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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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!

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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 🙂

 

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Climb a Mountain a Day…

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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!