Before leaving his apartment in Shanghai, Kai and I made a plan to meet up at the Hangzhou train station and commit to a 24-hour adventure to Moganshan, a mountain top village that’s only a bus ride away. Before the Cultural Revolution, Moganshan was filled with foreigners, and there is still evidence through the style of the remaining houses. Many ventured out to this retreat location when Shanghai became consumed by heat and they needed an escape to a cooler, fresh-aired, natural resort. Now, although it still attracts many people during the hotter months of the year, it is only a fraction of what it used to be. But its natural beauty still remains and is recognizable as the bamboo forests from the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
Before leaving Shanghai, Kai gave me a book to read by Mark Kitto titled “China Cuckoo: How I lost a fortune and found a life in China.” This book was a first person account of what Mark went through and how he eventually ended up running a coffee shop atop Moganshan. Knowing that I would have the opportunity to both spend time at The Lodge, as he calls it, and meet both him and his wife Joanna were both contributors to my excitement level for this adventure. Continuing to read their story while sipping tea at The Lodge really made the narrative come alive, as one might imagine. But not only did the book describe how they got there, it helped paint a picture of a foreigner’s life in China, the difficulties they faced, how the Chinese government operates, and despite it all, how a foreigner might still want to make China his home. I highly recommend the read.
My story at Moganshan involves several great hikes and a small hole-in-the-wall guest house that Kai was able to navigate us towards using his Chinese. The guest house even came with room service, although this was probably because there was limited seating elsewhere. We had some of the host’s self-proclaimed delicious food and some Moganshan Spring Beer, with the beer’s main redeeming quality being that it was still hydrating because it was so light. We sat around our bed stand, bundled in many layers of clothes, and laughed our way through dinner.
The next day after a blue-sky morning hike through the hills of Moganshan, we ate a lunch and spent several hours resting at The Lodge. Listening to Paul Simon lightly playing throughout the bar while writing down some of my trip’s adventures so that I would be sure to remember them was a perfect ending to our stay in Moganshan.
Fun fact: Moganshan is named after the first names of Mo Ye and her husband Gan Jiang, and the word “shan” just means mountain. There are many variations to the story of Mo and Gan, but the basics are that they were sword makers, who were commissioned by the Emperor to make the sharpest sword they could. After delivering the sword, they would be killed so that no one else could come into possession of an equally sharp weapon. Here is a photo of Kai and I in front of a statue honoring Mo and Gan.