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Mt Wutai or Mt Tai

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Apr 15th, 2015, 08:24 PM
  #1
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Mt Wutai or Mt Tai

While going through guide books, I came across Mt Wutai and Mt Tai. The two are sacred sites but seem very different. I'm leaning toward Wutai because it looks to have a more natural setting and it's near Pinyao which I'd like to visit.

Is there a site/blog with more detail information so I can figure out what area to hike?
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Apr 15th, 2015, 11:42 PM
  #2
kja
 
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You can check my trip report -- I visited both. Just click on my name to find it. The report is LONG, but is searchable. I referred to these mountains as Wutai Shan and Tai Shan.

You are right -- they are very different, but I'm not sure I would have said that they differ in the naturalness of their settings (others might disagree). Tai Shan is much more accessible and is, as I understand it, a place that many Chinese people try to visit at least once in their lifetime. Wutai Shan is more remote and has, as I understand it (I could be wrong!) a greater religious significance than Tai Shan -- so I saw many more Buddhists from around the world at Wutai Shan than at Tai Shan, and many more Chinese tourists at Tai Shan than at Wutai Shan. Tai Shan is also within the umbrella of the pollution of the area in/around Beijing, so at least when I was there (2010), distant views were obscured. In contrast, Wutai Shan was one of the few places I visited that seemed free of air pollution (and, as a rule, noise pollution, too!).

Hope that helps!
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Apr 16th, 2015, 04:38 AM
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Just to be clear, while Wutai shan is in the general area where Pingyao is, it is not close at all. Transportation to Wutai shan is a challenge. Tai shan is more easily reached.
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Apr 16th, 2015, 08:08 AM
  #4
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Near was probably not the best word. I meant that they were in the same area of China... I think they're something like 6 hours apart? I'm also interested in the Yungang caves which is in the area as well. Another factor besides travel and the sight itself, is weather. Wutai could get snow in late September?

My perception of natural setting in Wutai vs Tai are based on pictures that I saw-- that Wutai had dirt trails and openness between stops at temples while Tai has sets of stairs.

kja, I will be sure to read your report! I started to read some of it and you were so prepared that I feel like I'm slacking! Like you, I'll be a solo female traveler in China for the first time.
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Apr 16th, 2015, 01:19 PM
  #5
kja
 
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I LOVE to plan my trips! Not every one does, and not everyone needs to do so. I think you'll find that several female Fodorites have traveled to China solo.
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Apr 16th, 2015, 01:47 PM
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Just to be clear, transport to Wutai Shan is a 'challenge' in that special sense not usually seen in dictionaries of 'not a challenge at all', and especially if you're considering Beijing--Datong--Wutai Shan--Pingyao as your route. There are trains to Wutai Shan (although another bus is needed to get you from the station), and there are direct buses from Datong. There are frequent direct buses from Wutai Shan to Taiyuan and from Taiyuan to Pingyao (also trains for the last part).

Tai Shan is the place to go if you want to spend a few hours steadily climbing (although there are assorted mechanical alternatives if you want to cheat) in the penitential trudge beloved of Chinese pilgrimage routes. There are assorted minor sights on the way up.

Wutai Shan is multiple lower peaks with major temples atop them always claimed to be reached from the road by 108 steps each (although if you count you'll find that not a single one of them is actually 108).

Wutai Shan is a massive tourist destination with a fairly tawdry centre. Tai Shan has routes up that almost no one takes, although maps showing them are easily available.

You pays your money, and you takes your choice, as my mother used to say.
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Apr 18th, 2015, 03:35 AM
  #7
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I'm going to take a wild guess that neither of these destinations topped Peter's must-see list -- even if each is easily reached! ;-) And while I NEVER thought I would find reason to say anything that stood in contrast to Peter's outstanding advise, I would offer a few comments;

Re: Tai Shan -- I took full advantage of the "assorted mechanical alternatives" (bus and then cable car) to get to the top. I walked down. For me, a great part of the joy in visiting Tai Shan came from the unexpected -- and largely nonverbal -- interactions I had with others. Priceless! (But perhaps not replicable.) And a bit beyond the base, there's a temple -- Dai Miao -- with some Song-era murals that I thought utterly awesome.

Re: Wutai Shan -- i agree that the town itself is (or at least was, in 2010) a bit pathetic. I only visited one of the mountain-top temples, instead spending most of my time in the temples in the town itself. On the day that I was there, Taiyuan Si was very crowded with what I took to be a combination of school outings and other Chinese tourists. Almost everything else I visited in Wutai Shan was very quiet, with only a few others here and there. I must have been lucky!

