Saturday, April 7, 2018

Father-son trip to climb Tai Shan

It's spring break here and Irish's mom is in town. They made plans to go up to Beijing to go shopping and visit the Great Wall. Since I have been to the Great Wall a lot, and I really do not enjoy shopping I decided to take Augustine with me on a different trip to another iconic Chinese place - Tai Shan. 

It's not as famous as the Great Wall, but almost nothing is. This is one of the five great mountains of China, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. For more than 2000 years if you were the emperor you would go to Tai Shan and climb to the top to perform rituals. Confucius is supposed to have been to the top as well.

The mountain is in Shandong province, two hours south of Tianjin on the fast train. We had thought about hiking up through the night to get to the top for the sunrise, it's a thing people do, but upon reflection that seemed like a terrible idea with an 8 year old. Our next plan was to go to the hotel, use the pool, sleep and then get up very early. When the alarm went off at 4:30 am August was not at all ready to get up, so we slept a little longer, got the breakfast buffet, and finally got started a little after 7:00.

the look of someone second guessing their decision to go hike up a mountain

The Red Gate, start of our long walk.

The hike starts with a pretty simple walk through the woods, some flat parts and then short flights of stairs. There are several temples along the way, lots of people selling things like water and snacks which was helpful since we didn't have to carry everything, and toy swords and crossbows, which was not helpful  as they kept distracting August. We did not see any other foreigners for most of the day, and lots of people were very excited to see August with his red hair. He is "very beautiful" and "very pretty". Handsome seems like the better choice of words, but their intentions were good.   

the stairs got  longer. 

After two hours of walking through the woods up increasingly long and increasingly steep stairs we came out to the mid-point.  If you are really lazy you could actually take a bus up to this part and start here. If you are incredibly lazy or on crutches, you could  also take a cable car from there to the very top. August and I are not lazy, or injured- so after he ate a Snicker's bar we continued walking up much much steeper, longer stairs.

looking ahead from the halfway point. real clouds, not air pollution, hanging over the mountains.

Lots of people wanted to take their picture with Augustine, some wanted me in the picture too. We were willing to oblige as long as I could take pictures of them as they took theirs of us: 

After a little over three hours the map on my phone showed we were getting pretty close, but the last push was straight up a series of very long stairs. Despite his worries at the start of the day August was doing great, running up ahead and then coming back to me. I was taking it a few steps at a time. Lots of people were saying "hello", some would ask where we were from. One woman had a little more English and she said "it is good you are you must persist in getting to the top, persistence is the most important thing"  Watching the porters who were all older than me carry bundles of water and food up to the vendors I realized I could manage with just my small backpack weighing me down. 

August in the foreground, an incredibly hard working man in the background. 

so many steps. just past that red building is one more set to the top. 

Almost there. Green fence is there to protect against rock slides.
Finally, with legs a little shaky,  we got to the top at around noon after four and a half hours of walking. There was what looked like a small town up there with several temples and lots of places selling lunch. For some reason August had been asking about Ramen noodles the whole morning, so he got some Ramen while I got some actual delicious Chinese noodles. 

Looking back down 

restaurants on the left

Cute kid. He did such a great job.
We looked through the temples. August asked if he could pray there, I told him we weren't Taoists, so no.  And then we decided since we had done the hard part in hiking up, we would take the cable car and bus back down to the bottom.  

We finished the day with another swim in the pool, dinner at the hotel's buffet, and an early bedtime for both of us. 

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