Thursday, August 22, 2013

Zhangjiajie National Park

Finally time to see the famous spires that were featured in the Avatar movie!

This is the website for Zhangjiajie if you want to know more about it:

A group of 6 other people from my hotel headed to the park on same morning as me, so we got a shuttle there together at 6:30 in the morning (not much sleeping in on this trip!)

The drive there was about 30 minutes and was pretty terrifying because the speed and craziness of Chinese drivers

Most of it was in tunnels as we passed from mountain to mountain 

We finally made it to the entrance of the park just as it was opening at 7 AM. The price of a 3 day ticket was 250 RMB ($40) 

Going early was great because we got there before the tour groups. In China the tour groups are obnoxious. The guide has a microphone on and is followed by a huge group of people (usually wearing the same colored hat) and moving at a very slow pace

As soon as we walked in white monkeys came from everywhere to check us out. The person who helped me plan my trip told me to keep any food out of sight and not to feed these guys. (They also advised us to bring our own food because the food stands in the park were extremely expensive by Chinese standards)

A baby attached to its mama

The monkeys targeted this man with a HUGE grocery bag of snacks. After the bag was ripped open and all the monkeys got something they disappeared back into the trees. 

The first route was along Golden Whip Stream which was really nice because it was flat and very peaceful 

These guys were everywhere--100 RMB ($15) to be carried around for 4 hours. I'm not sure if they thought i'd be interested because they think foreigners are lazy or because they thought I had the money to pay for it, but they wouldn't leave me alone. 

Meat and scallion dumplings (jiao zi) for breakfast! 10 of them were about $1--which by American standards is very cheap.

A fountain of prosperity or youth. It took me a few minutes to wait and get a picture without anyone in it. People were giving themselves a full out shower with that little spout and trying to drink as much as possible (oh Chinese superstitions!)


A view of the spires before the stairs began

Suffffffffering. So many stairs. Now I can see why people might be interested in those chairs! After the hour long hike along the stream the rest of the day was up and down stairs. 

A woman with fresh corn found me mid hike, steamed corn is one of my favorite snacks here! 

All of the "fast food" restaurants were preparing food before the rush came

WOW. Such a pretty view! Not so peaceful though, I had to wait a long time to get a turn to take a picture without anyone in it. 


After this scenic spot I had a dumb foreigner moment...I got on the public bus to go to the next scenic area which was a 7 minute drive. I figured the buses stop at every bus station on the mountain so when the bus driver passed the one that I wanted to go to, I had to go crazy to get his attention and ask him in broken chinese if he could let me out. (I want to go here--point on map then backwards--can I--pretend to walk off bus) he kept going but when we were about to pass an oncoming bus, he honked until they stopped, then let me switch to the other bus. 

I encountered this medicine man after a long flight of stairs. He made me sit down and took my pulse before I went on the ledge (to the left) to see the rock spires and checked to see if I had water. When I came back he was smoking (just a little ironic!).

I also met this group of guys on the  mountain. They were with a tour guide from the hostel who spoke English and asked if i would hike with them for the rest of the day. They are project engineers working on a highway from Changde to Changsha. The little girl is the guy in the blue shirts daughter. 

They didn't speak any English but kept asking the tour guide to translate everything so we could communicate. Not to mention they all wanted a photo with me, I guess they haven't seen many foreigners before. 

They stopped to take pictures EVERYWHERE. In every pose you can imagine. 

Many Chinese people surpassed these views because of the dangerous ladders

Such an amazing view!

Because the buses only ran until 5:30 this was my last view of day 1 but it was my favorite!
A little bit of a hassle to get there though!


Tianbo Mansion

I ate some street food on the way back

When I imagine American food stand or amusement park food it looks a LOT different from Chinese street food

Rice dumplings wrapped in banana leafs, fried bread, bars made out of nuts and sesame seeds, cucumbers, fried rice and noodles, and just recently they built a mcdonalds on the top of the mountain

Skewers of all different kinds of meat and fish, fried potatoes, more fried bread, noodles and various drinks, watermelon, grapes, tomatoes, nuts, dried fruit, corn...a nice variety of everything you can imagine. 

There were also sit down restaurants that served traditional chinese dishes (fried rice, meat and veggies, eggs and tomato) 

I ate a lot of corn, dried fruit, nuts, and fruit
Of course I had to get a diet coke and ice cream cone at mcdonalds!

I reached the Bajie youth hostel in the National Park around 6:45, took a shower, checked my email and then passed out. 

The next morning I did not pay to get a ride out to the nearest scenic spot at 5 AM to see the sunrise, instead i just hiked out there around 6 AM. 

I grabbed some stuffed steamed buns (bao zi) and headed out

Stuffed with some kind of meat and some scallions. It still freaks me out a little I don't know exactly what type of meat is in them.

I made it there just as the large group from my hostel were leaving so I had the area all to myself 

Here you can see the elevator that many people take to see the scenic areas that I saw yesterday. My tour guide told me it was a waste of money and you see better views while hiking the stairs. 

After the long hike and stairs, I needed to sit down. I asked the local people for some hot water and made some instant coffee (which has really grown on me since I've been in China) 

On my walk back this man insisted on driving me. He was with his two daughters and kept saying "bu shi qian" (no money). In China it's rude to say no and causes the other to lose face if you do so.  I accepted the ride and the man took me to the next scenic area. 

From there I set off for another day of hiking!

The celestial bridge 

Attempting to figure out which way to go--much harder when there isn't English or Pinyin

Most Chinese people are not very friendly--they were constantly surprised if I asked couples or friends if they wanted me to take their picture together

This was the first place where an old couple actually asked me first if I wanted my picture with the scenery 

After that I headed to a village to see the rest of the scenic areas (this is where McDonalds was located)

I quickly realized that many people take the cable car to this area or can drive to this spot in the park--so they didn't have to climb the thousands of stairs that I did the previous day. 

Some important guy...

When I reached this village I went to use the restroom right next to this statue. In China when there is a line in a restroom, people pick a stall and then wait RIGHT outside that stall so when the person walks out they have to be careful not to be stampeded. This annoys me to no end so I tried to just create one line at the entrance (i made a barrier with my arms) it was a lost cause...women were limboing under me to wait in line stall by stall. 


Just a little chinglish...

And finally...I opted out of the 8000 stair journey back for the cable car

And left the park through a different entrance around 3pm. Luckily I ran into my tour guide friend and the chinese men and we got on the bus back to Zhangjiajie and then another bus to our hostel after that.

Most of the tourists I met were from Korea or China. 

Many people said HELLO! to me and few engaged in much conversation past that. A lot of parents were urging their children to come talk to me and practice their English. This would have annoyed me to no end, but after working in a training school and understanding the ridiculous pressure that parents put on these kids, i was happy to engage with them. 

A lot of people would get really excited when they ran into me again and wave and say hello again! I also heard people talking about me expecting that i couldn't understand-- MEI GUO REN! (American person!)  

Exhausted and hungry I walked around to try some local food. I walked in a few places but of the places that had pictures on the menus nothing looked appetizing or something that i hadn't had before...soooooooo i went to get my Mcdonalds fix (at least i tried something different!)

Just a bit different looking than the picture...

I hung out in McDonalds and planned the next stretch of my trip! Another early morning to catch a bus back to Changsha

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