Tai’an, a small city in Shandong at 2:30 in the morning: My alarm is ringing and I feel like I want to turn around again and keep on snoozing. But we decided about two weeks earlier that we want to see the sunrise at Mount Taishan (Shandong). Accredited as one of the 5 Holy (Daoist) Mountains in China, Taishan can be climbed by stepping up 7000 stairs – the sunrise is said to appear astonishingly beautiful. Together with 3 other interns from InternChina (Qingdao) and my boyfriend we took the High-speed train from Qingdao to Tai’an. We were all looking forward to a peaceful mountain experience with little rests here and there, the will to take the challenge and mastering 7000 steps within 4 hours is driving us.
I turn off my alarm and get up: Our Chinese hotel room doesn’t supply hot water at that time of the day, so a cold splash hits my body and brings me up to my feet.
Awake looks differently, but finally we are all ready to climb up the Holy Mountain, which is said to be so beautiful.
From our hotel to the bottom of Taishan it takes a 30 minutes walk, on our way we meet more and more Chinese people, who are on their way to the top, they are all eating, chatting, laughing…. We still try not to fall asleep whilst walking, though.
As we enter the gate which indicates the entrance to the Holy Mountain (entrance fee 130 RMB, students discount 65 RMB), the steps are starting… we realise too late, that it would have been fun to count the steps. However, we are sure someone double checked on the 7000 before… We get out our torches to enlighten the path, Chinese people passing by, everyone taking his own pace. Old grandma’s overtake without any lights: They seem to know the way.
Meanwhile it is 4 o’clock a.m. We make the first break as not everyone in our group is experienced with mountain climbing. A rest is always good to make your backpack feel lighter, we munch all the little snacks we took from home (or got packed by our worried Chinese host-families). The walk to the top is supposed to take 4-5 hours, we think we can make it easily to see the sunrise whilst we are walking up. However, after not even half of the way, twilight turns into sunshine. Seems, we missed the actual sunrise.
However, the closer we get to the top, the more people are crossing our way. We knew it before: Golden Week in China is going to be crazily crowded.
We are making our way up, with little tea breaks in between…eating more snacks: cookies, nuts, dried fruits, mini-sausages, Chinese mantou (a kind of steamed bread), drinking Green Tea… Chinese mountains are very interesting – because contrary to the belief in the West to protect valuable nature, Chinese mountains are exploited to the last: Rubbish covering the whole way up, sealed floor, shops with souvenirs and people, people, people (wearing fancy dresses as High-heels and suits)… Somehow, we thought Daoism had something to do with Harmony between Nature and Humans?
It becomes more and more difficult to take pictures without other people in it and at a certain point we have to give up: As thousands (or even millions?) of Chinese people stream downwards after fullfilling their mission of watching the sunrise, there’s no space anymore to go up. For about half an hour we are stuck on the path: No back, no forth. It is a good chance to listen to Chinese people saying things like: “Zhong guo ren Tai duo le!” (There are too many Chinese people!)… Ironic it is, we think, and try to focus on the beautiful landscape.
After 5 hours, walking upstairs, we are still not there. The group split up, we just want to run to the top (as fast as you can run after a 6hrs walk up a mountain), but Chinese grandparents are blocking the way – I wonder, will we be able to climb up 7000 steps when we are their age? Parents carry their tired kids… the steps are too high for them to climb. The only thing I can hear is my heartbeat and my breath, we stopped talking a while ago…
Suddenly… didn’t even think about reaching the top at one point anymore… it looks like we took the last step. A big platform, people taking pictures over pictures. this must be it: Mount Taishan! We finally made it and deserve to take a rest! 1545m above the sea level we can feel the fresh breeze and even though it was not enough to feel enlightened we are still surprised about ourselves how we could get up so early and spend the whole night hiking up a mountain.
After exploring all temples on the top, finishing our snacks and an intense photo-session with a Chinese people from all ages, we decide to save our knee joints and let the cable car carry us down to the bottom. Tired and exhausted we hang out in a little park next to the KFC where we restore our energies. Finally, we took the fast train back to Qingdao and fell into a deep sleep dreaming of 7000 Holy steps.
Note: If you are interested in applying for an internship in China, our team will assist you during your whole application process and stay. We believe, that exploring the Chinese Culture is crucial for understanding your life in China and creates a balance to your hard studies and internship – that’s why we organise regular Cultural and Sports Activities.