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you may not be able to tell but the valley below.. it was thousands of feet down there! quite nerve wrecking as i snapped away..

Did i just scare you?

What? NO?

Darn!

Very well… i’ll stick to my original opening shot then. :P

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Day 6

Hmmm…

Tough.

Real tough.

I don’t know how to even begin this post of mine. So so many photos! Guess i’ll keep it simple ;)

Hotel : PaiYunLou

Route of the day : hotel – West Grand Canyon – hotel – Rock Watching Pavilion – hotel

PaiYunLou Hotel

As soon as we finished our instant noodle lunch after we checked in, we wasted no precious time but to go out and play again.

The hotel does provide thick, fluffy, marshmallow jackets for guests like myself, who sorta overestimated her North Face Summit fleece and jacket. Due to the weather condition, a large part of West Grand Canyon was closed. The only section that was open that day, or for the rest of March for that matter, was just a tiny fraction from the giant loop. I think we probably got to the first ring and that was it. The rest of the loop, from what i heard, was a little too dangerous to explore during this time of the year.

We were very disappointed.

I mean, that was the real reason why i picked the hotel!

Initially, i thought the loop would be open to at least ring 2. When i was asking around — i even called the hotel — no one could give me an answer. That was why i took the risk and booked ahead. But no matter, because we got to see other parts of Huangshan which i thought we would not be able to see! :)

Even though the trek to West Sea Grand Canyon was a short one, it still took us an hour plus to complete. It was too beautiful. We took our own sweet time to snap plenty of photos and monkey around. We also managed to just sit down and just smell the flowers snow. Nature at its best. It was impossible to ignore the beauty and just walk away. So very magnificent.

Surprisingly, nothing much went through the mind as i sat down in all that quietness with my eyes shut. It gotta be the serenity, the tranquility, the calmness, the beauty, the grandness…

Those moments were truly magical.

(i’m one of the rare few whose mind simply cannot stop churning even when i’m having a damn good body massage or when i’m meditating! terrible!).

It’s really a pity that my photography skill isn’t quite there yet to capture the magnificent mountain. :(

It’s really even more pitiful that i don’t have a wide angle lens to lug along with me. :((

These photos that you are seeing here, were taken on the tiny section of West Sea Grand Canyon. I simply can’t imagine the rest of the canyon, exactly what did we miss?!?

And more of the canyon…

Did i mention that the mountain is sparkling clean?

I was shocked to be honest…

And the toilets.. oh boy, you will want me to go there! Haha!

They are very very clean!

See the picture above, middle right?

The mountain has these cleaners working around the clock. For every.. say, 300m, you’ll see one. Impressed? I sure was!

After we patah balik to the hotel from the canyon, we marched ahead to Rock Watching Pavilion.

The initial plan was to catch sunset, but hmmm.. looking at the weather, we were extremely skeptical! Moreover, we didn’t have much time left before the sun set.. so in the end, before we could reach the Pavilion, we did a U-turn and went back to the hotel — trust me, you won’t wanna walk around in the dark, in this particular weather to be exact. However, the views to the Pavilion were quite something if not spectacular. Completely different from the canyon, but still… it took our breath away, literally, just as grub commented.

The stair case… goodness, it was never ending!

I was always the last one behind. Hahaa! Don’t pray pray (play play) okay, i may be slow.. but i was steady! And i was the photographer! Stopping a little more frequently and longer than the friends, who just whipped out their phones or compact camera, clicked and off again. Yeah.. excusesesesesesessss, i know! :P

Can you see my windburn in the picture above? Uh huh, windburn.. not sunburn. You can get windburn too! (explains the cold aye? the cold is always worse when there’s wind)

The windburn was horrid.

My cheeks and nose were red. The skin was extremely sensitive. By nightfall, i was a few shades darker than norm. Then the doc advised me to slap on layerssss of moisturizer and guess what? It worked! I was all OK again the next day. :)

I love this picture!

