Mount Tai, July 2009. Should one of the world’s most sacred Buddhist mountains ever find itself onto your bucket list, then look no further than the Chinese city of Tai’an in Shandong Province. It’s an intriguing little place of traditional markets, towering shopping malls and the unmissable Dai Temple Complex. But at the end of the day, a visit to Tai’an is all about hiking up Mount Tai (Tai Shan), a fascinating natural museum of temples, gardens, statues, scriptures, shrines, streams, cliffs and cypress trees. And let’s not forget the unforgiving stone slabs you’ll have to conquer to reach the top, all 6,293 of them! Like me, you’ll undoubtedly need a few breathers along the way.
Mount Tai, July 2009. Tai Shan is full of kooky surprises as you make your ascent. I encountered this entrepreneurial teen about three quarters of the way up, hanging out with his pet monkey. Dishearteningly, his furry friend was chained to a nearby post. Charging tourists for a stroke and a photo, a glance down at the baseball cap at his feet showed that Monkey Man was dong pretty well for himself! Rest assured he didn’t get anything from me!
Mount Tai, July 2009. These guys blew my mind! I’d just reached the point where I was beginning to think I should have taken the cable car back at Midway Point To Heaven. Hot, tired and discouraged, these two troopers made me feel so embarrassed and ashamed I almost gave myself a good hard slap in the face. With a completely new perspective on the challenge ahead, I was able to push myself through the final leg of the climb.
Dai Temple, July 2009. While most people come to Tai’an purely for the mountain, the town itself is well worth a few days of your time. It would be a crime to leave without seeing Dai Temple, a large Taoist garden complex with an amazing collection of Bonsai trees and plant-filled courtyards. Perfectly peaceful, it’s the ideal place for an afternoon of reading, writing or photography and there are over a hundred and fifty buildings to explore.
City Park, July 2009. I stumbled across this small city park one evening during sunset. It was virtually deserted, save for this one man and his dogs. One of them came trotting my way as soon as he’d spotted me lining up my shot. For a deeper insight into my Tai’an adventures, check out my short story Two Men and a Refrigerator.