Shanghai Travel Social
By Amber Wu
If you’ve lived in Shanghai for more than a couple of years, chances are you’ve already done a bit of hiking or exploring in the mountains of Zhejiang province. After all, we each need to escape from the smog and pollution to some (relatively) fresh air from time to time. And Zhejiang, with its many beautiful peaks and forests, makes for a great getaway. And my trip to Tianmu Mountain with OK, Deal! didn’t disappoint and was exceptional by any standards.
On the Road
We took the bus with OK, Deal! bright and early in the morning from Shanghai. And after barely an hour on the highway, lush mountains and farm villages began to loom into view from both sides of the road. And that’s what Zhejiang is all about. The next I knew I was waking up from a long nap to find myself surrounded by mountains and waterfalls. The bus continued to wend its way uphill along zig-zag byways, while everyone was busy admiring the natural beauty on offer. I knew we were getting close. The bus dropped us right at our final destination, a farmer’s B&B enveloped by lush landscape and cascading waterfalls on the upper mountain side. Despite the overcast skies, the scenery was still stunning and I felt like I had been engulfed in a cocoon of tranquility.
Swim in the Natural Pools: Bamboo Shoots and Waterfalls
Our host had already laid out the home-style Zhejiang dishes, al fresco style on tables on the wooden deck terrace. We were some 50 guests, from different countries and backgrounds. I found a spare seat at a table, and decided it was time to get to know the other group members. Our table included a cute Mongolian designer, two German engineers, a Taiwanese couple and a French-born English teacher. It was a truly international mix. And although I'd joined the outing alone, I didn't feel awkward as we all blended naturally. The food featured lots of fresh vegetables, including the bamboo shoots famed in the region. And although there were few meat dishes, we all agreed it was good to take a break from meat every now and then.
After lunch, we walked to a waterfall park near to the guest house. And even though the entrance made me feel I was walking into an over-commercialized tourist trap, the place was surprisingly peaceful, without another sightseer in view. Walking up a steady incline for 20 minutes, an epic panoramic view of bamboo waves presented itself before us. Meanwhile, waterfalls formed lots of swirling natural pools among airy bamboo shades, perfect for a summer dip. Some couples found themselves more secluded pools for quiet time alone, while others jumped into larger pools for a cool splash. Others still found a chilled-out spot on the overlooking rocks where they could gaze at the beautiful scenery.
Bonfire and Booze on the Mountain
When darkness descended, the tour leaders set up a bamboo fire and a drinks table directly in front of the guest house. Parts of the mountain were still mysteriously visible, and it was time to party in the wild. With plenty of booze, snacks, and good music, people started to mingle and dance. Most of us ended the party around midnight; we were keen to preserve some energy for the following day, and were also fully aware that some serious hiking awaited us.
The Road Less Travelled: Steep Trails and Mossy Rocks
When I went down for breakfast around 8.30am, half of the group was already enjoying their hearty first meal of the day: a mix of both Western (cereal, milk, scrambled eggs, sausages, bread, bacon, and fruit) and Chinese (congee, pickles, bons, boiled eggs) all served up in a buffet style. I tried to have a big breakfast as we were warned of a likely 6-hour hike ahead, with no food stops en route. After a half an hour walk along the road, the real hike started. It was seemingly a little-used track known only to local farmers. We continued to tramp through the steep trails among the mossy rocks and deep woodlands. On the climb up the steepest set of steps, I had good cause to praise my bamboo walking stick helping me along the way. A few hardcore hikers were way ahead of us, although I was more than content to nestle in the middle of the team some way back. The group all encouraged each other, gladly giving a helping hand when somebody struggled or slipped. I have to say that I would not have been able to complete the hike were it not for the efforts of the whole team. On our way back, we opted for a different path. It was a breathtaking journey with very differing outlooks. At one point, the terrain was rather grand and flat which reminded me of my hiking days in Edinburgh. At other parts, magnificently photogenic views sprung up in front of us. Sitting momentarily on the rocks overlooking the mountains, we were able to admire the vista dotted with beautiful wild white flowers. The scenery seemed almost invented for a social media moment post; the kind of shot that immediately tells your friends you are having a cool adventure atop a stunning mountain. After the long hike, some of us went to a nearby pool for a last dip to relax and unwind. And when it was time for dinner, we all polished off the entire spread dishes in 10 minutes. This was followed by another mountainside bonfire party.
The next day before heading back to Shanghai, we stopped at a rafting spot. It was a rather short rafting trip, but lively enough to enjoy a cool splash around. When it was time to head back to Shanghai, I took one more glance around me. Yep, coming here had been a great choice indeed.
Photo Credits: Amber Wu and OK-Dealers