Holiday in Lianyungang/连云港
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
70Trip End Ongoing
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I'll do my best to recount how I spent the past week if you'll do your best to read through this terribly long post.
Sara, a bud from the summer program we participated in (here's her blog), came into Nanjing from Wuxi on Sunday afternoon. We spent Sunday trying to gather supplies, though it was only me who required supplies. I picked up some hiking boots and a backpack on Jinxianghe hiking street/进香河路. That night, we ventured out to find Sun Yat Sen's mausoleum, but got there after dark and walked (what felt like) miles before finding that area. It had closed, but we wandered in anyway, bought some zongzi／粽子 (look it up lazy) and kept going til we got there. Fortunately the walk was lined with views of pagodas lit up with colorful LEDs and giant stone animals
On Monday we set out for the long-distance bus station, our bus leaving at 9am. The bus ride into the main port of entry to Lianyungang, called Xinpu/新浦, took an even 5 hours. We bought our return ticket once we got to the Xinpu bus station. We really had no concrete idea about what we would be doing for the week, but luckily Sara had compiled a list of possibilities while we were in Nanjing. We decided that our first stop would be Liandao／连岛/Lian Island.
As we'd never been to this place, it took many instances of asking strangers where to go before we actually figured it out. We took a public bus from Xinpu into Lianyungang, and then another public bus across a shotty road to the actual island. Although this road crossed the water surrounding the island, it was completely at sea level and the only thing preventing flooding was a continuous pile of mud. The road was so full of potholes that it felt like we were riding on a trampoline rather than a bus (carrying all our packs and gear, mind you).
We finally made it to our stop and fought incoming passengers to get off
We pressed on through the entry gate for a small fee of 50rmb/7.50usd and decided to set up camp before exploring. This place looked like your average beach- umbrellas, chairs... but then had the characteristic wacko Chinese variables like statues of naked women and a piece of heavy machinery which I believe to be a front loader. Anyway, we put up our little tent near some other tents, feeling relieved that other people were also camping out here since we weren't sure about the existence of camping laws.
We wandered, we climbed... after we watched the sunset from a big hill, we tried to exit the beach area to buy a lighter in pursuit of the idea of starting a bonfire on the beach (again, weren't sure about the legality but you can't have a beach without a bonfire). Initially they wouldn't let us leave and come back in since the entrance gate closes after dark, but we smooth-talked our way out and eventually found a lighter
Looking homeless, we dragged our beers and boxes back through the gate under the suspicious glances of passers-by. We climbed over to a nearby cove and built our fire in a hole in the rocks. It got cold, so we turned in for the night early in order to wake up at 4:00am to watch the sunrise. 4:00am rolled around and we headed out in the pitch black, a bit surprised that the sun hadn't even remotely risen. Soon after, we were approached by strangers with flashlights who turned out to be students from Suzhou who wanted to follow us to wherever we were going to watch the sunrise. But, we didn't know where we were going, so we all started down a road the wrapped around the island, trying to find an unimpeded view of where we thought the sun might rise.
We walked for a long time. Three of the students ran ahead and one stuck with us before stopping, claiming that there's no good view of the sunrise so we should go back. Sara and I kept going, confused, and eventually stopped at a clearing
The aquarium led us out of the beach area and we once again had to talk our way back in, and were only allowed to reenter after promising to pack up and leave promptly. So we did, and with no set plan in mind, we took the bus back into town. Eventually we decided on Huaguo Mtn/花果山, which is a very famous, religious, and literary landmark within China as it is the setting for the Chinese classic story Journey to the West about a monk's pilgrimage to obtain buddhist sutras (kind of). We asked many questions about how to get there before jumping on the correct buses and transferring at the right places. We were dropped off at the front gate of the "scenic area," and immediately affronted by an army of motorcyclists trying to drive us up to the mountain.
Despite this attack, we pushed through and walked to the base of the mountain through a nice town, which took under an hour
In case you haven't read previous posts, you should know a few things about hiking in China.
+Mountain paths are paved or stone stairs, not a nature trail. There are winding stairs all over any mountain (that I can fathom) worth climbing in China, from base to summit.
+Everyone and their mothers climbs mountains in China. Babies, toddlers who are learning to walk, teenagers on dates, grandparents, salespeople, people on business trips- everyone.
+Every mountain I've encountered here offers the alternative of taking a cable car/gondola up the mountain instead of climbing all the way up, which most people take.
