We recently had a three day weekend in honor of DUT’s school-wide sports day. As tempting as it was to see what the day consisted of, I decided it was a good opportunity to take a weekend trip somewhere nearby. Bingyu Valley is rumored to be a “Little Guilin” (for its mountain peaks and cliffs) and or “Oriental Miniature Switzerland.” I haven’t been to Guilin or Switzerland, but I’m pretty sure it can’t compare. It was, however, a nice place to get out of the city and see a little bit of nature.
Our group consisted of myself, Margaret, Zhizhi (Margaret’s friend) and Kat and Jason (our PiA buddies from Shenyang). We set out on Friday morning with a three hour bus ride from Dalian to Zhuanghe (庄河), the town nearest Bingyu Valley. At the bus station in Zhuanghe, Zhizhi had an aunt who was kind enough to pick us up and drive us the additional 45 minutes to the Bingyu Valley (冰峪沟) area. We were concerned about finding a cheap place to stay, but ended up in a hotel right outside the park entrance that cost us each 10 kuai (a little over $1) a person! (It might have been that cheap because we sent Zhizhi in to ask the price, while us foreigners hid under the seats inside the car.) We had a quick lunch, dropped off our stuff, and set out for the park. The entrance ticket was a bit steep at 120 kuai a person, but Margaret and Jason were able to use their expired college IDs to get a student ticket for 90 kuai.
After an afternoon of hiking around the Bingyu park, we had some traditional countryside food and fell fast asleep. The next morning we decided that we would climb another nearby mountain, Tianmenshan (天门山) or “heaven’s gate mountain.” The road sign outside our hotel clearly said that Tianmenshan was 10 km away. However, when we tried to get a taxi to take us there, they scoffed and said it was at least 40 km. (Side note: I have asked Chinese people about how far something is, and their response is usually, “Oh, sooooo far.” Really, it turns out to be a 15 minute walk. Experience has taught me to take their advice with a grain of salt.) Thinking that they were trying to rip us off because we were foreigners, we decided to set off walking in the right direction and see how far we could get.
We walked and walked (for over an hour), and didn’t see any mountain ranges in sight. A random van pulled over and offered us a ride to Tianmenshan. Without any other options, we reluctantly agreed. It turned out that the mountain was way more than 10 km away. Probably more like 30. As we were driving, we saw another sign with the exact same distance marker “Tianmenshan- 10 km.” Zhizhi’s response to the errant signage was, “Well, maybe the cartographer was drunk.” Oh, China. I guess we should have trusted the locals. But in our stubborn Western minds, we believed that the official road sign was an empirical fact. It seemed ludicrous to us to assume that the sign was incorrect. Lesson learned: road signs should not be trusted in China.
As we got dropped off at the “back entrance” to the mountain, our driver told us we could enter for free. Then two dudes on motorbikes with ID cards around their neck demanded an entrance fee and threatened that if we didn’t pay, we would have to pay more at a different ticket booth when we entered. After way too much hassling, we finally got a hold of the real entrance tickets (that were marked for 60 kuai– 20 kuai less than the guys were trying to charge us). Satisfied that we didn’t get ripped off, we set out to hike the mountain. We had the whole place to ourselves, and in a little over an hour we had made it over the top and back down to the main entrance. Then we had to walk for another two hours to the main road where we hired another random van to take us back to our hotel. It was a long day of walking, but the weather couldn’t have been better.
Despite being exhausted, we got back to Dalian, showered and rallied for for a big night out to show Kat and Jason our favorite Dalian nightclubs. It wasn’t the most relaxing weekend, but was definitely a worthwhile way to spend some time off.