Friday, December 9, 2016

lost in huangshan

"i think we're lost" that's one of the worst things one would hear when on top of a mountain range with almost zero visibility. we were already walking for an hour when a snow breeze passed over the mountain range. 
mt huang or simply huangshan mountain range has several ways to be reached. there are are trails up to its mountain peaks. during winter, these trails are closed and the only option would be thru cable cars. three cable cars located at different points at huangshan's base. these cable cars will bring you to a level and from there you can trek to its many peaks. 
we took the Yungu cable car which brought us up to White Goose range. it took about 20 minutes. the view of the first few minutes of the ascend were mostly trees covered with snow but as we went up, it gave us a view of Huangshan's magnificence. its granite ridges. 
but it was not for long. as we continued to ascend, it became foggy. few minutes more, we realized that we can't see both ends of the cable lines. it was already close to zero visibility. that meant one thing. freezing cold temperature at the mountain range. 
we reached the end of Yungu line late afternoon. just right after we went out of the cable car, we immediately felt the cold. temperature was at -4C. it was very different at the base where one can wear a single-layer jacket. here, we had to wear all the gears for the hike.
we had a map but we stall had to depend more on instinct and some luck. some signs were already covered in snow and not all trails and routes were in our map. we passed by an inn which we almost decided to just check-in if a room was available. with hope though, we decided to continue and find the hotel which we booked in advance.
this time we found ourselves ascending to a radio tower. this meant we're going the wrong way. another half hour hiking and found ourselves descending. only to find out that we were still going the wrong way. it was the route going back down. 
before we continued our way down, a local passed by and helped us find our way to our hotel. it was almost 6:00pm when we reached the satellite center. it was a sign that we were going the right way. we rested and there we met other travelers. a short descend lead us to our hotel. finally! it was already dark but just in time for dinner. 

exploring huagnshan peaks post up next...

this post is part of the winter blog post series which will feature our huangshan, harbin, takayama and nagano trips.

Huangshan National Park
Category: National Park
Site: UNESCO World Heritage Site

location: 
Mt Huang (Huangshan)
Elevation: 1,864masl (Highest point)
Province: Anhui
Country: China
Island: Greater Eurasia

how to get there:
by plane:
There are several flights daily within China. Often coming from the major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou. Take a plane to Huangshan-Tunxi Airport. From the airport, take bus 19 to Qiyun station (1 hour or less) which will lead you to another bus terminal to the drop off point of Huangshan. there are several options to get to the top depending on the season. you need to coordinate with your hotel to get this information. once you reached your drop off area, you can choose to take cable car or trek your way up. during winter though, most of the trail up are closed for safety.

by train from Shanghai:
there are daily train trips. Take the train from Shanghai Hongqiao Station to Hefei Station (6 hours) or Shanghai to Huangshan North Railway Station (6 hours). From here, take bus 19 to Qiyun station (1 hour or less) which will lead you to another bus terminal to the drop off point of Huangshan. there are several options to get to the top depending on the season. you need to coordinate with your hotel to get this information. once you reached your drop off area, you can choose to take cable car or trek your way up. during winter though, most of the trail up are closed for safety.

by bus from Shanghai:
there are daily bus trips from Shanghai and Hangzhou to Huanghsan. go to Shanghai South Bus Station and take the bus trip to Tunxi. you need to tell the bus conductor to drop you at the bus terminal to Huangshan drop off (depending which route/options you will take). once you reached your drop off area, you can choose to take cable car or trek your way up. during winter though, most of the trail up are closed for safety.

tips and recommendations:
1. once you've booked your hotel, let them make a detailed instruction to get there. so as for you to get the updated options.
2. when you're in China, always take note that they have several airports, train stations and bus stations even within one city. so it is very important that you make sure which of these stations or terminals you will be taking. i even recommend that you have a copy of it in Chinese characters. the way you pronounce these places might be different and they might end up leading you to another place.
3. you can actually book online for train or bus tickets, please make sure that you know where to pick up these tickets. online bookings usually requires you to bring your online booking to a ticket station to claim your tickets. so make sure that it is clearly specified which station you can get your ticket. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

apo reef mindoro

you've been traveling around the Philippines for quite some time and has stopped counting the islands that you've visited. you cant even hardly identify which island has the best white sand, pristine clear waters or the one that brings endless underwater amazement. well, i think we're sharing the same dilemma. 

