It’s nearly 2 when we start up the long, long lift to Tianmen Mountain (just Tianmen, not Tiananmen). The day is smoggy, as I suspect most days are around here, and the humidity has burned off as much as it’s going to. Sam was marveling at the good weather earlier, certain that the lack of clouds meant we’d have a spectacular aerial view. But no, visibility isn’t more than a mile or so, and the city is soon lost in the haze.
At the high peak, they’ve constructed a walkway around the cliff, a sort of single-lane tourist highway. It’s a nice view, with lesser peaks marching off into the bluish haze and the city a tan smudge in the distance. Red flags are tied to many of the overhanging trees, carrying wishes and prayers, giving the whole place a festive yet reflective air. The path goes on around the contours of the peak, weaving in and out of the gorges. As you go around the light changes, making each new corner rounded a new perspective.
Sam, however, finds this all pretty much the same. We’ve been here 20 minutes already: I’ve seen it, haven’t I?
He’ll wait for me here if I desire to climb the 990 steps to the top.
Of course I’m climbing to the top. I didn’t give up on my views from the high peak just to stop at the parking lot/souvenir gallery/construction site and turn around.
Down the other side is not the verdant gateway to the mountainous hinterland so much as another stairway under construction and a dim view through the smog of further peaks.
Why, oh why, then, did you rush me through the parts I was actually interested in spending more time at!
Well, let’s see a bit of the city.
What’s there to see?
Er, not much. Anything you want to shop for?
Nothing in particular.
So we spend some time wandering around the city center until dark and it’s “time” for dinner. I dislike eating so early, but it’s on the schedule to eat now, so fine. We have a reservation for traditional hot pot. Which is very nice, once you get used to just setting aside the parts of chicken not usually considered food.
Though of course once we’re done we still have time to kill but now the lively market has packed up (why not linger longer in the market and eat later???). So we go back to where we had lunch, a place owned by Sam’s friends and where we stashed the luggage for the afternoon, and hang around sipping tea and chatting before it’s reasonable to head for the airport.