Travel Guide to Huangshan, China
Huangshan is one of the most beloved tourist destinations in China. Situated on the East side, in the Anhui Province, and close to the mega-city of Shanghai.
The Huangshan mountains (aka the Yellow Mountains) is a UNESCO World Heritage site, thought to have been formed 100 million years ago and has peaks reaching just over 6000ft. With illustrious rugged granite peaks, often obscured by mist but triumphantly rising above the clouds, provide magnificent postcard-perfect views. Huangshan pine trees, dispersed amongst the peaks, further complements the already rich and breathtaking scenery. The Yellow Mountains are also home to many hot springs, providing yet another irresistible incentive to visit Huangshan. Collectively, these sights are quite rightly declared the ‘Four Wonders of the Yellow Mountains’.
The Four Wonders of the Yellow Mountains.
By incorporate these enchanting sights into your travels, you’ll quickly forget the outside world even exists (and perhaps the online world too).
Peculiar Shaped Rocks
Don’t be surprised if you end up spending a huge bulk of your time admiring the bizarre shaped rocks. Many rocks have an uncanny resemblance to various animals, characters, objects or gods, and have been named from ancient tales and legendary stories. This is one the few places in the world that naturally ignites your imagination. The most famous rocks are the Flying-Over Rock, Monkey Watching the Sea and Immortal Pointing the Way.
Peculiar shaped rocks
Huangshan Pine Trees
Growing out from the rocks themselves (instead of the earth), the Huangshan Pine Trees (Pinus hwangshanensis) are found dispersed peacefully amongst the craggy landscape. Many are believed to be more than 1000 years old and have been given individual names, like Ying Ke Pine, which means the Welcoming Guests Pine (located in Jade Screen Peak).
Welcoming Guests Huangshan
Stories, tales and fables accompany some of the most known trees, such as Double Dragon Pine (located in the West Cloud Sea area) and the Black Tiger Pine. These provide a unique botanical spectacle that augments the beautiful terrain.
If you intend to hike your way up the Yellow Mountains, you’ll be relieved to discover that Huangshan is home to many hot springs, mainly found at the bottom of the Purple Cloud Peak but still 650 meters above sea level. Not only does the water remain at approximately 42°C, it’s also rich in carbonates making it extremely healthy for your skin and very therapeutic for joints – excellent for those hikers descending the mountains. The hot springs are also accessible by bus for those unwilling or unable to endure a hike.
Sea of Clouds
As the peaks of the mountains rise above normal cloud level, a spectacular sight is created as the clouds engulf the mountain range, dubbed the ‘Sea of Clouds’. The clouds flow, rising and falling; mimicking the waves of the ocean, while the peaks imitate small islands.
This is best viewed during winter months and to enjoy the best scenery visitors much reach the top to the high peak zone.
Sea of Clouds
Some aspects to Huangshan can be misleading. The name itself simply translates to “Yellow Mountain”, which gives the impression of there being just a single mountain. However the name refers to the entire mountain range. And even the nearby town of Tunxi renamed itself to Huangshan City – even though it’s less of a tourist attraction and is not one of the gateways to the mountainous scenic area (you’ll need to head to Tangkou to get to the southern entrance).
Getting to Huangshan Mountains
Generally there are two options available. Hiking or taking the cable car.
The main entrance is the southern gateway to Huangshan, located in Tangkou. From here, you can catch a shuttle bus up to Yellow Mountain, which departs every five minutes at the front of Huangshan City Railway Station. You can travel to either Mercy Light Temple to take a ride on the Yuping Cable Car or to the Yungu Cable Car. From there, you can also choose to walk up, which takes approximately 2 to 3 hours, and slightly less when descending.
There is also another entrance, with the option of taking a cable car, located in the northern area of Taiping that links Song Gu An (Pine Valley Nunnery) with Song Lin Feng (the Pine Forest Peak).