most of the time, when i visit less known islands, i would end up saying i thought i've seen the best. it seemed like no one had really set a standard in gauging a beautiful island. though travel magazines have ranked their top islands mostly based on the number of high class resorts available and its accessibility. the isolated and almost untouched islands will less likely make it to the list, where transportation is a concern and you only have tree shades or a tent to spend a night.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

st sophia church harbin

why would somebody from the Philippines visit China to see a church? it may actually sound like a Chinese local going to the Philippines to eat dumplings. but not quite. when i searched for Harbin online, i found St Sophia church. an iconic Russian Orthodox church in Harbin. 
i've been longing to see this type of structure because of the famous St Basil church in Moscow. so i didn't have second thoughts. immediately decided to make Harbin as my side trip to Beijing. it was initially Mongolia but then train trips to Ulanbataar from Beijing was just twice a week.
the next day after i arrived in Harbin, i got myself a map from the hostel and walked my way to St Sophia. felt the early morning breeze but still hoped that it would snow. it has been two weeks according to the daily weather that the city had no snowfall despite it was still on a month of February. 
good thing the hostel where i stayed is part of Daoli, Harbin's central district, where the church is also located. it just took me 15minutes to reach the square. there were many beautiful colonial structures along  the way but when i saw the church, i was awed by its scale.
i have always been fascinated at huge brick structures but it was the church dark green cupola and the multiple golden cross that made it even more striking. being in the center of the open square, it was just imposing. it somehow made me feel like i was in Russia.
thru the years when a large community of Russians occupied Harbin, other minority groups from Ukraine, Germany, Israel and Denmark also established structures and churches in the city. but what remained today as iconic structures were predominantly Orthodox. 
sad though that like the church of St Basil in Moscow, this church is already a museum. contrary to my thought that it still is a church. but let's look at some of the similarities and the differences of the two churches:

St Basil Church (Moscow, Russia)
Date built: 1561
Location: Red Square
Height: 47.5meters
Number of domes: 9
Number of spires: 2
Wall: Bricks
Floor layout: Irregular

St Sophia Church (Harbin, China)
Date Built: 1907
Location: Harbin Square
Height: 53.3meters
Number of domes: 1
Number of spires: 5
Wall: Bricks

Floor layout: typical cross-shaped orthodox style

it may not be as old as St Basil Church, its history as a spiritual symbol to the Russians who lived in the city, makes it the most iconic structure in Harbin. the church was closed in 1959 and was a warehouse for certain years. only in 1996 when it was decided to be re-opened as a museum of architectural heritage.
there was not much to see inside except for old photos and a miniature set of the old city and the church. but then i was more interested in the interior structure itself more than the photo exhibit. the rustic pillars and the high dome ceilings was beautiful.
temperature that day was ranging from -5C to 0C. so i stayed inside the museum to about 20minutes for the heat. checked out some souvenirs and bought post cards before i went out. not knowing that outside the church it started to snow. 
the entire time i thought i will leave the place without experiencing snow fall. it made St Sophia Church even more majestic. quite a great chance to have captured the church without and with snow on one day. 



structure profile:
church: from 1907-1958
closed: from 1959-1996
museum: from 1997 to present
built by Russians as a spiritual symbol
re-opened by China as a museum

location:
St Sophia Cathedral-Museum
Harbin Square - Toulong St corner Zhaolin St
short walk from Harbin's famous Zhongyangdajie

for more updated information:
Website: St Sophia Church
Admission: 3-5USD
Open: 8:30am-6:00pm


how to get there:
by plane: 
most major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou have regular direct flights to Harbin.
by train:
Trains Schedule Beijing to Harbin
Bullet Train:
Train D29 - Beijing ETD 7:00am ETA 3:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D25 - Beijing ETD 10:00am ETA 6:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D101 - Beijing ETD 1:50pm ETA 9:50pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D27 - Beijing ETD 3:15pm ETA 11:15pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Sleeper Train:
Train T157 - Beijing ETD 6:18am ETA 5:00pm (Estimated trip length: 10hrs)
Train K339 - Beijing ETD 11:00am ETA 2:40pm (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K297 - Beijing ETD 12:00nn ETA 2:00am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train T39 - Beijing ETD 1:45pm ETA 4:45am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K2265 - Beijing ETD 1:57pm ETA 8:30am (Estimated trip length: 18hrs)
Train T47 - Beijing ETD 6:57pm ETA 6:20am (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K1082 - Beijing ETD 8:43pm ETA 4:04pm (Estimated trip length: 19hrs)
Train T17 - Beijing ETD 9:23am ETA 8:30pm (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K19 - Beijing ETD 11:00pm ETA 3:04pm (Estimated trip length: 16hrs)

Note: 
Trains from Beijing to Harbin will be from Beijing South Railway Station (Kaiyang Rd Cor Nanzhan Xingfu Rd)
Train length varies depending on the train speed and the number of stopovers.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

my first impression of harbin

just when i got out of the train, i immediately felt the freezing cold temperature of a February afternoon in China's northernmost province, Heilongjiang. another large open space out of the station in view. like almost anywhere in China, i just have to follow the flow.

