For the last year, I have been trying to find a way to get to Wudang Mountain Tai Chi and martial arts ‘mecca’. It’s about 1,000 miles from where I am and the only direct train is a 27 hour journey each way. I didn’t fancy that so had to look elsewhere. Also, I have only a weekend to play with and 27 hour journeys don’t fit that well into a weekend.
China has invested a mammoth amount of money into the high speed train network, so major routes have had their journey times halved. Unfortunately, Wudang Mountain is not on any major routes and the train station in Wudangshan still only takes the old slower trains.
The trick was to find a fast train nearby and get the last bit of the journey on a slow train. Wudang sits in between two major routes for high speed trains and when I say “sits in between” the nearest one is about 300 miles away.
China also has massive demand for trains as they are a very cheap and easy way to get around the country. Buses are cheaper still but much slower and no sleepers. Flying is expensive and very unreliable.
Each time we tried to look at a trip to Wudangshan we couldn’t make the trains available work in a weekend. There were too many stopovers in unknown cities and only hard seats for 14 hours. It was too difficult. So we kept putting it off and going somewhere else. The one time we found a good route it had all sold out.
We finally got a free weekend and an extra day as Monday was a holiday, so we booked our tickets and got ready to go.
We transferred through Wuhan, a big city west of Shanghai, famous for having the worst pollution anywhere in China. It was 7 hours journey time for each leg. Sorted!
Everything was smooth and easy and after we dropped our bags off at the hotel we started our days’ hike around the area. Wudang is a pretty place, no doubt about it. You can see why the Daoist’s liked it. We visited many of the temples on the mountain, took lots of pictures and I made some videos for the shop website. All was going well until we hit the crowds.
Chinese people like sticking to the routes, you won’t see many people “going off piste”. Also Wudang mountain Tai Chi area is a massive place so if you have limited fitness and want to see the best bits, you naturally stick to only one of the routes. We had just arrived at this route. In short if you have the amount of people all trying to get up a thin flights of stairs and the same amount of people also trying to get down, all you get is chaos. No moved for about half an hour. Chinese people aren’t shy when it comes to pushing or getting by you, so after a while we all, including all the Chinese started getting a little irritated. There was lot of shouting and more pushing and the only resolution was when a hardened chap in an army uniform came over and started barking orders at hundred miles an hour and everyone soon fell into line. After this at each flight of stairs we found a new army man, shouting at everyone and things pootled along slowly. It was like this for the rest of the day, standing on stairs, shuffling along, with the odd pushing, jab in the ribs.
It was getting late but we’d committed to getting to the top so we endured the crowds and saw the solid bronze temple at the top of the Wudang Mountain Tai Chi complex. Unfortunately I have no pictures as all I could really see was people’s heads!
I shuffled over to an edge and got a fantastic view of the whole landscape. I noticed one of the Daoism monks / priests standing next to me also enjoying the view. I got talking to him and asked a few questions.
He was a really nice chap and we were chatting for about 20 minutes, I asked where all the Tai Chi was as I hadn’t seen any and he said that they all stay out of the tourists way on busy days and train indoors away from it all. He pointed out the buildings where they train. “Any westerners?” I asked. “Not up here” he said, “down in the town there are loads but not here”. “Could I train up here?” I asked him, “Of course, just come up and train with us” he said, “no problem”. Great, that’s a trip for another time then. I’ll see how I get on at Shaolin first.
That was that day really, apart from the 2 hours of queuing to get off the mountain via the gondola. My legs were tired by then and I didn’t fancy the 20 mile walk back down to the city.
We ate on the street in the evening and got an early night for the next day of hiking.