Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Backpacking Itinerary: Shanghai and Huangshan in Five Days

The objective: Travel to a visually stunning place on this side of the world where, the season being winter, our Filipino tropical sensibilities would be jarred by freezing cold snow. The rationale: Get ourselves a travel experience far from our "ordinary." The real rationale though: Heck, who knows? Why would anyone trade comfortably warm in flip-flops for mind-numbing cold in clunky winter boots?

But we did. And our objectives? Glad to say, achieved and surpassed.

Backpacking Itinerary: Shanghai and Huangshan in Five Days

With only five full days in between round-trip flights to Shanghai, I seriously thought we would be pressed for time. I'd soon discover, however, that a schedule of five days was just right for this trip. It was a combination of trekking in the "Avatar" mountains covered in snow, lazily strolling through a UNESCO Heritage ancient village, and treating our eyes to the bright lights of China's largest city.

So without further ado, that this may be of service to other travelers out there, let me present a backpacking itinerary of Shanghai and Huangshan in five days.


Huangshan, Anhui, China
Fog envelops the valleys below the peaks of Huangshan, China.

Get In: Traveling to Huangshan on your own can be a little complicated. Hence, the need to create a complete travel guide. See here: Guide to Traveling to Huangshan, China.

What to See: Sightseeing in Huangshan will involve a lot of walking, climbing, and descending. Hey, it is a mountain. The views are all worth the effort though. I promise. There are a number of viewpoints you can reach: Bright Summit Peak, Turtle Peak, Lotus Peak (tough climb), Xihai Grand Canyon, and many others. For inspiration, do check out: A Wintry, Snowy Mountain Trek to Huangshan, China and Photos from Our Winter Mountain Trek to Huangshan, China.

Where to Stay: We stayed in Baiyun Hotel, which I was glad to discover, was centrally located. We were able to reach a number of scenic viewpoints from here. Using Ctrip.com, I booked a bed in an eight-bed dorm. It cost me 100 CNY per night. A little cramped, but rooms (and food) do come at a price up in these mountains.

China: Huangshan, Anhui
I never thought I'd see a real-life version of a Chinese painting.


Hongcun, Anhui, China
Hongcun, Anhui. Not surprising this village was a filming location for Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Get In: From Huangshan, we descended to Tangkou, the town right outside Huangshan Scenic Area. From Tangkou, we hired a car for the less-than-an-hour ride to Hongcun. It cost us 100 CNY. There were six of us so 16 CNY per person (ah, the advantages of group travel). Once in Hongcun, you pay a hefty entrance fee of 104 CNY. Yes, an entrance fee for a village! I blame (and thank) UNESCO for it.

What to See: Hongcun has a few spots to check out like Lexu Hall and Moon Pond, but really, just strolling around this tiny, quiet village will be worthwhile already. Again, for inspiration, do check out: The Day We Traveled to Ancient China's Countryside.

Where to Stay: We booked rooms in the one hostel that we found here: Qing He Yue Hostel. It's YHA-affiliated, so standards are more or less alright. Bed is spacious enough. It came with a heating mat, too. Toilets are adequate. And I loved hanging-out in the courtyard and in the cozy hut. A dorm bed per night here is 60 CNY.

Hongcun, Anhui, China
Hongcun was a fairly quiet ancient village considering its UNESCO status.


Pudong Skyline, Shanghai, China
I heart SH. For real.

Get In: From Hongcun, we took a bus back to Tunxi (also called Huangshan), the largest major city in this region. Naturally, it also serves as a transport hub. The bus ride lasted about an hour and cost 15 CNY. From Tunxi, we took a bus back to Shanghai. Five hours, 135 CNY.

What to See: There are quite a few things to see and do while in Shanghai, things I already covered in my first trip in this exciting city. You can head to the Bund in the morning, Gucheng Park and Yuyuan Market (Shanghai's old town) in the afternoon, and then back to the Bund in the evening to see the city's glitzy skyline light up. I was lucky this trip coincided with my birthday, so I got to spend it here in Shanghai: A Birthday in the City that Ignited My Wanderlust.

Where to Stay: One of the best hostels I have stayed in is in Shanghai: Captain Youth Hostel. A dorm bed costs 70 CNY a night. The dorm rooms were spacious and I mean, really spacious. Spacious like you can play catch or frisbee in the room. Beds were comfortable. Toilets and hot shower functioning well. And the sometimes tacky nautical theme even grew on me. And I haven't even gotten to the best part yet. It is literally a minute walk to the Bund. The hostel is right beside the HSBC Building, one of my favorite old colonial buildings in the city.

The Bund, Shanghai, China
On the other side of the Huangpu: the grand old colonial buildings of the Bund.

There you have it. I seriously hoped this this backpacking itinerary of Shanghai and Huangshan was or would be helpful to future travelers. Any other stops you'd recommend along the way?

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