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Lofty Lushan Mountain
By JABAROOTOO ( travelchinaguide.com )
Located in the far north of Jiangxi province near the border with Hubei and Anhui provinces, Lushan Mountain is perched at almost 1,200 meters above the Yangtze plain giving easy access to the 1,500 meter high peaks surrounding it. It's a 30 minute bus ride from the nearest major city, the river port of Jiujiang. I arrived at Jiujiang's long distance bus station before midday from Wuhan and the next bus to Lushan was 1:30 pm. This was a good chance to try out my new fan as I waited in the sticky, oppressive summer heat wondering just how much cooler could it really be in Lushan Mountain.
Eventually the bus arrived. There is only one servicing the short round trip up the mountain but when you see it you have to wonder how it does this several times each day. It sports an extra water tank on the roof with a hose into the cab next to the driver where he intermittently turns on the tap to top up the radiator. There is no air-conditioner of course, just open windows. Just after leaving town the road narrows and begins to climb in an endless sting of switchbacks. Broad leafed sycamore trees with whitewashed trunks line the downhill side of the road serving a two-fold purpose. One is to act as the safety rail for vehicles and the other to offer an avenue of shade for the hot weary traveler. Even as we climbed I could feel the temperature dropping.
The engine sputtered and died twice during the trip and the driver calmly jumped down with screwdriver in hand and moved to the rear of the bus for a few moments before returning to try the engine once more. We never stopped for long and this seemed to be quite normal behavior for his tired old bus.
English, German and American ex-patriots established Guling in the late 1890's as a summer retreat from the sweltering heat of the Yangtze lowlands. It has a very European feel and most of the houses are villas of stone or timber with corrugated iron roofs of red, green and blue, set amidst the lush forests, lakes and streams. On a clear day you can even see the Yangtze and the nearby Poyang Lake, a large lake which drains into the Yangtze River.
In the 1930 Chiang Kaishek also built his summer retreat here, called Mei Lu Villa after his wife Soong Meiling and is worth the visit. Lushan has played host to many Chinese leaders, historic events and conventions, which explains some of the attraction for the Chinese who come here in droves. Scores of tourist hotels, sanatoriums and factory work-units' holiday hostels lie partly hidden on the forested slopes of the surrounding hills.
Despite the fact that this is a very popular resort for the Chinese and notoriously expensive I was able to rent a lovely inexpensive room (no AC) in the main street overlooking the park and the valley beyond. A little warm in the afternoons perhaps, while the sun went down, but I was grateful that I could watch the sunset and wake up in the mornings and look out over the treetops to the surrounding mountains under a clear blue sky. It was a sight for sore eyes after months of gloomy skies in Chongqing. At dusk the park below filled with people, tourists and locals alike, enjoying the balmy night air. I joined them for a while and chatted with some who could speak English to learn that many of the locals also commute to escape the heat.
You could almost forget you were in China apart from the loads of tourists here. The temperature was indeed much cooler than the lowlands and there was a very friendly, holiday atmosphere. The village of Guling has everything you need and it’s small and relatively easy to walk to most of the attractions.
I was befriended on the bus by a local teacher as we arrived at the ticket entrance gate, which is just a few kilometers outside Guling. She was not an English teacher, but an older woman learning English so she could speak with foreigners who came to visit and we still correspond.
Despite having to work three days each week during this summer holiday she made herself available to show me around in her free time. First she helped me book into my hotel, we then stopped by her home for her to change her shoes and pick up her phrase book and then we went on a short hike along the rugged escarpment on the northwestern rim of the village. She worked the next day so I was on my own. I took a long walk out to Lulin Lake, and Mao's former house which is today the Lushan Museum and walked back through the huge pine forest which is also home to a temple and Three Ancient Trees, a gingko and two cedars planted by monks 500years ago. I hardly saw anyone all day and enjoyed time out is some really pretty spots all to me. What bliss. I finished off the day by wandering around the village exploring back streets, old villas and churches.
Early next morning I met my new friend and we took a maxi taxi to one of the vantage points overlooking Poyang Lake some distance from Guling where we also visited the Botanical Gardens, which are quite impressive, and worth a visit. I planned to leave that afternoon so it was a bit of a rush to get back and check out of my hotel. As we left the hotel anticipating catching an earlier bus, it was pulling away down the street. My friend and I made frantic dash in order for me to catch it so that I could make a good connection to my next destination, Jingdezhen city, Jiangxi province.
It was not until I arrived in Jingdezhen city that I discovered that in my rush to the bus in Lushan Mountain, I had not turned in my hotel key. I asked for help from the hotel reception to post it back to them. Instead they sent me to the post office and back in a police car with one of the hotel staff to fill in the forms for me. I only had to pay the postage.
I am constantly amazed at the help and consideration that I receive from so many people in so many places.
Things to SEE and entrance FEES
Entrance fee is around 100 yuan or more (LP states 51 yuan but it was much more than this) and gives you access to the entire park area but you will have to pay extra to visit museums and villas if you are interested. Mei Lu Villa and Botanical Gardens were 10 yuan each when I visited.
There are several churches and many villas all numbered and marked on a walking map although very few are open to the public but you can have a close up look around the grounds or even inside if there is someone home.
Temples are dotted around the park but you will not see them until your final approach as they are very secluded and usually in dense forest.
Transport by shared maxi taxi is the most practical way to get around and not too expensive. You’ll have to negotiate before you leave and good idea is to take a taxi out and walk back to town along the road or hiking tracks.
Summer is a good time to visit as it is still quite cool
Restaurants can be expensive so check first on prices before ordering. I got ripped off in one nice little place. Small bottles of ice cold or frozen water may also be as much as three or four yuan.