what lead me here was simply to see the ice city and St Sophia cathedral. a Russian Orthodox church built during the Russian occupation. a time that formed what Harbin is today. a mix of Chinese and Russian influence.
unlike the cities of Guangzhou and Shanghai, where much of its structures were influence by French and United Kingdom, Harbin was greatly influenced by Russians and Jews. there was even a certain time when the number of Russians were more than the locals.
but what remains of Russia in this city today are just structures and monuments. Harbin's industrial growth went along with China's economic boom. thus, becoming one of the country's mega-city with a population of around 6 million.
unlike the busy streets of Shanghai, Harbin even at its busiest hours remains uncrowded. Zhongyang Street or Zhongyangdajie is the main tourist area whole year round. a street composed of preserved colonial buildings now used as commercial spaces.
hundreds of these colonial buildings are found in the city. this was not what i expected. this has now been one of my favorite cities.

how to get there:
by plane: 
most major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou have regular direct flights to Harbin.
by train:
Trains Schedule Beijing to Harbin
Bullet Train:
Train D29 - Beijing ETD 7:00am ETA 3:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D25 - Beijing ETD 10:00am ETA 6:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D101 - Beijing ETD 1:50pm ETA 9:50pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D27 - Beijing ETD 3:15pm ETA 11:15pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Sleeper Train:
Train T157 - Beijing ETD 6:18am ETA 5:00pm (Estimated trip length: 10hrs)
Train K339 - Beijing ETD 11:00am ETA 2:40pm (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K297 - Beijing ETD 12:00nn ETA 2:00am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train T39 - Beijing ETD 1:45pm ETA 4:45am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K2265 - Beijing ETD 1:57pm ETA 8:30am (Estimated trip length: 18hrs)
Train T47 - Beijing ETD 6:57pm ETA 6:20am (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K1082 - Beijing ETD 8:43pm ETA 4:04pm (Estimated trip length: 19hrs)
Train T17 - Beijing ETD 9:23am ETA 8:30pm (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K19 - Beijing ETD 11:00pm ETA 3:04pm (Estimated trip length: 16hrs)

Note: 
Trains from Beijing to Harbin will be from Beijing South Railway Station (Kaiyang Rd Cor Nanzhan Xingfu Rd)
Train length varies depending on the train speed and the number of stopovers.

Friday, April 25, 2014

beijing to harbin by train

Harbin is about 1,200km from Beijing and that is like traveling three times the distance of Manila to Laoag. so you either take two hours plane ride from Beijing or a 10-15hours sleeper train or the 8hours bullet train. i chose the latter for the experience and comfort. 8hours might sound long but just give me a book, a note, a lap table and a reclining window seat that's it.
you won't run out of options if you travel by train to Harbin (see train schedule on how to get there). some leave Beijing as early as 6am and as late as 11:00pm in several intervals. the most preferred option would be a sleepover trip but in this particular trip i chose a morning trip leaving Beijing by seven in the morning. 
this route is part of China's Trans-Machurian route and i won't sleep over a trip like this. getting to Harbin by bullet train will take few very short stopovers to major cities of Changchun and Shenyang. the comfortable reclining seats and the nice view made me took photos from time to time.
coming from a tropical country, seeing a different country during winter is a delight. from beautiful misty fields to frozen lakes. for me, views like these just inside the train is like paying the fare for a scenic tour. no guides needed. 
few hours before reaching Harbin came a hilly field with windmills. when i reached the winter city a freezing 2 degrees Celsius welcomed me. it was a sign that i am indeed at China's northernmost province.

next post: a first look at the city of Harbin

how to get there:
by train:
Trains Schedule Beijing to Harbin
Bullet Train:
Train D29 - Beijing ETD 7:00am ETA 3:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D25 - Beijing ETD 10:00am ETA 6:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D101 - Beijing ETD 1:50pm ETA 9:50pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D27 - Beijing ETD 3:15pm ETA 11:15pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Sleeper Train:
Train T157 - Beijing ETD 6:18am ETA 5:00pm (Estimated trip length: 10hrs)
Train K339 - Beijing ETD 11:00am ETA 2:40pm (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K297 - Beijing ETD 12:00nn ETA 2:00am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train T39 - Beijing ETD 1:45pm ETA 4:45am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K2265 - Beijing ETD 1:57pm ETA 8:30am (Estimated trip length: 18hrs)
Train T47 - Beijing ETD 6:57pm ETA 6:20am (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K1082 - Beijing ETD 8:43pm ETA 4:04pm (Estimated trip length: 19hrs)
Train T17 - Beijing ETD 9:23am ETA 8:30pm (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K19 - Beijing ETD 11:00pm ETA 3:04pm (Estimated trip length: 16hrs)

Note: 
Trains from Beijing to Harbin will be from Beijing South Railway Station (Kaiyang Rd Cor Nanzhan Xingfu Rd)
Train length varies depending on the train speed and the number of stopovers.

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