What’s the best thing about joining the plastic-poncho’d throngs of thousands trudging up China’s most famous mountain in the middle of a steady rain, all hoping to catch the mountain’s famous sunrise the next morning?
Why, that’d be the part where you rise at 4:30AM in your over-priced accomodation, walk out the door into a thick soup of cloud, climb in the dark to the highest peak anyway while resigning yourself to disappointment, discover at the top that you were the only person stupid enough today to even bother trying, check your watch and then…
…the rain stops, a breeze kicks in, the clouds dissolve before your eyes — and then there it is, that much-hyped Huangshan sunrise.
And what’s the worst part of all this? Well, that’d be the part on the way back down, when you run into all the people who travelled much farther and at much greater cost to get here, who made the long hike in ill-fitting jeans and wobbly shoes, and who
followed obeyed the rest of their tour group that cloudy morning in not making the final slippery pre-dawn climb. Sure, it’s just a sunrise — but to Chinese tourists these days, a famous mountain without the sunrise is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Neither are are really all that impressive, but everyone back home will still consider your trip a failure.
Persistence, a little individual risk-taking — I guess those paid off for me this morning. But looking at those miserable shivering masses in their cling-wrapped ponchos, shuffling silently behind their tour guides on their way back down to the tour bus, I felt undeserving of my prize.
Even on vacation, being Chinese is hard.