It was tourist hell. As images of Chinese “golden week” tourists crammed cheek-to-jowl broadcast via cell phone cameras went viral on social media, one netizen turned to the proverbial pen. @魅影丫 from Jiangsu, a coastal province, took to Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, to describe in detail the day of misery she and her family endured as they summited the (normally beautiful) Huashan mountain.
The story tells of greedy and lying tourism officials, periodic riots, and genuine threats to the safety–and perhaps sanity–of the many of thousands of tourists unfortunate enough to choose Huashan as a destination. Since its October 2 posting, the story has found a sympathetic audience with over 25,000 retweets and 4,000 comments. Tea Leaf Nation translates the most vivid parts.
An Odd Trip on Huashan Mountain
This is a magical spot, and I can only use the word “unimaginable” to describe what we endured here today, because no one would ever expect to be treated in such a way in this tourist spot. I can do nothing but to write down our adventures and feelings to let more people know.
We smoothly arrived at Huashan Mountain at around 9 o’clock. Our first adventure was to buy entrance tickets. When we went to the ticket office, we saw crowds of people, and then we learned that only two windows were in operation and tourists had to buy an entrance ticket and another ticket for the shuttle. While I was wondering why tickets were sold in such a way, someone told me these services were run by three different companies.
After waiting in line for an hour, I bought my family the entrance tickets which cost 180 RMB (about US$28) each; then it took us another half an hour to get on the shuttle bus, and from here, our nightmarish tour kicked off. After ten minutes or so, we arrived at the cable car station. Since I’d [been told] that the elderly and children would have priority access to the cable car service, I felt reassured that my 72-year-old father, 69-year-old mother and 3-year-old daughter wouldn’t need to line up for a long time. But the cable car crew said there were no such privileges. Fine, we’d wait in line.
After enduring four hours in line, we got into an uphill cable car at 2:40 pm. We didn’t know that a riot (暴动) had broken out down the mountain and the shuttle bus service had been suspended. Had we known what was happening, we’d have gone back. We anxiously ascended the mountain, and all that we saw were people far and wide. After reaching the north peak, we all decided to descend as soon as possible.
At the cable car station, the crew told the line through a loudspeaker that the waiting time would be up to five hours while it only took an hour or two to walk down the mountain, and those who had bought cable car tickets could obtain refunds afterwards. So we made the decision that my parents would line up for the downhill cable car because my mother’s knee problem didn’t allow her to walk too many steps, and my husband and I would carry our daughter down the mountain.
But after half an hour, we saw people backtracking; they said they’d been stuck down there for three hours, and would rather go back to take the cable car. Then we happened to see a member of the cable car crew, so we asked him about the situation, but he indifferently pointed to his name tag, saying, “Look carefully, I am a member of the cable car crew; whether this downhill path is jam-packed or not, I don’t know.” Tourists around us couldn’t help but shout for refunds.
While I was worrying about my parents, they called me at 5:40 pm, saying they’d reached the foot of the mountain already. Hearing this message, tourists around us became very angry and felt that they had been deceived into walking down the mountain, even though they had bought round-trip cable car tickets. After walking for nearly four hours, we reached the foot of the mountain at 7:10 pm.
The nightmare was only half over. Not until we joined our parents did we learn that a riot had also broken out at the entrance, and the shuttle bus service had been suspended since around 2 o’clock. So if we wanted to return to the entrance, we’d have to walk down the 8-kilometer mountain road.
Then we waited in vain and the cold for a bus that would never come. Meanwhile, [the loudspeaker said,] “Tourists, please descend the mountain on your own. Refunds can be obtained at the entrance. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.” By that time we didn’t know the ticket office at the entrance had been trashed and refunding was out of the question.
Hearing that no shuttle buses would come to collect tourists, businesses on the mountain not only showed no sympathy for us, but took the opportunity to hike up food prices. People who had felt very cold and sought shelter in these shops were driven out into the cold again.
Meanwhile, some tourists called the police, ambulances, the government and the media. The police said they were unable to handle this incident and asked us to call the provincial police station instead, trying to pass the buck. The media said they could not cover this incident until the censors said yes. Ambulances came twice because an old man passed out and a handicapped tourist fell ill. But after the ambulances came, they were surrounded by many tourists who thought they were public vehicles and therefore asked to be transported downhill. The patients’ families had to kneel down and plead with these tourists to let the ambulances go.
At around 11 o’clock pm, we realized that no one would come to our rescue and we had to help ourselves. While we were at a loss as to how to carry our parents and child down the mountain, word had it that private cars could reach us. More encouragingly, a girl next to us from Chongqing said her husband had been on the way, and she offered to give my husband and other drivers a ride so that they could drive more cars back here to collect the rest of us.
At last, my husband drove back here, and we drove eight people including three drivers downhill. On our way down, we also offered a ride to a feeble old woman whose son also asked to join us, saying he was also a driver and could drive uphill to collect other tourists as well. So although our car had been overloaded by then, ten people were crammed in.
What kind of tourist spot is this? The cable car crew cared for nothing but operating cable cars, and did everything they could to cajole tourists who had bought round-trip tickets into walking down the mountain. The ticket office cared for nothing but selling entrance tickets, and didn’t care how many tickets had been sold and whether the mountain and the cable car service had enough capacity.
Where were all the officials at this tourist spot? What kind of city is this? From the start of this incident to midnight when we reached the entrance, no government officials came to show any solicitude for us tourists; there was no food, no tea, no accommodations and not even a caring word!
Yes, we were only ordinary tourists, and such an incident might be no more than a minor one during the officials’ careers. Even if a fatal incident had happened, they could be reassigned to another place and start over in two years. The [private and governmental] revenue this tourist spot generates is what matters to them because these are their political achievements, and we are but nagging nobodies.
At midnight, we helped ourselves out of Huashan and left this nightmarish place. I won’t come back here as long as I live!