Late last week I was making plans to climb Taishan this week, when Jane, a friend I met the last time I was in Qingdao, invited me to climb Laoshan with her. I agreed, as I prefer having a travel buddy to not having one. I boarded a train on Tuesday morning, the day before we were to ascend the highest coastal mountain in China. She had scheduled a photoshoot with a photographer, and there were some delays, so I walked around and took some photos before meeting up with her and her friend.

Who needs a brick when you’ve got a sweet looking branch?

There were just tons of photographers out on the streets having photoshoots, from wedding couples to kids to people just taking photos of the leaves changing colors. The weather was nice, so I can see why they were seizing the moment.

When Jane’s photographer was finished with her, I took some shots also. We both realized we didn’t have many pose ideas, haha.

This pose was natural. Often the best kind!

The photoshooting continued down by one of the beaches, here’s a shot I took while waiting.

Drew my name in Chinese characters in the sand while I was waiting, too.

I then took some photos of her and her friend together.

We had dinner at a Korean restaurant, I believe it was my first time having Korean food, and it was pretty good.

Yes, that’s purple rice!

After dinner she took me to the hostel near her University she was nice enough to book for me. Much cheaper than the previous hostel I stayed in, and rightfully so, as the bathroom was a shared one, but you really can’t beat $7 a night. Here’s a shot from the rooftop at night, overlooking the Qingdao University of Science and Technology, with part of the Laoshan mountain range in the distance.

Same view the next morning at 6:42 am.

We took a bus to what looked like the right area, then began our trek. Here’s a kid with his grandfather in their garden.

At first there was a road through some residential areas, but as we got higher, the houses became fewer.

The clearest water I’ve seen here so far.

An unfinished building. I wonder why they built it, then left it. Budget issues?

This was the last residence we saw.

Jane and her 3 friends whose names currently escape me. The two girls in the middle were lighting fast climbing the mountain.

This lets you know you’re going the right way.

So did arrows. “Forever” probably means something different here, but to me I think it might mean how long it feels like climbing is taking you when you’re doing it, ha.

The weather said 20% chance of rain, and damn if we weren’t in that margin. The weather became cloudier and eventually began to rain when we were about an hour from the peak. The day started off pretty nice. If we had climbed a little earlier, we likely could have avoided the weather. There’s always next time, though. I don’t think my photos suffered too badly.

The red ribbons are like wishes.

Taoism, yayuh.

View from the top! Took us around 4 and a half hours, but we probably stopped a total of 45 minutes, so, yeah.

a 180°~ panorama from the peak, which isn’t truly the actual peak, as that peak, a few hundred meters to the right and up, is occupied by some military installation of some kind. Dangit.

Precariously balancing my camera on one of the concrete posts so we could have a true group shot.

The way down was arguably more beautiful than the way up. Lots of awesome leaf colors.

We didn’t climb all the way down though, thankfully. We took a different route where a bus station was, about an hours’ descent. The bus was almost leaving, too, as we arrived. Luckily the driver waited.

We then headed back to the Korean restaurant as it is one of Jane’s favorite places, and it just so happened to be her birthday (technically the next day, but she was celebrating it this day.) We took off our shoes and went upstairs and played cards and waited for her other friends to arrive. Here’s a photo of everyone, with all the food present.

I showed the nice lady who owned the place how to take a photo, so I could also be in this shot, of everyone “cheers” – “ganbei” – ing.

Here’s Jane about to blow out the candles on the special cake her friends got her. Happy 21st!

After a very filling dinner, most of us went to KTV, as per my idea. It seemed like the right kind of suggestion for a group this size, and it being someone’s birthday. Luckily there is a KTV on her college campus, so that’s where we went. We didn’t get too crazy though, as the college dorms have some pretty strict rules, such as you’ve gotta be inside the dorm by a certain time (I forget when, 10?) or you’ll be locked out, also the electricity is cut off at 11pm, then restored at 6am. Rough! I borrowed a towel from Jane as I realized I would need one of those if I wanted to use the hostel’s communal shower, which I very much did, having been sweating for 5 hours climbing a mountain and such.
I left the next day, but not before meeting an interesting character on the bus, whom I had a very nice discussion with and received some good advice from, such as “do what you love” and that serving/helping others is one of the greatest/most rewarding things. I’ve heard this advice before, and I’m starting to think there must be something to it.

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