LOL!

Do you know why?

As you may have noticed, i like taking pictures without any humans in it, if possible. So, whenever i wanna snap a photo but the friends were in the way, i’ll shout, B-OFF! (for buzz off) Of course, it was awkward and uncomfortable to ask the friends to scramble off at first, but after a while, the friends told me to just shout B-OFF whenever i needed them to be, so.. B-OFF it was! Heh!

(yeah, such friends are hard to come by eh? that is why, i only travel with certain friends. even my bestie (Singapore’s), i dare not travel with her, yet. hahaahaha! oopss, i sure hope she is not reading this!)

Anyway.. back to the picture.

When i shouted B-OFF for this particular picture, this was how the friends scrambled off. Lol! They hid behind a tree! A skinny tree! *faint* Seriously! What were they thinking?!?! HAhaahhahaa!

Needless to say, i had to snap this picture.

So funny lorrrr!

Totally priceless. :)

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Note : to those who dare to rip off my photos without my permission, i’ll come after you with my parang!

Day 6

Early in the morning at 7am, the young and nice lad sent us to the cable car station (Yungu New Cableway) at the back mountain, or better known as Eastern side in most maps, for just RMB50. But do bear in mind, locals do not know what is Eastern Steps or Western Route. To them, it’s just back or front mountain.

My map, the best out of the 3 from my collection.

When we arrived at the cable car station, the first thing i did was to hop into its office. Good laawwwdd, it was freezing cold! It was snowing by then already but very lightly. The officers were quite shocked to see me or rather, us, popping in just like that. But it was too cold! I can’t help it. With my most dazzling smile ever, i told them sweetly that i can’t take the cold outside and they nodded. Then, i unashamedly proceeded to station myself right in front of the heater for at least 15 minutes.

Lest you think i didn’t dressed for the weather, i did. I had my North Face Summit fleece and its shell on, together with thermals and more sweaters. I was no different than a very stuffed xiao long bao, really.

The officers were rather nice. They allowed us to stay in there for as long as we wanted. I even managed to make small talk with them and they were really quite friendly! In fact, i was offered a chair when 1 of them saw how i struggled to pull my pants up — ahem.. my water proof bottom ah, of course i had my proper pants on (!) — with so so much clothes on! I was as clumsy as Humpty Dumpty, to say the least.

We were the earliest to arrive at the station. The ticket office wasn’t opened yet as they were waiting for green light from the maintenance officers. A while later, we took turns to have our arses aired in the cold, queuing up to get our entrance (RMB200) and cable car tickets (RMB80).

Shortly after we had all our Gore-tex on, we practically r0lled over to another snaking queue, only this time, it was for the cable car. And so the highlight of our trip began.

photos unedited, taken by Canon Ixus 300

The cable car was nice and comfortable but my journey up wasn’t quite an enjoyable one. Don’t get me wrong, our transport was perfectly safe, clean and all. It was just me.. too cold for my own comfort. Ironically, the middle aged lady who sat opposite me wore only 2-3 thin layers and was gloves-less! I asked if she was cold and she shook her head. She later offered me her hands and goodness gracious me, her hands were warm, like really warm!! :O

How is that even possible huh?

The first thing that hit us when we stepped out from the cable car station on the mountain was the snow. It can no longer be categorized as light snow anymore. It was snowing quite heavily!

All i saw then was people scrambling to get the snow spikes for the shoes.

Initially, i brushed off the thought of getting it… mainly because of the sturdy trekking boots i had on. But a mere minute later, i changed my mind. Safety… always, always comes first. It didn’t matter if i didn’t need it. The thought of having the snow spikes on gave me more confidence and assurance. It was almost like buying myself an insurance. So in the end, the girls and i got ourselves 3 pairs of brand new snow spikes, just for that peace of mind. I must say, it was indeed, a decision well made.

