Taishan and Char, China

Taishan is about a 7 hours from Shanghai on the train or 4 and a bit hours by train from Beijing situated along side the city of Tai’an.  Taishan translates to Mount Tai, as you can see from the symbols 泰山 (the last one is mountain).  This place is a big seller on the Chinese things to do list, many great people have climbed the mountain like Confusious and even the first emperor.  Worshiping took place at the top from 3000 years ago.

To climb the mountain it costs Y125, we did it at the start of June before rainy season, making sure to avoid crowded weekends and holidays. On our departure we saw a picture at the Tai’an train station where the trail at the top (look closely at the picture above) was a sea of people.  Not something I would want to tackle myself with that many people.

From the town Tai’an (we stayed at the International Hostel Group Tai’an) which is at 150m above sea level you walk up towards the mountain.  Starting with steps only about 1.5km out of town.  It took us about 6 hours from start to finish, including a small breakfast stop of fried bread. Once reaching the top, gasping for air after your mega stair-master workout, looking out at the 1543m view over the town below is quite invigorating.

For the first time in China we were treated like foreigners, with people stopping to take photo’s.  With our faces red from huffing and puffing up the hill it started to become entertaining.  We were lucky enough to meet this couple, the lady could speak English and when we sat for a break, she translated for many of the other Chinese tourists asking where we were from and any other questions they had.  Lots of laughter along this walk, with many people overtaking us and then us catching back up with them. We all would cheer each other along from the bottom to the top.

The guy below just wanted to take my picutre, I wanted to get the view down the hill to show the hike that we achieved and the killer stairs we did in the last 500m straight up.  You can make out a little of the path in the picture below.

Keep in mind when reaching the top and dying of thirst that it is customary to bargain for you drinks, ice-blocks or food.  Seriously they know a foreigner when they see one and yes the price can triple.

The great thing about doing the hike up, is knowing you can get the cable car back down the mountain and a bus back into town.  Saved our knees, definitely worth the Y80.  I recommend for this trek up the hill, travelling light, STETCH!, take water, sunscreen, depending on season also carry an umbrella (light one) and even a cardigan – we were warned the weather can change quite quickly at the top.

On our travel back down the mountain on the bus we were lucky to meet Candice Lee, who turned around and was like “want to share a cab back to the hostel?”  We jumped at this, always cheaper with more people.  To our surprise, she turned out to be a foodie, working at a cooking school and spoke fluent Mandarin.  So what do you do with another foodie? We went out on the town eating and drinking the local food.  Tai’an also has an incredible food scene which is not surprising, this town is so laid back it feels homely.  Walk along any of the streets people wear big smiles on there faces, sitting, eating, drinking, smoking, chatting, buying and generally all at a leisurely pace.  Unlike Shanghai which is all hussle and bustle.

Dinner started off with a few beers near out hostel, along with a bowl of peanuts which were freshly toasted, cucumber with a tahini sauce and seaweed which was served cold.  The second destination was a street corner, Roy and I wanted to eat there but our laungauge skills were only 2 days in and ordering food from someone who doesn’t understand you is some times hard.  With Candice on our side we got more beers sat on these cool chairs on the street.

Beer is cheap in China, no taxes, with a rough price of $1 a bottle, choosing from the local Taishan, Tsingtao and Kritzer.

And ordered char (the chinese version of satay sticks)  You can pick and choose what you like, get them to cook it or you can do it.  We opted to do it ourselves, though they seemed to start the cooking for us anyways.  Once the meat has been seasoned to our liking with cumin and chili they get placed over the coals to crispen up.

Lamb and chicken wings we ordered along with a plate of noodles.  We had them because all the locals were eating them too, cant miss out.  A simple stir fry cheap noodles with shallots, garlic chives, bean sprouts and a soy sauce.

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