When asked about the famous sites near Guangzhou, my students almost always reply, “Baiyun Shan. A mountain in middle of city!” (We’re working on filling in the blanks of that sentence…)
I thought it odd I hadn’t seen it on my many trips to Haizhu Square and other shopping hot spots in Guangzhou, but then again I usually take the subway from one place to the next, and looking beyond the hoards of people, on most days, presents a grey haze hovering on the rooftops of buildings which obscures my vision from anything too far away. Therefore, I guess it makes sense that I didn’t notice this 1,250-foot mountain amidst the concrete and cement that make this city tick. Then again, maybe it’s because Baiyun is only a small hill in comparison to the mountains in Oregon.
However, the mountain range consists of 30 peaks covering over 17 square miles on the north end of the city. Baiyun has been declared a national park and the government is proud to call it one of Guangzhou’s “Eight Must See Sites,” though like most other Chinese parks, it’s less of a hike through nature and more of a walk up a steep roadway. It hardly even feels like you’re on a mountain when cars drive past, presumably taking the shortcut to the McDonalds and other fast food chains that await them on top.
After an unplanned two-hour bus tour of Guangzhou city (we got on the bus going the wrong way and only discovered our mistake after it reached the end of the line – oops!), Ed and I circled back near our starting point and finally found the gate to Baiyun Mountain – the walkway, not the cable car – where we paid our entrance fee of 5RMB (about $0.80) and began our hike up the paved roadway to the top.
We took the long, slow way up via hundreds and hundreds of steep stairs and ventured off toward the center of the mountain, where we found a temple built about halfway up on three different levels. The stairs wound us up and through the landscaped courtyards of the decorative Buddhist shrine, and continued upward toward several platforms meant for viewing the scenery below.
Stairs, I’d say, are more of a workout than a hike through nature, so we definitely got the exercise we bargained for, but we didn’t get the rewarding view we had hoped. Looking out over the railing was a blurry view of the city below, enveloped in several layers of thick white smog that my camera read as grey nothingness.
Baiyun was worth the effort once, but I don’t think I’ll make the trek again. The temple (as you can tell from the pictures below) was my favorite part of the day, but not all was lost. At least now I can tell my student’s I hiked White Cloud Mountain, and that I know how it received its name.
- Haizhu Square: Guangzhou’s Best Kept Secret (jessicajhill.com)
- Guangzhou City at a Glance (jessicajhill.com)
- Baiyun Mountain (lifeofguangzhou.com)
Baiyun Mountain: White Cloud Mountain