During this two week trek around China, we found this hostel rather randomly and via a Google search and phoned them up directly. Baihe is a small little town catering for tourists to the Changbaishan mountain range on the border between China and North Korea. There is little other reason to come to this small town and challenging to get to in all cases.
With regards to the Changbaishan mountains, this was a bit of a disappointment in my opinion. Unless you are going to do your own thing and do some independent trekking, this tourist site has really fallen victim to tacky Chinese tourism. Whilst this site is accessible to all, this is perhaps what makes it quite unappealing and definitely lacks anything close to an authentic experience. It is about an hour drive from Baihe to the mountain site and you know you’ve arrived as you’ll be met with throngs of tourist buses. After purchasing a series of tickets, the masses are herded into a queue to be loaded onto high capacity standing buses to be taken half way up the mountain. After arriving there, one joins another queue to be loaded into 4x4’s which take five people at a time up the mountain. The system is excellently efficient but you feel more processed than an airplane passenger.
The drivers of the 4x4’s are cowboys and pride themselves in driving up the curving mountain (and down) at break neck speeds. Whilst there is a bit of novelty to this, it is frankly an enormous hazard and exceptionally dangerous. After getting up to the top of the mountain, there is a very limited trek that one can take to look at the mountain ranges. Along the way, there are merchants selling everything from corn and eggs supposedly cooked in hot springs, to tacky photos of the mountains in florescent colours to your name engraved on metal plates. The experience is crowded and noisy. Best part is coming down and exploring the forest (on a guided path) and seeing the waterfalls.
Back to the hostel…. It was a hostel and as long as these are your expectations it is fine. The hostel is run very competently by a lady named Jessica. Her English is excellent and she really helped us and gave us great advice. The hostel seemed about 25% full and with Chinese youth tourists. Jessica arranged a car to pick us up from Yanji (where we arrived the night before to visit the mountains) and also arrange a car to get to the mountains. This made things very simple.
The rooms are very simple and our rooms had an ensuite. The toilets, unfortunately, were very damp and smelly. The lever was also broken to the toilet which required us to stick our hands into the tank to release the water. Otherwise, the facility was clean enough.
There is a small restaurant in the back of the hostel and the food was excellent. The restaurant is really an extension of the kitchen of the family that lives there, so it was very authentic and excellent value – try the sweet and sour pork. Otherwise, there is nothing much in ‘downtown’ Baihe, just some fruit stands, lots of dog restaurants and some places selling fungus and mushrooms from the mountains.
The hostel is located right across the street from the bus station which serves Yanji. We took the bus back to Yanji for our return flight to Beijing. This was definitely a rural like service with passengers sitting in the aisles and the driver taking very dodgy routes, but it got us there safely on time.
In retrospect, it took us nearly 2 days to get to and from Baihe to see the mountain range. In my view, it was a good adventure but not particularly worth it, especially if you like mountains and have trekked around Switzerland or other similar places.
I would stay at this hostel again. There are some Chinese hotels in the neighboorhood but I would imagine them to be very poor value and they didn't look great. Jessica has excellent English and is very helpful which is really needed in the backwater towns like Baihe.
- Also Known As:
- Changbaishan Woodlands Youth Hostel China/Antu County, Jilin