Day 06 – Qingchengshan and 44hrs Train Ride to Lhasa
For my friends’ entire stay in China, today was the only day where we had a self-organised trip. The Tibetan tour, Sichuan Opera, Panda Conservatory and even the train and bus tickets were arranged by tour companies. Even though I usually avoided organised tours, I felt it’s a better choice when you have a group of people traveling together. By joining an organised tour, the whole group can relax and need not worry about logistic details. People have different preferences and not everyone thinks that finding one’s way around is fun. If anything does go wrong with the organised tour, the group can just place the responsibility on the tour agent and probably laughed it off as bad luck. I think it makes for a happier travel group.
But for Qingchengshan, I thought we should do it on our own because it seemed pretty straightforward. A self-organised trip to climb a physically demanding mountain also look like a suitable ice-breaking activity. The exercise would probably help prepare us for the higher altitudes in Tibet. We have a long train journey ahead to ride out any sole muscles.
So in the morning 650am, we boarded bus 27 to the train station. At the train station, I distributed our train tickets. These train tickets had our passport numbers on them. After passing through the ticket checking and luggage scanners to the body frisking area, a great thing happened. CC lost her train ticket. She checked her pockets and bags but couldn’t find it. There was a mass of bodies at the ticket checking and luggage scanners. We weren’t sure if the ticket had dropped there. Since the ticket was only 15RMB, we decided to just buy another ticket. We headed to the ticketing office which was another building away and joined the long queues. Time was tight but if necessary, we did not mind buying fresh tickets at a later timing for all four of us. But China train system had some other ideas. We cannot purchase another ticket in the same day for the same direction under the same passport. We cannot request for a reissue of the ticket. We cannot purchase a ticket less than 30 minutes before departure. It’s all very complicated. CC was very apologetic and asked us to go ahead without her. Of course, we wouldn’t hear of it. I really thought it’s fun to have such disruptions.
We decided to take the long distance bus from Xinnanmen station to Qingchengshan instead. We didn’t know the bus schedule but we did know it will double the journey time. Finding a cab that’s willing to go on the meter proved to be our next problem. We tried 5 cabs before succeeding. At Xinnanmen, we managed to purchase 4 tickets for the 915am bus to Qingchengshan. See, things turned out okay even if we were slightly delayed. Because of it, we even have time for some breakfast. CC gave us a treat.
In the bus, a lady offered us a bypass route up Qingchengshan without the need to purchase the 90RMB entrance tickets. She would charge us a small fee. I have seen this happening in quite a few tourist spots around China. I took up such offers when I was a poor student and it always turned out fine. But we weren’t doing it today.
We reached Qingchengshan at around 11am. Qingchengshan is a Taoist mountain while the houshan (back mountain) is a Buddhist mountain. I thought that’s pretty interesting.
I used to aspire climbing all the five great Taoist mountains (五岳) and the four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism (四大佛教名山). But so far, I have only visited Tai Shan, Hua Shan, Heng Shan (Beiyue) and Emei Shan.
Taken from Wikipedia:
1 The Five Great Mountains
1.1 East Great Mountain (Dōngyuè): Tài Shān
1.2 West Great Mountain (Xīyuè): Huà Shān
1.3 South Great Mountain (Nányuè): Héng Shān (Hunan)
1.4 North Great Mountain (Běiyuè): Héng Shān
1.5 Center Great Mountain (Zhōngyuè): Sōng Shān
2 The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism
2.1 Wǔtái Shān
2.2 Éméi Shān
2.3 Jiǔhuá Shān
2.4 Pǔtuó Shān
Qingchengshan is also listed under another set of 4 Taoist Mountains. So, another mountain off my list. 😛
As the climb was not very easy on the legs and we were tight on time, we decided to take the cable cars. But we also did not want to miss out the scenery on the walking trail. So J the photographer hiked while the rest of us took the cable cars.
A couple seeking advice from the wise.
Dao or Tao represents Taoism.
Late autumn colours.
The temple at the peak
Guess what are they looking at?
We managed to catch the 445pm fast train back from Qingchengshan to Chengdu. Sim’s Cozy had allowed us for a late check-out as our Lhasa train departs at 8:59pm.
Back at Chengdu train station, we took a pedicab back to Sim’s Cozy. The ride was exciting in heavy Chengdu traffic. We can smell the smoke and touch the vehicles beside us.
We quickly packed and left Sim’s Cozy for the the 44 hour long train ride to Tibet.
It’s really nice to have 4 people traveling together as we can occupy a whole soft sleeper cabin.
Bought KFC for dinner on the train. You didn’t know there is a KFC cabin on the Chengdu to Lhasa train?
While having our dinner, J played a video documentary of Qinghai-Tibet railway on his iPad. It was very informative and make the ride more interesting as we can understand the problems and appreciate the efforts that went into the construction of the railway line.
After the dinner, we played cards until 1130pm when it’s time for bed. But before we, or rather I, snored the night away, we popped our acclimatization pills. These are Acetazolamide tablets which would assist to speed up altitude acclimatization and relieve symptoms. What it does is to force our kidneys to excrete bicarbonate, making our blood more acidic which in turn increases the oxygen level in the blood.
If I was traveling alone, I might not take the pills as I prefer natural acclimatization whatever that means. But traveling with others, you have a responsibility to the group. If I did not take any pills and suffered from altitude sickness later, it would affect my fellow travelers. So I couldn’t really take such risks. See, I am not quite the anti-social and self-centered loner. 😀