Huangshan, literally “yellow mountain,” is basically the only attraction the Anhui province has (the province Hefei / I am in). The mountains are known for its scenery, which has been depicted in many Chinese paintings and literature.
I’m in Tunxi right now, also known as Huangshan City, and heading to a small village called Hongcun later today - both of which are near the bottom slope of the mountain.