First stop: Shanghai
A couple of years back, I was just finishing my freshman year in university. it was a summer break. To us Muslims, it was fasting time, the holy month of Ramadhan.
My nephew who were and still lives in the UK came to visit me in Beijing. Just in case if you were wondering how old my nephew is, he was born in 1996. So, at the time he was 18.
As a full-time always stressed about school student, we should make full use of our summer break, not just by taking my nephew, named Adam by the way around Beijing, I believed it would be a great idea to spend time outside of Beijing as well.
Although by that time, I had already been in China for almost two years, I have yet to explore China. I mean China is huge! So, Adam and I decided to go to Shanghai and its surrounding cities as well like Suzhou and Hangzhou, eventually what most people would do when they go to Shanghai.
We spent a good ten days in Shanghai. Because it was Ramadhan, we wanted to take things slow, not trying to finish every single spot within a couple of days.
We went to the Shanghai Pearl Tower, the night view was spectacular! Although we had to go through a pack of people and we were practically canned sardines, drowning in sweats and saliva, but it was well worth definitely.
We went to all the places that you should go or come across when you are there from Jing An Temple (静安寺） to Xintiandi (新天地).
Also, for those interested to go to Shanghai, you can refer to this article for Shanghai Metro!
However, being someone who is not a big fan of big metropolitan like Shanghai. It lacked some sort of connection to the natural world I usually chase after whenever I travel.
So, of course, we wanted to go to Hangzhou. I have heard so much of how stunning West Lake is. How it is filled with utmost tranquility that cannot be found elsewhere. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side. Most of the times we were there it was raining. So, all the initial plans of going to Suzhou and Hangzhou from the beginning were scraped off. But also because of the fact we have been to a water town similar to the one in Suzhou.
But indeed, one shall not give up! We thought we should still go out of Shanghai since we have practically gone to all the places we wanted. Mission completed if I say so myself *wink*. So, we did what most millennial would do. We googled where we should go since we did not want our time to be wasted. So wise huh.
Pop of idea
And within a blink of an eye or two, or rather after a lot of blinks, we decided to go to a mountainous area which we had no clue where it is, or how to get there, named Dong Bai Shan (东白山) or if it is translated in English, it should be called East White Mountain.
You guys need to further clarify this, this is just me main hentam suka hati haha. Okay focus.
So, this was rather a 说走就走 plan which can also be directly translated as “cakap jalan terus jalan” kind of concept.
Okay, I’m going off track for a couple of minutes just to clarify why I love this concept. For me, whenever I travel I always have a full-on itinerary filled with every essential travel info from transportation, subway map and downright to the nearest ATM, no I’m not that organized.
But you get what I mean. Most of the time, those unplanned routes are usually the best part of traveling. You get to encounter so much more than you anticipated.
So, a piece of advice, if you are like me, who tries to follow itineraries so much when traveling, try to loosen up a little bit, you might think you don’t get the full-on experience you are seeking for but I assure you, you are in for an adventure of a lifetime.
The unplanned route
Back to our mountain journey. We of course eventually found the info we needed to reach the place but because DongBai Shan is not a very well-known place in China, the information we could get was very limited but we went with our guts and went anyway.
One hour after we had the idea of going, We took a train from Shanghai to a very unfamiliar train station named Zhuji (诸暨), the journey took us three hours, and because we were so eager to go, we took the hard seat ticket but unfortunately we had to stand all the way, probably due to the fact we were quite lost in the train at that particular time.
Ohh also I forgot to mention, by this time I was not only traveling with my nephew, but my friend who studies in Shanghai were with us throughout our time there.
So three of us stood on the train whilst everyone watching at us wondering and curious about where we came from, due to our hijab and the color of our skin. When we arrived, we jumped on a not so fancy Uber, in China we call it 黑车 which literally translates to black car or illegal taxi.
The Zhuji Hospitality
In the car, we were quite anxious, to be honest. The route from the train to the base of the mountain was quite scary. This is where my imaginations come to life thanks to all the thriller movies I’ve seen.
Alhamdulillah, we then arrived. We were greeted by a friendly and lovely old couple, somewhere in their 60s, who were kind enough to offer their place for a stay of course with a certain amount of money. Also, the uncle with small physique but had the biggest smile offered to guide us up the mountain.
This uncle has lived his entire life here in Zhuji. The guy could walk blindfolded up the mountain if he wanted to. He told us to get a good night sleep. The wife gave us some food to eat because we have to leave the next morning at 3 am. We will need a couple of hours to reach the top to catch the sunrise.
The sunrise chase
The very next day, we woke up and was greeted by an all smiling uncle ready to raise the roof.
For someone who is very “athletic”, I had to take a couple of pauses or more *laughing at myself* throughout the climb. Pheww, all the workout, and need I remind you it was Ramadhan. Along the way, I felt I will never be able to finish. However, the nature around me somehow boosted my energy to move forward.
What could have taken us a couple of hours, it took me an extra hour to get up there, but nevertheless I was proud! Achievement unlocked indeed, I was seriously considering to turn back every minute I climbed. And of course, I did not have any expectations or whatsoever going there. Indeed Dongbaishan surprised me on so many levels.
It was truly breathtaking. China has yet outdone itself. Although it may take a whole while to unfold every hidden mountain in this region, it never fails to leave me simply in awe each time.
A special thanks to the uncle who had the patience to climb with us and shown us a great amount of hospitality.