Zhangjiajie (11,900 acres and a UNESCO World Heritage site) in Hunan province was overall very spectacular, even like a mirage now that I think about it. There’s also a slight disparity between what I saw and what I had imagined the place to be; there’s obviously different scenery in the autumn and winter seasons– two other seasons in Zhangjiajie that were featured in the books I read. I thought just my mom, Sharon, brother, and one of my cousins’ family were traveling with us but turns out my distant relatives and my uncle’s friend’s family was also going– making a total of 17 people! It was truly the more the merrier. Originally, we planned to stay there for just 2 days and 1 night but ended up staying for 2 nights instead… (That will explain why I am wearing the same thing in most of the pictures.)
Day 1: We left home at 2pm and drove for around 3 hours until we got to the place called Zhangjiashi (Zhangjia city), which is located right below Zhangjiajie. There, we stayed at a cheap (less than $100 USD), but fancy, hotel (really, where else can you find such a place especially at a famous tourist destination?) that accommodated us with even cloth slippers. I especially like the bathroom because the bathtub was surrounded by glass windows, which I don’t know why but can guess that it is for ease to watch TV while taking a bath. Our clan of tourist booked the entire hallway but was left with an extra room so Sharon and I moved in by ourselves.
That night, we ate dinner at a Tujia (the original ethnicity group living in that area who were sort of like “tufei” or, gangsters in the old days) resteraunt. I liked how unique the resteraunt was built; bamboo made flooring, balcony, basket (that hung from the third floor to be used like an elevator), and light covers, decorations including fur (don’t know if it is faux or not because I later found a boar, a few snakes, fish, chicken, and turtle in cages in the kitchen– I suppose), “pepper grinder/smasher”, traditional wine buckets. The food was alright though, yummy, but not super delicious. We went to bed “early” because the next day we had to rise and shine and begin the long expedition in the mountains.
Day 2: After the breakfast at the hotel, we boarded a bus and began our 40 minute drive there. The tour guide on the bus was very strict and at many times told people to open their eyes because they were falling asleep. I was guilty too because closed my eyes for a while when I felt my contact drying up.
Eventually, we switched to another guide when we entered the park. We walked on a forest/trail place where small monkeys swing freely from tree to tree and look at people curiously. At certain locations along the way, we stopped to imagine distant mountain tops as figures; the tour guide said, if you don’t use your imagination, “yuan kan xiang shitou, jing kan ye xiang shitou” — observed from afar, they look like stones, observed from near, they still look like stones. As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t see them as what they were labeled (one being a mother holding her son). We did go to the place where a scene called “San da baigujing” was filmed from Journey to the West.
In the afternoon, we rode the lifter-cars (sorry, forgot the name of those zip line sort of transporters) up to the top of the mountains. My, my, such beautiful view. After a hectic lunch, (had to wait for at least half and hour or more for a table that we ended up sharing with another family), we went to hike along the sides of the mountain. Although I have a fear of heights, I was too in awe to feel so. Probably because trees and bushes from the sides made it more bearable! From the sides, you cannot see the bottom. Now I have to remind you with a picture of the sort of mountains they are, like ginormous rocks standing alone with forests growing on them. So, it was like walking along a cliff for most of the time. Here’s a picture of where Avatar (“Avatar hallelujah mountain”) was partly filmed at.
After that, we got to the glass elevators that hugs the side of the mountain. We boarded the elevator at level 326 (meters high) out of the 400 levels and went down. Because I was squished in the back, I was disappointed that I could only look at the mirror ceiling as we descended. In less than two minutes, we were deep down into the actual mountain where we got off. Hm, so little to see for so such pricey passes.
Towards sunset, we found a trail place with a wooden walkway along the monorail. The distant mountains were illuminated with the light of the Golden hour. Because everyone was exhausted from the exhilarating trip on the mountain, only Sharon, Liu Luyao (super caring, new friend), Richard (I don’t think he will, I mean, can, ever run out of energy), and I tried to fast walk and take in as much as we could in 15 minutes that the tour guide allotted. The air felt so crisp and clear and then I saw a sign that said the oxygen level was at this certain quantity. With less people around and perfect conditions, I felt energized to break into a run. Obviously, we did not finish the 6-mile trail and since my iPod’s battery died, I do not have any photos beside a few my mom took. On the bright side, I was able to fully take in nature without the distraction of electronics.
That night, we stayed at another hotel. This time, it is more like a motel. Although my family have stayed in motels numerous times while traveling in America, this one here was in particularly the worst I’ve ever stayed at. None of the few amenities were free (travel sized packet of soap, toothbrush, and comb was 6 yuan) and I even found a piece of hair on my bedsheets… Holes replaces the door handles and locks to the bathroom. No natural light shown through the window because our room was in the middle of the square-shaped hallway. I guess this whole thing with hotels are part of inveigle tourists. Despite all of these faults, I enjoyed the dinner and slept soundly.
Day 3: I woke up feeling as if I had to go to school again because the room was as dark as night. I have to say that staying an extra day really wasn’t worth it. We went to a Dao temple place early in the morning– not very unique compared to the other temples I’ve been to. The travel guide told our group to wait 1-2 hours for them to come back from escorting the other half of tourists to a paid destination. We were pretty upset and ended up walking ourselves back to the hotel and staying there until lunch. I planned to go walk the renowned glass bridge to test my wits and experience more scenery that day but ended up seeing hardly anything at all.
Overall though, we relatives all bonded and it truly is the experience one can have with other people that makes something memorable. I am down to 3 weeks left in China and I must make it meaningful! Oh, and happy national sister’s day, Sharon!