Friday, 03 June 2016 17:42

Climbing Up Hua Shan Mountain at Night

If you are planning to visit to Xi'an and the surrounding areas and love the big outdoors, then hiking up Hua Shan Mountain should 100% be on your itinery. 
Hua Shan is a major mountain and part of the Qinling mountain range, which provides a natural boundary between north and south China. Hua Shan Mountain is about 75 miles to the east of Xi'an and has been a site of religious importance in Daoism, and there has been Daoist temples on the mountain since at least 200BCE.
Before this year, I was lucky enough to have climbed Hua Shan twice, getting to the very top of the South Peak (the highest of Hua Shan's five peaks) both times in bright sunshine and under a blue sky. However, this year, I had a mate travelling up to Xi'an from Hong Kong and we were talking about climbing up Hua Shan at night in total darkness. Not only had neither of us climbed Hua Shan Mountain at night, but we also didn't really have much information to go on about how to do it. We knew that it was possible to hike up Hua Shan Mountain at night, but we really didn't know how, so we set out to find information about hiking up Hua Shan at night online.

We Didn't Find Good Info 
The first thing we found was that there was scant information about how to climb Hua Shan at night. There was an abundance of websites about Hua Shan Mountain, how much a ticket was to get in, where the ticket office for Hua Shan was located, and how much a taxi fare would be from the drivers waiting outside the train station close to the mountain. What these websites failed to tell us was what we really needed to know; could we climb Hua Shan Mountain at night? Is the ticket office open at Hua Shan Mountain at night? Would anyone be around to let us onto the mountain at night? I had a feeling that this information was available on Chinese websites but not in English. I have Claudio in Xi'an to thank for great info to make this journey hapen.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, yes you can get onto Hua Shan Mountain at night, the ticket office for Hua Shan Mountain IS open 24 hours a day and getting to the top at night time isn't a problem at all. I've decided to write this to give you guys out there the information that we found hard to get. Climbing Hua Shan Mountain at night was amazing and one of the best things I've ever done, if very challenging on the legs.
Getting to Hua Shan Mountain from Xi'an 
Getting to Hua Shan Mountain from Xi'an is very easy by both public bus and train. We were in a bit of a rush, so we elected to take the new fast train from Xi'an North Station direct to Hua Shan North High Speed Railway Station. For other travel options from Xi'an, you can go this page.

The journey from Xi'an took us about 40 minutes and, unusually, instead of having one seat per person as in standard on Chinese fast trains, we were allocated a room with beds to sit on. So five of us sat alongside each other and chatted. Chinese trains are comfortable, cheap and on time.
Arriving at HuaShan Train Station
Upon arriving at Huashan North Train Station, you'll be greeted by a load of Chinese men shouting 'taxi' to you in the hope that you will go with them to the foot of the mountain. The place you need to go to is Yuquan Yuan…this is where the ticket office for people looking to climb Hua Shan Mountain at night is. There are buses that go there in the day, but at night, taxis are your only option. The cable car is also shut at night, so if you plan to hike the mountain in the dark, then forget the cable car to help you along the way. The taxi from the station to the mountain took about 20 minutes.
Forget using a meter with the taxi drivers waiting to take you to Yuquan Yuan, you'll have to bargain your price to get to the entrance of the mountain. We paid 20RMB for the journey, that's not each, but for the car. Watch this trick and make sure they understand that you aren't going to be paying whatever they want per person, but for the entire trip. It's worth saying here that these taxi drivers aren't bad people, but they will usually try to get a few extra bucks out of you if you don't look clued up and half-know what you are doing.

The usual price for a taxi is about 30RMB there; we got 20RMB because we speak good Chinese and know how to bargain.
Arriving at the Ticket Office
We got dropped off from the taxi at Yuquan Yuan at like a square with a few shops and hostels, these are very basic places selling snacks, toilet paper and water, etc. There is then a five minute walk to the ticket office and everywhere is well marked in both Chinese and English. You will feel 100% safe, so don’t worry at all, and there should be quite a few other night hikers going in the same direction.
Make sure you have your passport with you otherwise you won’t be able to get onto the mountain. You should have this anyway, otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to get on the train to get there in the first place.

