Last weekend, as part of a Spicy Horse team building adventure, we took the company to China’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon – Yellow Mountain. Also known as Mt. Huangshan, Yellow Mountain refers to an area of scenic mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and gorges in Anhui province.
Our adventure began at the Spicy offices in Shanghai. We arranged to have a big bus take us two hours south to Hangzhou for dinner, then on to Anhui and the base of the Yellow Mountain region. About 25 people from Spicy and another 10 from Red Rocket (our buddy Jung’s game company) loaded onto the bus at 4 in the afternoon. Shanghai rush hour traffic, here we come!
After a yummy dinner in Hangzhou we drove 4 hours to Yellow Mountain. It was midnight when we arrived, the village was dead quiet and seemed deserted. This would be the last time for the next two days things would feel quiet and empty.
As it turns out, large numbers of Chinese people really like to visit Yellow Mountain. Really large numbers. Upon arriving at the mountain we discovered that half of China had decided to take advantage of the nice weather and visit the mountain. Oops. Who knew mountains had waiting lines?
We spent hours queuing up and down the beautiful terrain. Our fellow mountain tourists were in fine form: pushing, shoving, and generally misbehaving – all while precariously shambling along too-narrow paths over 1000ft cliff sides. Never underestimate Chinese ambition to get ahead at any cost – even when “ahead of what” isn’t at all clear. (Do you sense sarcasm? Visit the mountain, you’ll get where it’s coming from.)
Mountain conquered, we retired to a tranquil bamboo forest lodge. Dinner on the mountain costs more, tastes worse, and takes longer to arrive – but after a long day of hiking and starving, everything seems heavenly. Much Chinese white liquor was consumed, many toasts were made – and as usual I felt like the luckiest man alive. Life in China and time spent building a team – ultimately, the closest many of us have to family here – is sometimes more rewarding than words can express.
Sentiment and sleep passed, the next morning arrives in true China fashion – workers clanging metal against stone. 6am. Apparently stone in China deserves loud punishment – for what exactly, unknown. Anyway, sleep is overrated.
More bus. A visit to where the beautiful “bamboo forest flying” scenes were shot in “Crouch Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Moments reflecting by crystal blue waters. Then more bus. We stopped in a village called Hong Cun for lunch. Stepping through homes built during the Qing dynasty – in 1646! – one is humbled by the history and longevity of Chinese culture. Where else do people make their lives in homes that are 360 years old?
Riding back into Shanghai I realized something funny… what I once considered an overly chaotic and irrationally hurried city – something too big and brash to get close to – now feels warm, familiar, and comforting. It’s always good to come back home.