If you are interested in the Yungang Caves, I would recommend finding a way to get there! I found them amazing. Consider giving Datong at least 2 or even 3 nights, so you can see the Yungang grottoes and also Muta, the hanging temple, and Shanhua Si. JMO.

Hope that helps!
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Apr 19th, 2015, 09:44 AM
  #8
 
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Either site is likely to be attractive to first-time visitors to China.

I preferred the steady hike up Tai Shan by one of the main routes and taking an alternative route down on which I saw no one else at all. But at Wutai Shan the crowds may also be avoided with a little effort. Whereas the whole purpose of going to Tai Shan is the penitential climb, Chinese tour groups tend to whizz through Wutai Shan, and so several of the mountain-top temples a little less easy of access from the town see few visitors.

The greatest interest (to me, at least) was side-trips to genuinely ancient and original Tang dynasty temples, a great rarity in China, off the route down to Taiyuan. The pleasure of Shanxi (other than some excellent food not usually found outside China) is that it was so poor in the 20th century that even Red Guards didn't seem to want to go and do much damage there, and so it houses most of China's surviving truly ancient wooden buildings, including temples in Datong, the 'Mu Ta' wooden pagoda, and certain halls off the route to Taiyuan. Certainly this is a route that has a lot to offer.
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Apr 19th, 2015, 12:04 PM
  #9
 
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I have not been to either of these places. But have you considered Northern Mount Heng, just slightly north of Mount Wutai? Probably 95% of visitors go just to the Hanging Monastery, but I believe there are many spectacular features.
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Apr 19th, 2015, 02:10 PM
  #10
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I'm going crazy with all the options while I'm trying to figure out a general path for myself. I tell myself not to worry about it too much because I'm sure to find joy in which ever area in China I end up traveling to.

I'm trying to find more detailed sources to figure what or if I really want to travel all this way. Not that these sites wouldn't be worth it but sometimes it's better to have another day or two in a location already on the list.

To make decision making even worse, I was reading about Hua Shan outside of Xi'an, which sounds much easier to get to and has some interesting hiking features. Still deciding if I'm brave enough for some of those hiking sections.
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Apr 19th, 2015, 03:03 PM
  #11
 
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I don't think you can go wrong, though I would pay mind to kja's point about pollution.

What is "already on the list?"
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Apr 19th, 2015, 03:57 PM
  #12
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Shelemm, I'm planning on posting a general itinerary soon to see if it is realistically doable.

But below is what I have so far. I'm sure my estimated time will change when I factor in that everything in China is 6-20 hours away from each other.

Beijing (4 days)
Great Wall (2 days)

[Mt. Wutai or Tai] ?

Datong to see Yungang Caves and Hanging Temple (2 nights, 1 Day)

Pingyao (2 days?)

Xi'an & Terracotta Warriors (3 days)
[Hua Shan] ?

Li River cruise and nearby villages... This might be too out of the way?

Yannun area:
Kunming (stay 2-3 days)
Lìjiāng (2 days)
Dali (2 days)
Shaxi (2 days)
Tiger Leaping Gorge (2 days)

Shanghai & area... Skip this ?

Hong Kong (3 days)
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Apr 19th, 2015, 04:20 PM
  #13
kja
 
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"Beijing (4 days)"

That's not much for Beijing, IMO. But of course it depends on what YOU want to see and experience....

"Datong to see Yungang Caves and Hanging Temple (2 nights, 1 Day)"

If you also want to see the incredible Mu-ta, than you'll need another day -- unless things have changed (and they might have!) the distances are too far to see all 3 sites in one day.

"[Mt. Wutai or Tai]"

If you are definitely going to Datong and Pingyao, then Wutai Shan fits your schedule better than Tai Shan.
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Apr 20th, 2015, 01:33 AM
  #14
 
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If you want to have a trip in China, you must avoid the peak travel season. For example, May 1 to May 3, June 20 to June 22, Sep. 26 to Sep.27 and Otc.1 to Otc. 7. Those are Chinese Public holidays, especially the last period Sep. 26 to Otc. 7.
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Apr 22nd, 2015, 06:32 PM
  #15
 
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If yuo are not leaving out of Shanghai, I give you permission to skip it. Better to put in more days somewhere else so yuo don't always hve to feel like you are on the run.
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 10:58 AM
  #16
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Thanks for the replies!

I'll make note of Muta but my schedule is filling up.

I was planning on visiting in the fall so I'll have to watch out for the holidays. Also for the departure I was thinking Hong Kong.
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