The 24 Hour Ticket Booth at Yuquan Yuan, Hua Shan, China
The ticket costs 180RMB per person and you have the choice of paying any extra 10RMB insurance in case you fall anywhere, the maximum payout here is 20,000RMB, and we went for it anyway. After showing your ticket at the barrier, you’ll quickly need to press your thumb print onto a scanner and you are in! An overnight hike up Hua Shan Mountain now awaits you! Honestly, getting a ticket and starting to hike up Hua Shan at night could not have been easier and everything is made clear for you. We began our night climb of Hua Shan at 11pm at night, giving us six hours of climbing before sunrise from the East Peak.
Climbing Hua Shan Mountain at Night
The start of the climb was a slope was about 90 minutes, which gradually got steeper. Just when you were thinking a slope is going to take you all the way to the top of Hua Shan Mountain, the steps begin; gentle at first, but then progressing in difficulty and sheer number. My advice is to definitely prepare for hiking up Hua Shan Mountain at night; the number of steps certainly gets well into the thousands and you will tire eventually.

Starting the climb up Hua Shan at 11pm at night
One major benefit of climbing Hua Shan at night is the relative lack of people getting in your way. Climbing the mountain in the day meant having to frequently stop as pathways are often single file, so you’ll stop as people negotiate past each other up ahead of you. The heat can also be too much during the day too, so climbing Hua Shan at night for me was fantastic.
The vast majority of steps are well-lit, but we did take a headlamp each with us, which we found came in handy nearer the top when lighting wasn’t as frequent. 
Dealing with the Cold
I did most of my night climbing up Hua Shan wearing just a T-shirt (we climbed in May), and I was covered in sweat for most of the time. Certainly take a spare set of clothes you can keep dry. Although quite hot at the bottom, as we neared the East Peak (this is the best peak to see the sunrise on Hua Shan mountain), as we got near to the top the wind really picked up and the temperature dropped. If you get too cold, then you can rent thick green army coats from sporadic booths along the way. It costs 30RMB to rent the costs and a few hundred RMB for deposit. We didn’t rent the coats, which was a bit of a mistake in hindsight.

Tired and cold on Hua Shan

Tired and cold after the climb
Watching the Sunrise from Hua Shan Mountain
We got to the top East Peak on Hua Shan mountain at about 4.50am, a good 30 minutes before sunrise and we did find that there was already quite a number of people waiting there for the sunrise already. If you want a good spot, then either get there a little earlier or walk up past everyone. The sunrise from Hua Shan was absolutely stunning and something I’ll never forget. It was pretty cloudy that morning, but even with cloud cover, the different morning light on the the Qinling mountain was an unforgettable sight and moment. Well worth the night climb up Hua Shan to see.
I should also point out here that after sunrise, my legs went totally numb with exhaustion and the cold. I had bought a few sachets of coffee to get myself warmed up and going again in the morning, but finding anyone with boiling water up there was impossible (apparently there is only boiling water from lunch time onwards).
Conquering the Five Peaks of Hua Shan
After watching the stunning sunrise from the East Peak of Hua Shan, we decided to go and find the other peaks on Hua Shan, the Central Peak, West Peak, North Peak and South Peak (this is the highest). The top of the mountain is covered in ancient pine trees and there are quite a number of Daoist temples nestled in secret corners on the mountain. Also found up here is the Sky Walk (which we actually didn’t do because our legs felt like jelly as it was!)
Getting the Cable Car Down
After climbing Hua Shan all night, with no rest, and having polished off quite a lot of whisky on the way up, we decided that we’d get the cable car back down and make our way back to Xi’an. By this stage, it would be a massive understatement to say we were tired and the cable car couldn’t come soon enough for us and we eventually found it halfway down the west peak. 
The ticket for the cable car was another 120RMB each, but the thought of walking more steps to the bottom didn’t appeal to us one bit. If we had known how terrifying the cable car was, then we may have opted to walk however. You can see our cable car experience below!
The big problem I had with the cable car was the wind! The wind was seriously gusting at about 60-70 miles an hour and the cable cars we swaying from side the side 1000ft in the air….terrified is not the word!
Anyway, we survived the cable car on Hua Shan and after about a 20-minute white-knuckle ride on the cable car came to a place which was a bit of a tourist trap to be fair; the old jade stalls and tourist items for sale. This place was in the middle of nowhere, very far from the station, and we had to buy another bus ticket down the mountain to a strange and spooky place which was full of shops and restaurants with not one customer there, just me and Sam…very surreal indeed, and very ‘China’.
After a bite to eat, we were shown the way outside by a friendly guard who seemed happy to see customers and got on a free (finally!) bus back to Hua Shan North Fast Train Station.
The Night Climb of Hua Shan Impressions
I absolutely loved every moment of the Hua Shan experience at night. From the challenge of the climb, the camaraderie of doing it with one of my best friends, to the amazing sights to be found at the top of Hua Shan. Would I climb Hua Shan Mountain again? Absolutely! Would I climb Hua Shan Mountain again at night? I would never do it any other way! 

by Stuart Allen
Published in Articles about China
Tuesday, 23 February 2016 02:21

Pocket-Sized Chinese Menu to Make and Carry!