From the cable car station, we needed to trek for another 1.5 hours to our hotel. No short cuts, no cars. Just you and your legs. That’s Huangshan for you :)

I planned our hotels according to the route we would trek on the days we will be spending on the mountain.

Night 1 : PaiYunlou Hotel
Night 2 : Baiyun Hotel

There are a good number of comfortable hotels on Huangshan with almost similar prices because they are managed by the same management. But if you are on budget, there are dorms available.

Anyway.

Don’t laugh… but this was my first experience with snow. :)

It was amazing. I loved it.

Had i worn more layers or a much thicker jacket, i would definitely enjoy it more.

The trek to our hotel was quite a torturous one. As i mentioned, the snow was getting heavier and heavier but strangely, i was getting colder and colder despite carrying a 10+ kg backpack + 2-3kg slingback and probably had 4kg of clothing on me.

I was cold. Period.

I was so cold that i didn’t even bother to take any photographs of the amazing scenery and views, right from Mushroom Pavilion, passing through Harp Pine to Black Tiger Pine.

I was so cold that i didn’t even bother to get my sunnies out, which was right on top of my backpack’s small pocket, even though the snow kept getting into my eyes and i had trouble opening them.

But.

That was not the primary reason why i didn’t whip out the camera or  the sunnies.

It was my toes.

For a while, i thought i was gonna lose them! :(

I cleverly had only a pair of socks on. No thermal pants over them. No nothing. Just 1 pair of good old pathetic socks and my boots.

I kept asking the girlfriend who’s a doctor whether i’d lose them to frostbite! I almost went out of my mind i tell you because i really still wanna wear nice open toe high heels you know. :( The doc assured me that i wouldn’t, as long as i kept moving. And so i did. Kept moving. No stopping. Faster and faster. Hoping the toes would warm up a little.

It was only at Beihai Hotel that i was better, much much better.

The toes felt alright again. *Phew!*

Beihai Hotel

The first thing we did when we checked in at Paiyunlou Hotel was to boil hot water.

Nope, not for my toes anymore.

It was for our instant noodles!

Aaaahhh.. total bliss i tell you.

Seriously. Slurrrrping hot instant noodle had never felt so damn good before, like ever.

(the happening side of the town)

Day 5 & 8

Tangkou is an expanding jumble of narrow lanes, hotels and restaurants on the Taohua Gully where most of the Huangshan buses terminate. Many affordable hotels can be found in here, a sleepy town situated on either side of a small river spanned by several bridges. A perfect (location wise) town to be used as a base camp.

Touts are everywhere. From the first step you take, right after you alight from the bus from wherever, to your last step, right before you board the bus to wherever. It’s rather annoying, if you were to ask me. But most people would tell me it was due to the non-peak season when i was there. Businesses are crawling slow for most. So it’s understandable why we got pestered incessantly.

As annoying as it may be, the locals are very harmless. Once the heads are shook, they will leave you alone.

We ran into a few glitches when we first arrived. Mostly because we were overwhelmed by the choices of accommodation, transportation and food. We said no to all. In the end, we went into a restaurant where we were most comfortable with. Probably the only restaurant with English signboard  that reads, Mr Cheng’s Restaurant.

From there, we were brought to a hotel, partly owned by Mr Cheng (he’s famous, he’s on Lonely Planet), or so he claimed.

A nice, sincere, young lad who drives a crappy tiny van was our driver for the day (more about him later!).

We paid RMB120 for our room for 3, which we thought was extremely reasonable. Of course, do not expect 100% working heater or rain showers. My poor macho friend, P, was freezing her arse off when she first showered. Later, we found out that we gotta let the shower water run for a good 10 minutes before the hot water comes onboard (thank goodness i showered last that day! haha!).

Then C, who never once turned off the tap had problems with inconsistent supply of hot water. Her screaming in between while showering was hilarious. Hehe! And me, the last one who showered.. had no problems at all! Inferring from the friends’ situations, i turned off the water tap quite a few times in between and the hot water worked just fine though a better shower head would be most welcomed — the one we had, the water flow was almost like my boys’ pee, friggin’ teeny weeny drip drops!

