Saturday, 25 July 2020

The Best Asian Mountain Experience

All over the world, mountains invoke awe and admiration, attracting visitors from far and wide. Across Asia, some mountain destinations have become global tourism icons, from the giddy heights of Nepal’s Mount Everest to the lovely snow-capped symmetry of Fuji-San in Japan.

Like both these famous peaks, several places across Asia have become popular tourism magnets. The iconic status of Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu attracts thousands of ecotourists, hikers, climbers, birdwatchers and plain day-trippers to the Kinabalu National Park each year. Those who wish to climb the mountain itself are advised to make reservations at least six months in advance as only 135 climbers are permitted each day.
The stunning volcanic crater and spectacular sunrises at Mount Bromo in Indonesia lure a daily stream of visitors who ascend its slopes on foot, by jeep or on the hardy and lovable local ponies. India’s Doddabetta Peak is close to the beautiful montane resort of Ooty in Tamil Nadu, and has scenic views of Bandipur National Park. South Korea attracts tourists to its popular ski resorts, with our particular favourite peak being Balwangsan Mountain in Yeongpyong.
Some peaks are only accessible to the intrepid adventure-tourists and determined climbers. Mongolia’s Mount Khuiten is located in what is considered to be one of the most remote and untouched regions in the world. Visitors have to take a couple of flights, endure a rugged 400km drive, and then undertake a 17km trek just to reach the base camp of this pristine peak.
Our choice for Best Asian Mountain Experience, however, is the legendary Huangshan in China’s Anhui Province. Since ancient times, poets, painters and pundits of prose have tried to capture the dramatic magnificence of the amazing and surreal-seeming landscape. A visit to the actual place, however, shows that reality is every much as breathtakingly beautiful today as was displayed in ancient art.
Sheer rock-faces tower up to dizzying heights, actually piercing the clouds to create a visual fantasy for the stunned traveller. Solitary pine trees calmly grow out of tiny side-fissures at terrifying heights, lending a serene tone to the dramatic landscapes.  What makes Huangshan a truly memorable experience is that the most heart-stopping spots are accessible to visitors, complete with all modern facilities that an international traveller would expect!

Over time, several routes with over 60,000 steps have been hewn on the sheer granite faces of Huangshan. Climbers take between 3 to 7 hours but porters laden with huge loads of things like furniture, refrigerators, building material and other heavy items can take a back-breaking 12 hours. For savvy and well-heeled tourists, however, there are three spectacular cable-car routes, each taking between 10 to 12 minutes.
At the foot of Huangshan and along the access highways there are numerous accommodation-options ranging from luxury hotels to spartan backpacker hostels. For us, however, the most memorable part of our Huangshan experience was staying at the small but well-appointed hotels built decades ago on the giddy heights of the legendary peak. Nestling in nooks and crannies of the magnificent mountain, they provide quintessential Chinese hospitality with surprisingly excellent service.
Stunning scenery, spectacular sunsets, dramatic landscapes and unexpected levels of hospitality are just some of the elements that make China’s Huangshan our choice for Best Asian Mountain Experience!

Photographs © Phosamos, Patricia Malina, Jade Screen Hotel

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