Ordering Chinese food in China can be extremely difficult for most people coming to live or travel in China. Whether you are an English teacher living and teaching in China, or you are planning a holiday to China, the chances are that at some point you are going to be very stuck on how to order food.
The problem is that most small to medium-sized restaurants in China (that's about 98% of all restaurants in China) will have no pictures to point at on their menu and no English to read from. Additionally, the waitresses in small Chinese restaurants will not be able to understand any English at all. This makes ordering food in a Chinese restaurant in China very tricky if you don't speak or read Chinese well.
Download our Pocket-Sized Menu to Make and Carry!
We have made a really cool pocket-sized mini-Chinese menu for you to print, make and carry. The mini-menu is free and has all of the main dishes you'll like from rice, noodles, meat dishes, vegetarian choices, spicy food and non-spicy foods as well as beer, tea and other beverages. 
Simply download the free printable pocket-sized menu below, print it, fold it as instructed, and then you'll have a super handy Chinese menu to carry in your pocket, bag, wallet, purse or rucksack!
The menu comes in English, the Chinese next to it to show the waitress and also in pinyin so you can have a go at saying the dishes too if you want. Download the free Chinese menu below and always carry it with you! Job done!

by Stuart Allen
Stuart Allen China
Published in Articles about China
In a sleepy little Oregon town, a kid is being beaten up by the school bully. When he confesses to his big brother that he is being bullied, his big brother invents a plan which will end up with big humiliation for the school bully, George.

They all plan a boating trip and invite the school bully along. The boy being bullied, Sam, realised that George is actually OK and just craves some love and attention in his life, but by then it's too late and things start to go horribly wrong.

Mean Creek is an excellent film and won the 2004 Best Film Award at The Cannes Film Festival. At that time I was teaching the Second Conditional to older teenage students and realised that there were so many moments during the film when I thought "What would I do here?" I wrote this lesson on the Second Conditional and it worked well. You can download this movie lesson on the Second Conditional below.

To order Mean Creek via Amazon plea click here - you'll be helping us out also.

Grammar Guide for Second Conditional Tense

The second conditional is used for talking about unreal situations in the present or in the future. The second conditional is built up of two parts, known as a clause. One part, or clause, contains if, and the other part contains would.
"If I had lots of money, I would buy a car..."
You can also switch the clauses; it doesn’t matter, because it means the same thing! It’s just a different way of saying it! Have a try!
"I would buy a car if I had lots of money."
Look carefully! Notice how there is a comma (,) after the if clause at the top, but not at the bottom? When the if clause goes first, you must use a comma. When the main clause goes first, don’t use a comma…easy!

Before Doing This Class
Before you do anything, please watch the film at home in its entirety before making a choice whether to show this in class. It is not suitable for all and should only be used with mature, open-minded students.
Before you start the film, make sure that your class understand the second conditional and its purpose. This plan is designed to review the structure and to get your actually using it in an interesting way. The student guide on page three of this plan will help to explain it in a simple way.

Using Mean Creek to Practice Second Conditional
Get your students comfortable…its movie time! Play the selected clips. As you play the film, you will suddenly stop the film and ask students what they would do in that situation. All the ‘film stop’ timings are labelled below, along with the questions you should ask your students. There are 23 ‘what would you do?’ questions in total. Make sure to give every one a go!
Practice stopping the DVD in the suggested parts before class.

