Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

Gazing At Mount Tai

How to describe Tai mountain?
Its green towers above all of Qi and Lu!
Here the Creator concentrated divine beauty;
Its north and south sides split dark from dawn.
Chest pounding, you reach the birthplace of clouds;
Bursting eyes fill with birds returning to nest.
Someday I must climb to the very top,
Look down on all of the little mountains at once.

– Du Fu

In 2013 my husband and I visited his hometown of Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong in northern China. One of my favorite day trips from the area was to Mount Tai, a sacred mountain to the south of Jinan where emperors would journey to meditate and make sacrifices.

We cheated because we took a bus up to the halfway point, and then started our trek from there. Even then, it took us probably 3-4 hours to make the ascent, although we aren’t the most athletic people and we were taking it pretty slow. It was crazy to think of the porters who carry supplies and goods by foot from the bottom of the mountain all the way to the top! They must be in amazing shape!

On the way up the mountain there are various temples, vendors, and most amazingly inscriptions carved into the distant side of the mountain. How did they get up there to carve that?!

After all the sweat and sore muscles, you’re rewarded with views from up on high, and looking back at the winding, steep stairs that you climbed up you get a sense of accomplishment. I did that! I am amazing!

Climbing up the mountain is a popular activity for visiting tourists. A good walking stick is a must!

I don’t approve of graffiti at historical and natural sites but I thought this was kind of funny. It says “累死我了” – I’m damn tired!

I love this photo with the peaks disappearing into the mist (or pollution…. take your pick 😱). The winding staircase keeps on going and going….

Atop a sacred mountain, you can’t help but pause and reflect about the millions of people who have ascended these peaks before you, from ancient times on. I’m sure they saw different things from the top but the sole act of climbing this mountain makes me feel connected with them. It’s an experience that can’t be replaced and I hope that even after I’m gone this mountain will live on and on.

Travel theme: Frame

I love using framing to compose a shot; it adds another layer of depth to a photo that can really draw ones eye. Here are some framed shots!


Here cherry blossoms form a natural frame for the Jefferson Memorial. It was a gorgeous day to see the cherry blossoms, sunny and warm!


My alma mater, Cornell! Here Mcgraw Tower is framed by the trees leading up to Ho Plaza.


Another view from Cornell, this time from the A.D White room in Uris Library. Just look at that view of Cayuga Lake… it would be hard for me to study here, I’d be so distracted by the lookout!


Lastly, a shot from the top of Mount Tai. If you reached the top, that means you climbed up 5,000 feet! Or, if you’re like us, you took a bus to the halfway point and then climbed up those stairs. Or, if you’re really smart, you took the cable car to the top and enjoyed the views there… phew!

Travel theme: Height

This week at Where’s my backpack?, the travel theme is about all things high and mighty! I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with height – perhaps because I’m so lacking in it myself! My whole life I have been referred to has “travel-sized”, petite, magical midget, etc etc. Not that I mind overmuch – my height is what it is and it’s not a terrible thing. After all, there are stepstools, ladders, and kind taller people to help you fetch items from higher shelves. And, as my tall female friends point out with a sigh, I can wear high heels without towering over my significant other!

In any case, maybe perhaps due to my shortness, I’ve always been interested in getting to the top of things – and then looking down at the surrounding area. It’s no secret to any traveler that the best views are usually atop a mountain, or at the observation deck of tall building. Earlier this year, I took a trip with my husband back to his hometown in China and we visited the city of Tai’An, which is famous for Mount Tai, a mountain where the emperors would pay homage to heaven. It’s a tiring but doable hike, even for someone mildly sedentary like me. We did cheat however, we took a bus halfway up the mountain and then hiked up the stairs for another 3-4 hours I think… in any case, it was totally worth it! As you ascend the mountain, there are numerous stone tablets with poetry and calligraphy, some of them in such far off places on the mountain that I had to wonder, how did they carve that there?! There is also supposed to be a waterfall or a brook running down the mountain, but apparently due to lack of rain it was dried up, disappointing! At the pinnacle of the mountain there is a small touristy area with food stands, restrooms, small shops, etc – and all of these shops are supplied by porters who carry items up and down the mountain! By foot! Now that, my friends, is hardcore.


There are several rest stops on the way up, and at one of them tables are laid out and a small convenience store sells overpriced bottles of Red Bull – because Red Bull gives you wings to fly up Mount Tai! The tables were littered with empty cans of Red Bull… probably because there was no recycling/waste can nearby. Ahh, China.


Just another long stairway up the mountain. Many hikers bring or buy walking sticks to help them up – we bought them and they’re actually pretty cool souvenirs as well!


We’re almost at the top… almost! Looking down at the stairway, it’s amazing to see how far we came. The stairs stretch back… and back… and back…


Here we are at the top! Even here there are several temples and shrines to explore at various peaks. It really is quite amazing. Another wonderful thing about being so high up in the mountains is that the air is brisk and clean – noticeably different from the air of Tai’an city itself. Even so, it is a bit hazy – but I think it makes it look rather mysterious!


