A Taoist Mountain

China has many religious mountains and Heng Shan happens to be one of them located in the town of Nanyue. All religious mountains are based on Taoist belief that there are five basic elements (wood, fire, metal, earth, and water). All that aside, we really wanted to climb and see the beautiful scenery. The mountain tops out at 4,200 feet at Wishing Harmony Peak, where there is a simple pagoda containing a monastary to Confucious. The mountain was a playground for the emperors who used to come there to hunt and make sacrifices.

We took a 21 hours train ride from Changsha in the Hunan province to get to Nanyue, a small town but even by Chinese standards boasts a KTV (night club and karaoke), boutique shops, and of course the fruit market. Upon arriving, we were able to stay at a hotel run by a Chinese woman who came running and beckoned us for lunch and when we asked, offered us the hotel room at the requested bargained price. The place was in a great location, close to the mountain but since the owner along with the rest of the town spoke no English getting around was an adventure and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Chinese version of hiking is to build stairs that sidewind their way to the mountain, so while efficient it is murder on knees both going up and down. Truth be told, we got a little lost going up Heng Shan, maybe on purpose and ended up walking through farms with some barking dogs but some very friendly farmers who pointed us the way to Zhurong Peak. The climb to the top took us about 5 hours on a cloudless picture perfect day, we stopped to eat, snap pictures, so could've done faster but why rush when the views were so bewitching with knotted pine trees, pagodas, waterfalls, and monastaries. Part of the hike we had to do on the road shared by tourist buses on their way to the top, so that was a bit unnerving as the horn is the defensive measure used by all drivers who all drive way too fast, meaning get out of the way quickly.

We have been working our way south, so the sensible thing to do was to head south to Hong Kong but the challenge was communicating and figuring out the timings and location for the bus. We tried using our book, which contained some useful phrases but weren't getting too far. We had been pantaomiming a lot of our conversations, mostly about food, which surprisingly gets conveyed pretty easily but this was more challenging. So Sabeen, said the closest town's name and the hotel owner understood and replied with a time and we agreed to meet her downstairs where she would hail the proper bus going to our destination. She met us promptly at the agreed upon time and walked us to the bus station, spoke with driver who initially seemed hesitant but talked him into dropping us off to our proposed destination. We got on the bus hoping for ther best as we had no idea if we really were headed in the right direction. As the bus arrived into town and emptied out, the bus driver motioned us to stay put and after parking, personally escorted us down the road to get on a local bus in the direction of the train station, where we were able to buy a ticket to Shenzhen on the way to Hong Kong.

The booking was simple enough and there was a train leaving that day but the downside was that it was 11 hours later, so we had no choice but to wait it out at the public square watching people. The time actually went by quicker than we thought as we found a good Muslim place to eat, watched men write caligraphy using water and oil on the square, and a weird form of Chinese exercise dished out to both modern and traditional music with women all lined up and waving their arms and bodies in sync. Sabeen tried out her hand at caligraphy at the behest of the locals and wrote her name in Urdu, which the locals at first found interesting and then quickly lost interest and went on their way. We got in our hard sleeper and slept off an exhausting day.

No comments:

Post a Comment