Where to stay
The most beautiful hotels and villas are to be found surrounding the Huangshan mountains in the Beihai region. Hotels like the Beihai Hotel, Xihai or the Baiyun hotel may be a more expensive option but visitors can catch the sunrise and sunset from the comfort of their own room
The less expensive options are located in nearby towns of Tangkou and Tunxi. If camping at the top of the mountain is your thing, it will incur a charge but also expect to be fairly cramped and shrouded in mist.
When to go
The weather is usually a hit or miss throughout the year. If you’re seeking the most breath-taking landscapes then set aside a few days to stand the best chance obtaining a glimpse on a clear day. Some views can often be obscured by thick clouds, which generally means you should hike a little higher to reach above cloud level.
The highest temperatures are experienced from May through to September. And the lowest from October to April, which provides the best time to witness The Sea of Clouds. Sunrise occurs from 05:00 am in summer months and a little later at 06:30am during winter season.
What to take?
Besides your backpack full of toiletries, clothes and gadgets, you’ll want to ensure you stay connected with your family and friends outside of the country. But whilst the Great Wall of China may be a thousand miles away from Huangshan, you’re guaranteed to be coming face-to-face with a different kind of wall, this time it’s the Great Firewall of China.
The Chinese government are notorious for censoring news/media websites internally and equally blocking foreign websites and services such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Spotify, Netflix and…just about every popular service you could think of. So travelers now face an extra burden when planning their trip. How will they continue to surf the web like they normally do?
Behold the power of the VPN.
VPNs are not illegal in China, but they can be a little temperamental at best, or at the worst, not work at all. Not only is general internet traffic censored, even the VPNs themselves have become a prime target in recent years. Attempts to block ports, blacklist IP addresses, throttling bandwidth and Deep Packet Inspections (DPI) have been the digital weapons used to thwart VPN users.
However, choosing the right VPN is the key to rising above these obstacles. The most important aspect to consider is what protocols a VPN provider uses and whether they implement obfuscation methods to make your VPN traffic almost undetectable to the Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) methods deployed by the government.
OpenVPN is the most trusted and popular protocol used in the industry and when using obfuscation methods it can successfully skirt around the Firewall. IPsec (L2TP, IKEv2) and Shadowsocks (a SOCKS 5 proxy that’s popular amongst residents of China) are considered effective. However, such protocols like PPTP are getting as old as the Huangshan pine trees and are known to have security flaws. PPTP still remains effective at beating the Chinese firewall but just perhaps avoid using this one for private surfing.
Beyond the subject of protocols, the most popular and robust VPNs provide an abundance of server locations (such as USA, UK, Canada and others throughout Europe) meaning you’ll be assigned a new IP address which will unblock access to restricted content. With strong encryption you can increase your security and anonymity, allowing you to surf confidently.
Which VPN will work in China?
So, if you don’t know your L2TP from your PPTP. Worry not.
vpnMentor has painstakingly crawled through the most popular VPN services to uncover the best Firewall busting VPN on the market. We can save you copious amounts of time so you can elegantly sip your Huangshan Maofeng Green Tea while laughing your way around the Great Firewall.
But don’t wait until you get there. Download BEFORE you travel.
As you already know, China implements tough restrictions to internet traffic when accessing foreign content within Chinese borders. This itself throws a spanner in the works if you intend to search for a VPN while inside China. While it may not be impossible, it could leave you banging your head against the wall (a firewall) wondering why you didn’t get a VPN before you left.
So, whether you intend to share pictures on Facebook, call your family or friends on Skype iPhone app, or even keep up to date with world news on your PC, make sure to boldly emphasize ‘purchasing a fast and efficient VPN provider’ on your ‘to do’ list.
And if you’re sneakily planning to catch a movie on Netflix one evening in your hotel, all the more reason to be prepared with a VPN.
A holiday to China without a VPN is sure to leave you craving access the websites and apps you normally take for granted. Spare yourself a headache and choose a high quality, suitable VPN provider before you travel.