Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lishan National Forest Park - Part 1

Lishan mean Li Mountain or Mount Li. If you say Lishan Mountain you are actually saying Li Mountain Mountain. Who cares what you call it because today I hiked the shit out of it. My legs were quivering and I was a disgusting sweaty mess. I found my first Chinese Happy Place and it's called Lishan

Getting to Lishan from Xian is simple enough. You take the same bus from the Bus Lot outside the North Gate near the train station that you would take to go to the Terracotta Warriors Museum. These are the 5/306 tourist bus, the 914 Green or Blue Bus with the obvious writing on the side. The are about the same price but the Blue bus does not take the toll rode and makes more stop so it is about 20 minutes slower. After you get on the bus the Ticket guy or girl will come by to have you pay. Tell them you are going to Lintong but stopping at Lishan and not going to The Terracotta Warriors.

The stop is an obvious and popular stop with a massive fountain surrounded by a huge square. The porter may know a bit of English but if you do not know any Chinese, please have a translation app or something written down in Pinyin, better yet have someone write down your destination in Chinese characters if you can. Everyone's life would be a bit easier if you put in just a bit of effort. I jumped on the 5/306, the price was 6 Yuan and the ride took about an hour.

I was excited today. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I love the feeling of not knowing. I do not know where it has come from or how it has developed but it is now a part of my psyche. So with that we pulled into Lintong which is an oddly pleasant city. I got off the bus and stood staring at the mountains in front of me. They were not massive by any means but they were spread out with 3 discernible peaks and covered with huge leafy trees and that combination made me salivate. This entire area is the HuaChing Palace Heritage Site and it sits in front of the Lishan National Forest.

In all my travels I have see taxi's of various colors and states of repair. Today I found what has to be the best looking taxi I have even seen here in Lintong. Aside from pristine condition, the soft two tone blues instantly calmed me and called out "Jump in and enjoy the ride. Sure I may rip you off but you will be relaxed when it happens. Sorry no happy endings".
There are many information sites about Chinese Travel including China Travel Guide, China Highlights, and Lonely Planet. Trip Advisor has good tips but you have to dig deep and past the complaining plus random site help. My go to right now is China Travel Guide. Yes, they are trying to sell tours but they also give great information about most destinations you are looking for including finding the right bus. I recommend them. Well, that was a random thought.

The Entrance to the Heritage Site can not be missed. A huge fountain and massive brick courtyard awaits. When you wander past the masses taking photos of the fountain and walk up the steps you will find information plaques explaining the 1000 year old earthen wall you will suddenly realize you are looking at. History everywhere in this country.

You can spend a couple of hours walking the grounds outside the park if you really wanted to. There are monuments, shrines, ponds, a small museum and an array of information about the historical significance of the area. From the great emperors to, what I was surprise to discover, WW2 and the Chinese Revolution with Chiang Kai-shek being head quartered here. That got my history nerd self into a tizzy.

The park entrance is fairly obvious and the price is 150Y (C$30). There is the standard security of good looking young girls who are very serious until you smile and say hello. They then break out the camera's and giggle at the Western guy trying to speak Chinese. The park opens up right away and you are embraced by well tended to gardens, pagodas and temples. There is an abundance of goldfish and Koi, ponds, picturesque bridges and walking paths. Talk about immediate serenity.

I am sure the designs and layouts all had some meaning but I stopped reading and just wandered about, enjoying myself. I spent a bit to long staring at the fish in the ponds. With the quirky smiles and odd looks I received a few of the locals thought I was either looking for dinner or was going to pull An Incredible Mr Limpit.

There was a temple what a dude that was the centre of attention that looked like a combination of Genghis Khan and a pissed of Poseidon. History's greatest conqueror and the Ancient Greek God of the Sea now that is a dude to be feared. I wandered for the better part of 2 hours and because it was still early and the sun did not set until almost 8:30 the mountains were not going anywhere, but I heard them calling.

 I crossed one bridge to a new area with ponds and small shrines then walked into a new garden without even realizing it. Time stood still and I do not say that lightly. Yes, this place was spruced up and ready for tourists but the history was oozing from the every crack and crevice. I walked through the three domed gate and into what what yet another moment of "What the Fu**". I did not know which way to go because you could go in any direction and it would be special.

Luckily I grasped my reality a bit and found a huge park map and trail guide. As with many hikes in China it was going to be stair, lots and lots of stairs as these were working mountains at one time. I could see where I was going to go, there were instructions in English, a layout of major stops and sites and the sun was shining.

I was having a fantastic time doing my thing but I had no idea what was in store for me

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