FanjingshanSeptember 11, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C
Another early start as we headed off for today's World Heritage Site: Mount Fanjing, or Fanjingshan. The long distance bus station was located just around the corner, about five minutes walk from our hostel, so we headed there in time for the 7:30am bus which we'd pre-booked tickets for.
No issues with the trip as we took about 90 minutes to get there, out on the northern side of town. It's a sacred mountain for Chinese Buddhists, and the highest peak in the nearby Yulong Mountain range, though it tops out at a modest 2594 metres. Not super high, though still taller than Mount Kosciusko!
Since we'd come a long way and were well off the tourist trail, we assumed it would be a fairly quiet site - how wrong we were! Although our public bus had only been about 3/4 full, when we arrived the parking lot was loaded with coaches disgorging swarms of flag-following locals. And worse, most of the flag-carrying guides had microphones and tinny speakers, allowing their group and everyone within 30 metres to hear their explanation. One is annoying enough, but when there's several groups all in the same spot it's excruciating.
First off we all waited about 20 minutes for minivans to shuttle us up to the cable car station, before we waited another 30 minutes for the cable car itself. These were small-scale cable cars - 8 seater things, not giant 50+ standing room only ones like you get in Switzerland, so at least the line moved fairly quickly.
When we arrived at the top station we decided to do some hiking up to the lower summit where there was a series of interesting rocks (seriously!). Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea and so it took quite a while. It was tough going with lots of stairs (about a 200 metre climb), but the crowds certainly didn't help. It was pretty obnoxious too once we got to the lookout, since you're never waiting for just one person to take a photo. It's always them, and then their friend, and their friend, and their friend, and now let's do a group photo, and so on. There's a lot to like in this country, but I've heard expats talk of the creeping madness and I can really understand that.
There's two main summits here, the slightly lower one was quite spectacular as it was topped with a small Buddhist monastery in an impossibly tight space (much like Meteora), but sadly it was closed for repairs and also wreathed in cloud. Very atmospheric, but difficult to take video!
We hiked to the upper summit which was slightly less crowded, but also a fair bit less interesting I think. Just a small monastery with very little inside. But at least it wasn't as crowded!
Back down we went, via the hike, the cable car and then the minivan, though most of the crowds seemed to have dissipated - we didn't have to wait at all for either. Managed to make a 4pm bus back to Tongren where we grabbed some noodles for dinner. Also enjoyed the competing outdoor group exercise classes taking place in the main square. Imagine five different Zumba classes blasting their music within a few metres of each other and you'll get the idea!Read more