The last post I wrote was called 101 Travel Experiences in China. Excited to share my adventures in China, I poured weeks worth of work into that post. But nobody read it. It was just too long. Plus, I made the mistake of putting in tourist attractions in China that were not worth doing. People don't care about those - they just want to know what to do... not what not to do. So being the industrious fellow that I am, I condensed my 10,000 word behemoth to only those attractions that were truly adventurous (this is, after all, an adventure travel blog).
1) Walk the Plank Road in the Sky on Mount Hua
Located a short day trip outside of Xian, Mount Hua is one of the five sacred mountains of China and has a long history of religious and historical significance. Reaching the northern summit takes approximately 5 hours and requires ascending a series of steep stone staircases (like most mountains in China). Mount Hua's crags and spines make for a beautiful, all be it, precipitous trek. So much so, that its been labeled the world's most dangerous hike. Probably the most infamous of all the attractions is the Plank Road in the sky, located on Mount Hua's south Peak. Fifty meters of wood precariously nailed to the side of a cliff takes you on a stroll 1000 meters above a spiky mountain range below.
2) Eat something weird on Wangfujing street
For the adventurous foodie, Wanfujing street in downtown Beijing is a place to test their constitution. Local food purveyors line the street hawking everything from flying lizards to tiny black scorpions. The scorpions, although skewered with a dowel, still wiggle and clamp their claws until just before they are unceremoniously killed and served. The name of the street is derived from 10 princely residents and a well of sweet water that was found underneath them, hence "Wang Fu" (princely residence), "Jing" (well). Today, the street is a labyrinth of hutongs (alleys) that feature some of the most peculiar food found in China.
3) Trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge
This tourist attraction in China is also one of the largest canyons in the world. The distance between the river and the highest peak is some 3,790 meters (12,434 feet). A 22 kilometer trek around the gorge affords one spectacular views and is usually done in three days. Most people start off at Jane's Guest house and take the "upper trail" that overlooks the gushing river and canyon below. There is descent exposure on this trek, so those with vertigo or fear of heights may want to sit this one out.
Photo: Travel Freak
4) Explore the Avatar Hallelujah Mountains
Zhangjiajie National Park, a world heritage site located in the Hunan province, is home to a unique set of stone pillars that rise vertically up to 3,500 feet. In three days, you can cover the vast majority of the 3,600 km2 (1,400 sq mi) park. In some parts, you'll need to muster your courage as there are many cliff faces, suspension bridges and ladders (Tiambo Mansion is a good adventurous hike) not too mention unscrupulous monkeys who will try to steal your fried potatoes. The major draw here is the highest pillar in the park, soaring 1,080 meters (3,540 ft). In former times, the column was called Heaven and Earth Column. Due to the success of a little movie by James Cameron, the people with power at Zhanjiajie have renamed this formation as “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain."
5) Walk the glass plank road on Tianmen Mountain
If you felt inspired by the plank road in the sky, but prefer to have a railing between you and oblivion, then the glass path on Tianmen Mountain maybe for you. The mountain itself is quite a looker, with perhaps the most wind-ey road in the world (99 curves in only 6.8 miles) and a keyhole cut through the mountainside, which some crazy people have flown through in wing suits. Tianmen Mountain is located near Zhangjiajie, so it's natural to double up on the attractions.
Photo: Jacques Beaulieu
6) Eat fried Durian
South East Asian countries consider Durian the "king of fruit". Interesting name, considering that many countries have barred it from public transportation due to its strong odor. I happened on this fruit by accident and had no idea what it was until I googled it at home. I will let Anthony Bourdain take it over for a second:
"Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother."
(Could anyone else hear Anthony Bourdain's voice in their head while reading the above?) When fried, however, the fruit's odor isn't overpowering, at least not to me. Along with fried banana, this was my favorite street food I tried in china. I guess I have a thing for fried fruits. Find it on Nan Luo Gu Xiang in Beijing.
7) Hike the Path of 18 Bends to Taishan's summit
Taishan, also one of the five sacred mountains in China, is associated with sunrise, birth and renewal. Many Chinese believe that it is the most sacred of all mountains, having a history of worship that stretches back more than 3,000 years. If you've ever seen a picture of Taishan, chances are it was of its iconic stairs that seem to stretch to heaven. Walking the 7,000 stone stairs can be a tiring endeavor. Expect to see people sitting down to rest their wary legs. Lonely Planet claims that the stairs are nearly vertical, however that's not really true. At the most, they are 70 degrees...
8) Visit Kashgar's Markets
Located on the border of Tajikistand and Kyrgyzstan, the remoteness of Kashgar is what makes it adventurous. Lying at the crossroads of the ancient silk road, it is the western most city in all of China. So naturally, trading is second nature to its main inhabitants, the Uighur, a Turkic-Muslim group. One of the best ways to experience the city is by exploring the local markets. There are over 20 different bazars located in this this multicultural city, with the animal market being one if its most lively.
Photo: La Priz
9) Make a pilgrimage hike to Mount Kailash
Located in Tibet, four religions - Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism - consider Mount Kailash sacred (feel free to debate it's proper inclusion in the list in the comments section). Although the truly devote make the trip in one day, most hike the 32 mile base of Mount Kailash in three days. A pilgrimage trek around this sacred mountain is said to bring good fortune. Just don't try to climb it, which is considered a dire sin in all religions. Those who do so are rumored to have died in the process.
10) Take a kungfu lesson in Shaolin
Shaolin Monastery, located in the Henan province, is considered the origin of Zen Buddhism. The name is derived from from the peak at which base it sits - Shaoshi. There is a kungfu academy located 500 meters from the monastery. Here, you can take a lesson from a kung fu student or master. The school is located on the left hand side of the academy complex. If you can't find it, just ask around and someone will point you in the right direction. They will train you in whatever you want, including weapons. There are also plenty of hiking trails in the area including Wuru Peak, Shaoshishan and Sanhuangzhai, which also features a cliff side path. To get the full experience, sleep inside the small town where all the kung fu schools are located.