Northern China’s answer to Huangshan is Taishan, one of China’s 5 most famous mountains. Tons of famous Chinese people—including Mao Ze Dong and Confucius—have summited this holy Taoist mountain, which, frankly, is no small feat, given that the central route up Taishan is pretty much a sweaty Stairmaster workout of 6,660 steps. It is said that if you make it to the top, you will live to 100 years. Not a bad deal, in our opinion.
The promise of long life has proven to be enough to get hordes of Chinese people up this mountain, even if they hike it high heels, skinny jeans, or heck, even their underwear.
Funny thing is, Underwear Man attracted less attention than Jeremy, who I swear must have been the only wai guo ren on the mountain that day. On top of that, Jeremy took off his shirt (hey, it was hot!), and I don’t know if it was the hairy chest or the shirtlessness or his massive pectorals (Ed note: Jeremy made me write that) that had all the Chinese people picking their jaws up off the ground.
Taishan is very similar to Huangshan in that the sunrise and the cloud ocean are the main attractions. We didn’t see the sunrise this time—staying on the mountain on the mountain is expensive—but we did get enveloped by those famous clouds when we reached the top.
As in Huangshan, people hiking this mountain also superstitiously place locks on the chain link fences as an insurance policy for their marriage. Judging from the amount of locks we saw, it looks like more people hike Taishan than Huangshan, or there are just more suckers in Taishan.
Also similar to Huangshan, there are bang bang men hiking up the mountain with bottled water, their repeated trips up and down the mountain permanently warping their skeletons into painful-looking shapes.
Hiking Taishan is a fine way to spend the day, though we prefer Huangshan to its norther counterpart. One route up means the stairway becomes very crowded, and given that you can also reach the top via a bus/cable car combo, the summit is swamped with domestic tourists who are still hoping to get their 100 years without breaking a sweat.
It took us four hours to hike to the top of the mountain, and a quick 15 minutes to get back down the mountain using the cable car and bus option. Not bad for an extra 60+ years on this extraordinary planet, eh?
Where we slept in Taishan: Actually, we slept in Tai’An, because staying on the mountain was a little too spendy for our budget. No matter, Taishan is easily done as a day trip, though if you want to see the sunrise, you’ll need to spend the dough…or hike through the night (survey says: NO). We booked Dongdu Hotel via ctrip.com for 168 RMB (for a double with bathroom ensuite). Not a bad deal for a three-star hotel. Rooms have little character, but they are spacious, reasonably clean, and some have views of the mountain. Plus, each room has free plug-in internet access and a water cooler dispensing drinking water (a nice touch in China!).