Another tourist admiring the view. It really gave us a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to get all the way to the top! Now the only problem was getting down… thankfully they do have a cable car to runs to the midway point 🙂



Climb a Mountain a Day…


And you will develop legs of steel! Today we climbed up Mount Tai, a famous mountain near the city of Tai’an in China. Mind you, I’m not super active and my husband is scared of heights, so this shows that anyone can do it! If you allot enough time to rest and whatnot.

Actually Mount Tai has a bus that goes up halfway and then a cable car that goes almost all the way to the top, with some more stair climbing afterwards to get to the summit. That was our plan, but the cable car was closed due to high winds so we ended up hiking up from that halfway point. We started at 11:30 and got to the top at 2… And it was a sweaty, arduous trek. But there was an undeniable sense of accomplishment when we stood there at the highest point – we conquered Taishan!

And then afterwards the cable car was working so we took that down and then the bus back to ground level. My legs are killing me!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

I love taking pictures of food so I wish I had access to my old pictures for this week’s challenge but alas! I will have to restrict myself to the one.

Right now my husband and I are visiting his family in Jinan, China and his mother is cooking for us 24/7! I come away from each meal feeling just a bit overstuffed because they keep urging food on me and it’s so… hard… to resist…

One of my favorite dishes is the pan-fried dumpling (jiaozi) (Japanese: gyoza, Cantonese: gaozi). Because really, who doesn’t like pan-fried anything?


His mother and grandmother will make all the dumplings from scratch – chopping the ingredients to make filling, mixing and rolling out the dough wrappers, filling and pinching each perfect dumpling closed. They make a super huge amount, all to be boiled and served for dinner. The leftovers are then kept for the next day, when either for morning or lunch they will be pan-fried to crispy golden perfection. So delicious!

A Shanghai Quickie – Pics Edition

China has banned WordPress, making it extremely annoying for me to post because I have to use the mobile app! While the app is great in that it allows me to circumvent the firewall, it is also more limited in terms of features so I think I’ll have to wait til I get home to post more in depth.

It’s been an interesting trip so far with some ups and downs, but we’ve been having a good time! Here are some pics from our short stay in Shanghai – we were only there for one full day and then we took the high-speed train to Jinan the next day.

A home cooked meal our first night in Shanghai.

Our room at the Astor House Hotel, right across the bridge to the Bund

Spring has sprung in Shanghai and there’s plenty of pretty flowers to prove it!

A view of the water and buildings of Zhujiajiao, a water town close to Shanghai.

A pavilion among spring flowers in Kezhi Yuan in Zhujiajiao

Of course you have to get the xiao long bao while in Shanghai!

A cloudy night view in Shanghai, all lit up.

We’ve got a ticket to ride… To Jinan!

I have so many more pictures I would love to share but unfortunately it will have to wait til I am back in the States! Next up, Jinan in pictures!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Originally posted on my other blog because I didn’t know how to switch it on the WordPress app! This was actually from Friday but better late than never 🙂

I am feeling so cool right now because I’m writing this post on one of the free iPads in the Delta terminal! This morning marks the start of our 2 week trip to China and I’m both excited (for the actual trip part of it) and dreading it (13.5 hour flight is so exhausting!). There’s also the imminent language barrier so it’s time to brush up on my very elementary Mandarin!

Surprisingly enough neither me nor my husband are very tired considering we spent much of yesterday driving down to NYC from Syracuse – although I did take a nice long nap when we got home! We woke up at 4:30 and by 5:30 we were on the road, getting a ride to La Guardia Airport courtesy of my wonderful dad! It was a quick half hour drive and then we were in! We had checked in online the night before (I love this!) so all we needed to do was drop our bags off and we were good to go. Being used to the chaos of JFK, we had arrived super early but at LGA the security check line was insanely short – we were done in 10 minutes and then we were on to the food court! As expected expensive but actually pretty decent.

Delta Terminal D also has a pretty cool lounge area where they offer seating with mini iPads with free Internet usage – quite surprising in this day and age of charging fees for breathing the air and whatnot.
Chilling with our free iPads before our flight! Also they keep you updated with your flight status at the bottom so you don’t miss your flight while playing with their electronic goodies.

So our trip will be mostly visiting family, starting with Shanghai to visit one of my husband’s cousins and his wife. It’s a little mind blowing to think that the last time we saw them, his wife was pregnant and since then they’ve had a little boy who is now 3 years old! Time seriously flies.

While in Shanghai we will be visiting Zhujiajiao, a water town just an hour away. I’ll admit I’m a little disappointed because the weather is great in Shanghai today (78 degrees and sunny!) but by the time we land it will be down to 50s with chance of precipitation. Similar weather in Jinan, the main city we will be staying in and my husband’s hometown. Why does bad weather follow us wherever we go?!

Still, it’s warmer than the 30’s weather we are used to so I suppose I can’t complain! In fact it’s practically swimsuit weather for us!