We arrived in the Hua Shan train station at 7:45am as expected. We were really surprised that we saw no other foreigners on our train. We dealt with getting the refund related to JT’s lost ticket, and then hopped on a waiting 806 public bus since we knew it would take us to the Hua Shan visitor’s center. The driver was really helpful with our luggage (we sat with our luggage at the front), but everyone had a laugh when they found we were trying to navigate public buses knowing no Chinese. The bus got stuck in traffic, but worked great for the ¥3.50/each we paid.
The 806 bus dropped us off at a traffic circle near the Hua Shan visitors center. When you exit the bus, just cross the street the bus was on, and you’ll see parking lots for the visitors center.
We left our two large backpacks, my school backpack, and the robot head bag at left luggage in the visitors center. Apparently all 4 bags were considered ‘large’ as we were charged ¥20/bag (large) instead of ¥10/bag (small). The left luggage closed at 6pm though, which might be a bit early for some people.
Then we bought admission tickets (¥180 each) and West Line bus tickets (¥40 each) before going to board the West Line bus to the West Peak cable car. The bus was nice and air-conditioned. The ride took about 40 minutes, although you then had to climb a number of stairs between exiting the bus and reaching the cable-way.
Once at the cable-way, we bought one-way tickets to the West Peak (¥140 each). We waited in line about 25 minutes (constantly being pushed – it was starting to get really old how much Chinese hate lines and waiting) before joining 5 people in an 8 person cable-car. Then our car began an epic 20 minute ride. The views were great, and it seems to be a real feat that such a cable-way could be constructed. The West Peak cable car is definitely worth its hefty fee. Although, you certainly want to avoid this if you are afraid of heights!! There are nearly-vertical sections of the line and the car is probably over 3000 feet off of the ground in other points. JT’s long-dormant fear of heights made a triumphant return!
JT bought a ¥5 ‘hot dog’ upon exiting the cable-way. He thought it was good, but Katie refused to eat more than one bite. Then we went to explore West Peak, South Peak, and East Peak in order before heading to the North Peak cable-way. We had hoped to also explore North Peak, but since “left luggage” closed at 6pm and we did not know how long it would take us to return on the cable-way, we got into the cable-way line shortly after 4pm upon seeing how long the line looked. The cable-car down was ¥80 each one-way, although it was ¥150 each if you bought a round trip. The mandatory bus from the bottom of the cable-car back to parking lots and the visitor center cost an additional ¥20 each. And yes, there are actually signs informing you that it is mandatory to take the bus.
Hua Shan was interesting in many ways. We saw some beautiful temples, some scary pathways (most not required to see the sights), and lots of Chinese tourists (and very few Western tourists). We still have not grown accustomed to the pushing, cutting, spitting, and crowding that seems to be Chinese common culture. Especially in steep areas with difficult footing, it can be scary to be pushed and crowded so much.
Overall, we found the time estimates and maps given on the signs in the park to be useful, but it would be great if they had more information online.
We took the North Peak cable-way down the mountain (¥80 each one-way), reaching the base at 4:50pm, bought tickets for the bus back to the visitors center (¥20 each one-way), and got on a bus that left at 5:03pm. The bus stopped first at a random parking area, and then at the visitors center after about 10 minutes.
Once at the visitors center, we gathered our bags from luggage storage and inquired about buses to the Hua Shan North train station. The girl at reception told us about a free shuttle. The free shuttle was a big green bus that left from the bus parking area (just to the right of the main visitors center entrance, out towards the parking lot). Buses leave until 7pm every 15 minutes (on the hour, :15, :30, and :45).
The Hua Shan North train station had a nice entrance square, but we saw no quick food options besides convenience stores. The train station was new, but had no food options and not nearly enough seating.
We took a short 30 minute G(819, depart 18:42, ¥89.5 each) train in first class to Xian North at 6:42pm. Unfortunately, our experience was anything but first class. But, that is a topic for another post. Once in Xian, we took the metro to our hotel, the Sheraton Xian North City Hotel.
The “preferred guest” line was empty at check-in, so the concierge pointed us to this line. There, we were treated as “Gold Preferred Guest”. We figured that we might have gotten this status from JT’s Starwood-branded Amex cards, but he doesn’t actually have any status with Sheraton (Starwood). We got room #1232, all the way at the end of a long hall.
The Sherton is nice – it is refreshing to be in a fancy hotel after an overnight train! We dropped our belongings and headed to the concierge to get a cheap, close, good restaurant recommendation.
It took a bit for us to communicate that we wanted something that they would eat – not something that they would recommend for a “normal” guest. Once communicated, they pointed us to two close local noddle shops “Sushi Niu Ron Mian” and “Qin San Liang Pi” with the names also written in characters. We found one, and decided to give it a try.
There was no picture menu and no one spoke any English, so Katie guessed on a dish and JT used google translate to ask what the cashiers favorite was. We ordered these two dishes (¥7 and ¥8) and two drinks (¥5 each) for just ¥25. When our food came out, we were both happy to find that we could eat our food! Katie got dumplings soup with some greenery, while JT got spicy beef noodles (that were actually a bit too spicy). The food was so spicy – and the drinks so good – that we ordered more drinks (¥5 each). Overall we were very happy!
Back at the hotel we worked for a while before enjoying a real bed and shower!
Hua Shan was beautiful, but expensive. If we were to do this day again, we would have followed the same route, but allowed more time for the North Peak and just enjoying the views and sights.