I learned of the 'golden' birthday concept just in time for this year's big leap to 3-0. Also known as one's champagne, lucky, or star birthday, the golden birthday occurs when someone turns the age of the date of birth. With July 30th just around the corner, D planned a surprise get away in rural Anhui province.

Anhui province is home to the Yellow Mountain | 黄山. Although it is not one of the five sacred mountains in China, it is known as one of the loveliest as the granite peaks rise aboves seas of clouds. It is a favorite theme for China's landscape painters, poets, and photographers. 

We decided to climb up the mountain rather than take the cable car. Entering the mountain at Mercy Light Pavilion | 慈光站阁, we hiked to the infamous Celestial Peak | 天都峰. The south pathway to the peak is much more rugged and steep compared to that of the north. The view and pure accomplishment made the few boughts of vertigo and occasional wind warnings worth it in the end. We climbed three more peaks more structured steps and pathways before reaching our hotel for the night. The next morning we explored the eastern side of the mountain which is known for the odd shaped rock formations and scenery. 

After two days of hiking in Huangshan, we stayed two nights in the scenic village of Hongcun | 宏村. The idyllic village is popular among student sketch artists and was featured as the opening scene of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The area is well connected with tourist and local buses and we tried to make the most of it. Both Hongcun and Xidi | 西第, the next village we visited, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Xidi had far fewer art students conjesting the narrow pathways. Despite the more relaxed and laid-back vibe, Xidi gave off a genuine experience of living and breathing traditional village life. 

From Xidi village we cycled to Xidi Shi Lin | 洗涤石林,or Stone Forrest. Even in the 90F | 40C degree heat, we managed to play around the rock formations for half an hour before heading back to the village. 

Our flight back to Shanghai was late in the evening so we stopped by yet another ancient village, Pingshan | 屏山, on the way to the airport. More stunning architecture to be seen, though there were not as many open halls as the previous two villages. All throughout southern Anhui the people were friendly and welcoming, a countryside escape I would definitely recommend.