Written by Kyle Tse

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The day started with the loud crackling sound of thunder followed by the ringing of several car alarms. The thunder was so strong that it woke me up along with several other Discover 2013 participants. I was feeling anxious, as I knew that thunder meant a possible storm which would interfere with events planned for the day. On the itinerary was another physically demanding activity, aside from climbing the Great Wall or biking on Xi An’s city walls. Today we were going to climb the steps of Mount Tai.  I was looking forward to visiting Mount Tai since I learnt about its cultural significance while researching for my landmark presentation.
Image Shortly after our hotel breakfast, Andy, our tour guide in Shan Dong confirmed that due to the thunder, the cable cars to take us halfway up the mountains were not operating. We opted to delay our ascent up Mount Tai until after lunch hoping for better weather conditions.
What did we decide to do to kill time between breakfast and lunch? Shop for snacks of course!  We set out for the shopping plaza we saw on the way to dinner the night earlier.  Many of us picked up snacks in a grocery store located in the mall named Lotus. Snacks purchased include several flavours of chips, Pretz and Pocky. The mall also had several stands selling beauty skin care products, a Nike and Adidas combined store, an Aijisen Ramen noodle shop and also a KFC.
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There was no way we could pass on an opportunity to get our ramen fix. I went with several others to Ajisen, and 22 Yuan later, my craving was satisfied. Afterwards, we went to lunch for those who had not eaten, or still had room in their stomach for food. Everyone would need all the food they could get for energy during the next few hours. On the way to the Mount Tai after lunch, I made my landmark presentation in our bus. Here is a quick recap for those reading this blog:

Mount Tai or Tai Shan is located south of Jinan and north of Tai An. Its peak, named Jade Emperors Peak is reported to be 1545 meters tall. Mount Tai has been a place of worship for over 3000 years. A total number of 72 emperors have been recorded to have visited Mount Tai.  Fengshan sacrifices are offered at Mount Tai, Feng as earth sacrifices were offered at the base of the mountain and Shan as heaven sacrifices were offered at the mountain peak.  Fengshan sacrifices were considered the highest forms of sacrifices by the Han Dynasty. The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang held a ceremony at the peak of Mount Tai to proclaim the unity of China in 219 BC. As evidence above, Mount Tai is rightfully considered one of China’s most important mountains due to its great cultural significance as a place of worship for all.

We arrived to Mount Tai shortly after lunch and were told that there were no changes in the weather conditions. The cable cars were still not operational. There was an alternative to take a minibus half way up the mountain, which would not take us as close to the peak compared to the cable cars. Being our only choice, we chose to take the minibus. The minibus ride was one of the scariest bus rides of my life. Similar to the bus rides up to the Peak Top in Hong Kong, the bus ride up Mount Tai made one 180 degree turn after another, only a couple feet away from the rock wall or a rail guard, the only thing protecting us from a straight drop down the cliff side. After 10-15 minutes of fearing for my life, we finally made it to the end of the minibus ride. The steps began midway up Mount Tai and we would have to go on foot from there on.
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Having run the SportingLife 10K race, I would have to say that climbing the steps up Mount Tai was a more physically demanding activity. I had to take several 2-3 minute rests to catch my breath and let my heart rate settle. On the way up to the peak, we passed several merchants selling trinkets, bracelets, souvenirs, food and water. ImageThe sights of the mountain on the way up are quite stunning with many large stones, arches and rock faces with Chinese characters written on them. One memorable sight was a running waterfall down the side of the mountain. As we approached the peak, it became harder to see due to the fog in the air. The top of the mountain was also very windy and cold. At the last couple of meters and steps up, I had to keep pushing myself mentally to fight through aches and soreness in my legs. Finally reaching the top of Mount Tai, I felt a sense of accomplishment and reward. Located at the top was the Jade Emperor Temple. I made a wish and tossed a dollar Yuan bill to add to all the other money tossImageed into the pit. I wanted to explore the peak more, however my small group informed me that we had to head back down the steps in order to make it back in time to join the larger group. After trekking back down the steps and sitting through another crazy minibus ride down the mountain we were finally back in our tour bus. Heading to back to Jinan from Mount Tai was around two hours long. During this time, almost everyone slept to recover from their trek up Mount Tai, but not before several rounds of sharing the snacks we purchased earlier 🙂
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