The most accessible scenery is often missed by most. This is typical of me. I counted it: till now, I have visited more places outside of China than within the country. One of the most famous sceneries of my home region – Changbai Moutain (长白山, ever/long white mountain) is the best example. It was within hours’ reach of me throughout my childhood. Yet, only now, being thousands of miles away from me, it suddenly became mysteriously attractive.
Between China and North Korea
Located at the border of China and North Korea, Changbai Mountain is also known as Paektu/Baekdu Mountain (white-head mountain) to Koreans. It is a dormant volcano. With 2,744 m altitude, Changbai Mountain is the highest in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast China.
The jewel in the crown of the mountain is Heaven Lake (tian chi: 天池), the largest crater lake in China. From the China side, tourists can get there from either the west slope or the north slope.
The weather in the mountain area changes like a baby’s mood. It could be the brightest sunshine when you are at the bottom. Yet it might be pouring once you get to the top. So, don’t be too upset about coming all the way and then only see the lake well-hidden behind layers of clouds. Local people say that only the ones with a special bond to the lake are destined to see it.
While claiming up the 1440 stairs along the borderline with North Korea, I was wondering the whole way if we would be lucky enough to see the lake.
Before reaching the viewing deck, the border stone of China and North Korea attracted my attention. The clear sky beyond the stone tells me we have a good chance to see the lake at this very moment.
Yes, we did!
The unbeatable panorama of the lake confirmed my choice of coming up from the west slope. Gazing at this crater lake, one cannot help wondering what’s beneath it. Indeed, there is a myth about Lake Monsters. Since 1903, there are reported sightings of the monsters. We were not lucky enough to spot any trace. But the deep blue water seems more than capable of hiding such mystery and stories.
Relax and Enjoy Food at the Hot Springs
Besides Heaven Lake, the fame of the Hot Springs at the north slope has also widespread. We drove there the next day. It is a more developed touristic area. The groups of visitors reflected this assumption. The cluster of hot spring spots spreads over 1000 square meters. The water temperature varies from 60 to 82 degrees. Even in the mid of summer, you can see the white steam floating above the ground. It must be quite a sight when the mountain is covered in thick snow.
I have to say that the Chinese never lack ideas when it comes to cooking. Equally famous to the hot springs is the «hot spring boiled egg». It has become a must-eat for tourists.