+Because most people take the cable car, they dress in non-athletic apparel, and often in what I would deem business-casual attire, i.e. high heels, tights, dresses.
This being a village-like area, we were already gawked at enough for being foreigners. However, as we were carrying huge backpacks, gear, and dressed like hikers, I might say that climbing Huaguoshan had us facing the most gawking I've experienced in China
I should also mention- I got pretty bad blisters not ten minutes after starting up the mountain, and I wasn't willing to continue on for hours with my feet in that condition. So I took off my boots and carried them, climbing nearly the entire mountain in my socks. This was surprisingly comfortable, such that I didn't have to put them on again til the next day.
We hiked for about.. 5 hours? before it became too dark to carry on. We decided to set up camp on the staircase underneath a giant pagoda. We were in for the night by 8pm or so because there was nothing else to do- couldn't see anything around us, no one else was there on top of the mountain, and it was getting very cold
It took another hour or two to get to the summit, and it was amazing how crowded it was so early in the day. But, then again, it doesn't take very long to ride a cable car to the top. The summit stone was completely swamped with people all fighting to get their token pictures. We wandered around the different view points, taking in the lovely scenery and thinking about what to do once we got down the mountain. We started heading down, but this was quite a tall mountain and after an hour or two our legs were quivering with exhaustion.
Fast forward- we finally got down and took a bus out of there. I bought some better socks to help with my blisters. We took a bus back into town, which became our base of operations. We had a cheap lunch at a local restaurant and, after talking with the other restaurant patrons, decided to head to Kongwang Mountain／孔望山 next. Eventually found the right bus there and were at the base of the mountain by 5pm. Turns out this mountain was quite small, and we ascended in about 2 hours, even after visiting some disappointing ancient rock sculptures and cliff carvings. Also- an entire side of the mountain is covered in a luge-like slide, which you can ride down the mountain during business hours (wtf?)
We caught the last bus into town but didn't know what to do about where to sleep that night. We preferred to sleep somewhere outside (Sara suggested a public park), but we didn't know if that was legal, or if there even was a park anywhere nearby. I hoped for a cheap hotel, but Sara pointed out that foreigners have to stay in hotels that are rated 3 stars or higher (and are therefore expensive) and must have a passport, which I did not bring. We tried anyway, and got SUPER lucky to find a hotel that let us stay with only one passport in a single room- as long as we checked out before the boss came to work the next day.
We dropped our gear, showered (finally), and went out looking for some kind of nightlife. We found none, so we bought a couple beers and luckily found a small street market. Somehow, we got the idea to visit a hair salon as Sara expressed interest in getting some streaks. Perhaps it was the beer that solidified this plan. In we ventured to the nearest hair salon, and had some lovely conversations with the boys working there (ages 23, 16, 16). Sara got some very rad hot red streaks for only 50rmb
We left for the Xinpu bus station in the morning and spent a couple hours in the city around the bus station killing time in random alleys and stores. Finally we bused home and ended up visiting a very cosy new bar not too far from my dorm, a place I hope to frequent often in the future.
That's the gist. I think I've certainly forgotten some things worth mentioning, but hopefully the pictures can fill in some gaps. I promise the next post won't be so long.
Info for travelers:
The long-distance bus goes from Nanjing Coach Terminal (南京长途汽车总站) to Xinpu/新浦, can't remember the station name but the address should be printed on your bus ticket. Take bus 106 from Xinpu to Lianyungang.
From the 百花大楼 bus stop next to KFC, take bus line 101 to zhong1dian3, switch lines to 33 to destination Liandao
From the 百花大楼 bus stop next to KFC, take bus line 103 to hou2zui3 stop, cross highway and a small bridge. At the shack you can get on bus line 10 (1rmb) which will take you to entrance of Huaguoshan scenic area. If you don't want to walk to the base of the mountain, you can take bus line 12 to the ticket gate.
From the 百花大楼 bus stop next to KFC, take bus line 105 to the Kongwangshan stop, walk straight and turn right at next road, walk until you get to the entrance gate.
Find bus line 106 in the direction of Xinpu and ride it until the second to last stop, called 苏xing快客站. Bus station is within walking distance.
Bus fares here vary according to how far away your bus stop is, so you need to know what stop you're getting off at before you get off. You can get on the bus at either the front or back door (how strange!) and can find a seat immediately, a worker will come find you and collect your bus fare.