The 23 Second Condional Questions You Can Ask Your Class

1.   You have just been beaten up in front of lots of people. What would you do? 2:38mins
(Example answer: "if I had been beaten up in front of lots of people, I would hit him back).
2.   Marty, the gang leader, offers you a marijuana joint. What would you do? 9:09mins
3.   Your brother has just hurt and humiliated you. You have a bat. What would you do? 13:57mins
4.   George, who beat you up earlier in the week, has bought you a present and wants you to open it. What would you do? 18:13mins
5. There is a plan to make George cry. You have just heard about it. What would you do? 25:27mins
6. You are new to the gang and want to make friends. You don’t smoke, but Marty offers you a cigarette. What would you do? 26:46mins
7. You are 13 years old and Marty offers you a beer. Your parents aren’t there. What would you do? 32:40mins
8. You are already drinking beer, but your parents will never know. Marty offers you weed. What would you do? 33:07mins
9. You are trying to talk Marty out of getting George. What would you do? 36:52mins
10. George has just fired the water gun at you. What would you do? 40:00mins
11. You are 13 years old and in front of lots of older kids and they have dared you to French kiss. What would you do? 42:00mins
12. Marty wants George to take off his clothes and jump in the river. You don’t want this to happen, but Marty is bigger than you. What would you do? 45:20mins
13.  You are George. You have just found out that you were only invited because they want to play a joke on you. What would you do? 45:53mins
14. You are Marty. George is talking about your father’s suicide over and over and over. What would you do? 48:52mins
15. George is drowning, but his size makes it dangerous to jump in and save him. What would you do? 49:33mins
16. George is not breathing. What would you do? 51:29mins
17. People are now starting to make a story to tell the police. What would you do? 58:16mins
18. Marty wants to bury the body. What would you do? 59:08mins
19. You are Marty, everyone is against you. What would you do? 1:00:24mins
20. The others have agreed to bury the body, but you think it is a bad idea. What would you do? 1:03:11mins
21. You are Marty. The others want to go to the police, but you have already buried the body. What would you do? 1:17:06mins
22. You are Rocky. Your best friend, Marty, is walking away. What would you do? 1:18:58mins
23. You are the policeman. What would you do? 1:22:55mins
Lesson Written by Stuart Allen
Published in Movie lessons
Lost was an HBO smash hit about a plane which crashes onto a deserted island thousands of miles from anywhere and the world believes the plane lost. In reality, many of the passengers are still very much alive. Lost continued for many years.

This is a supplementary activity for intermediate or advanced students who want to learn a few verbs in present continuous form which they may not have come across before. Advanced level students are always eager to come across new words and this is an exciting way to teach them something different.

To run this high-level present continuous TV lesson, you'll need the first episode of Lost Season 1 of Lost S01E01 - you can download this here. 

Before class, you should print out the jigsaw puzzle containing the words on page 3. You need to arrange your students into groups of three; you should make one copy per group. Cut up the puzzle pieces using scissors or a craft knife and paper clip the pieces together. Each group of three will now have a neat bundle of puzzle pieces. Remember to shuffle up each group’s pieces before you paperclip them together! (Tip: white card is better than white paper.)
In class:
Play the first episode of Lost (season one), where the plane crashes onto a desert island and everyone is in a state of panic and shock. Groups need to watch the movie and put the puzzle pieces into a pile in the order that they see the action. When the movie clip has finished, the students should put the pieces together from left to right, then right to left, then left to right, then right to left (as shown on page 4). If they have got the order right, then the puzzle should fit neatly together.
You should play the episode from the very start until 15:16mins. You might want to play the clip twice if your students need to see it again. 
Have fun! 
Published in Movie lessons
In Back to the Future, Marty McFly accidentally travels back in time in a DeLorean time machine and finds himself in 1955 with no way of getting back. His hometown is completely different with the music, fashion, shops, streets and people all from the past. 

Back to the Future can be used with intermediate and advanced level English classes when on a unit about travel, talking about the past or talking about the future. Show your ESL class the clips shown in the lesson plan below, then give out the character roleplay cards. Students then do a Back to the Future roleplay.

Need to download the movie for your ESL class? Click here to go to Amazon, you'll be helping us too!

Your students watch clips of the movie and then play characters such as Marty McFly, Biff, 3D, Doc Brown, Lorraine Baines, Goldie Wilson, George McFly, Mr. Strickland, etc. Awesome English lesson!!

Written by Stuart Allen

Stuart Allen
Published in Movie lessons
You'll find a lot of ELT coursebooks, especially at an intermediate and higher level, have a unit about travel. This is a very relevant unit for English learning, as teens and adults often travel domestically or internationally, whether on holiday or for business. 

in 1988, the BBC produced an eight-part series where comedian, Michael Palin, had to leave London and try to circumnavigate the globe in less than 80 days. The show was called Around the World in 80 Days. He was not allowed to use aircraft. This groundbreaking travel documentary was watched by millions of viewers.

I've used Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin many times in class, as he visits many different places around the world, trying different foods, meeting different people and taking many forms of transport from train to ferry, rickshaw to junk. I've made a episode guide for Around the World in 80 Days along with a list of ESL comprehension questions which will focus your students' attention while they watch the episodes. 

Would you like to order the Around the World in 80 Days DVD for your English class? Click here to order it online, you'll be helping us too.

by Stuart Allen
Stuart Allen
Published in Movie lessons

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