Dinner that night was obviously at Mr Cheng’s Restaurant, not because we wanted to but mostly because he sorta pestered us to but we were ok with it since we have nowhere else to go anyway :)

Food (RMB80+) was quite delicious and not expensive either.

We gave strict instructions on NO MSG, less salt and less oil + a leeeettttle bit spicy.

Stir fry vegetables. SPICY good!

Fried omelet with tomato. Yums!

Signature local dish – Stir fry chicken with tofu, mushrooms and fresh bamboo shoots

My favourite gotta be the first dish which was a little bit spicy but too spicy for P. Heh.

During the dinner, Mr Cheng kept telling us that it would be raining at Huangshan the next day. He doesn’t see any point at all going up to the mountain hence he took the initiative to plan our next day’s itinerary, which was to visit the 3 villages (which i mentioned here) that are similar to Hongcun but better for just RMB200 in a comfortable private sedan (the nice young lad quoted us RMB150 – after discount – for Hongcun). Obviously, he was out to tempt us knowing very well the deal we had the young lad on Day 8.

However, i remember very clearly that Huangshan’s weather forecast for the next day was supposed to be light snow. I remember because i remember jumping up and down in the bedroom with much excitement when i saw the forecast just a couple of days ago. So, how could light snow = rain? Mr Cheng even showed us the forecast on his handphone (in Chinese) which none of us could read of course.

I was skeptical.

I told him the sudden change of plan was not what we were prepared for and we would seriously consider our new itinerary by him. Phone numbers were exchanged and i told him once i’ve discussed with the friends, i’d give him a call.

What i did next was to text Darcy and told him to check the weather forecast for Huangshan for next day. As expected, “light snow” came flashing on the phone’s screen less than 5 minutes later. That was when we put our feet down and decided to go ahead with our initial plan, rain or snow.

And guess what?

I am so damn glad we stuck to our plan because it really snowed the next day!

the other side of the town where we didn’t explore

The next morning, we took the young and nice lad’s van to the cable car’s station for RMB50. If we were to go by the public bus, it would cost us RMB13 each and some walking required. So we rather pay a little bit more for comfort and everything else. :)

Uh huh, u read correctly. It was cable car for us after all. The ground was wet and it was snowing. I reckoned it would be much much safer for us to take the cable car instead. After all, many who have been up the mountain advised me to do so too, mainly because there was not much scenery to see if we were to walk up. Darcy was pleased as punch upon knowing this decision of mine. Heh.

left : our ‘bus stop’ right : some say, the best and cheapest food is under the bridge but we didn’t manage to find out of course

After we came down from the mountain, the first thing we did was to look for proper food, proper cooked food with tons of vegetables. We have been deprived rather badly.

After walking for a while, we hopped into a restaurant where a table was occupied.

Lunch (RMB80+) was promptly ordered and stir fry leafy vegetable was a must for me.

We mentioned less salt but the dishes came out almost salt-less. Ha! However, we were alright with it.. Better than being too salty, which we agreed in union. I must say, it was quite a good, homey meal. Then i thought out aloud, Is there no bad food in Tangkou at all?

An hour later, we were back at Mr Cheng’s Restaurant again but not for another meal this time.

This was where we we will be picked up to Hangzhou, the first bus (RMB100) for the day at 2.30pm. (fyi, Mr Cheng helped us to secure the bus tickets but fret not if you can’t find Mr Cheng because almost everyone in town could help you book it) Tickets are hot for this particular time slot so it is best to buy the tickets in advance if possible.

probably the only bakery in town. very decent and everything looked tempting, especially the black sesame goodies!

Important : do travel with your Passport all the time. P left her passport in Shanghai and it was quite a hassle whenever we tried to check in at all hotels.

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