Saturday, 14 July 2012

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

3rd-4th July 2012
A word of warning – the next few posts might be a bit light on words. If you just thought, “Hooray!” then you should be ashamed of yourself. No, these posts won’t be textually-challenged because I’ve decided to spare you my flaky prose or terrible sense of humour, but because no words can do justice to some of the scenery here. For that reason, it will be mostly photos and the odd caption.

Unless you’re flying, Zhangjiajie is relatively hard to get to. We got the bullet train (700km in 2.5 hours!) from Guangzhou to Changsha, where we spent the night and then got on another train the next morning. Since we were only briefly in Changsha, there’s not much I can say about it, except that our hotel (the Lotus Huatian) had a “food street” restaurant attached. You get a card as you go in and rather than browsing a menu, you wander around a series of ‘booths’ filled with ingredients and chefs. Pick a few dishes – each time this is registered on your card – and the food is cooked and brought to your table. Damn tasty it was too.

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Lotus Huatian Food Street in Changsha
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Pick your dish and it's cooked fresh while you wait
Arriving in Zhangjiajie, we jumped in a cab taking us to our first port of call, a youth hostel in Wulingyuan, 30km north of the city, but right next to the National Park. The next day we headed up to the entrance and bought our tickets (a two-day pass), not sure what to expect.

The park is quite big but there are free tourist buses to whisk you between sights. It’s a bit confusing so we actually got on the wrong bus. It didn’t matter much as we were taken to what should have been the end of our tour. Not to worry, we just did the route in reverse.

Our new first stop: the Bailong Elevator.

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Bailong Elevator
The view from the top was pretty spectacular, but a short walk around the cliff, it got even better.

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Is that rock hovering...?
The local authorities claim that the area was used as the inspiration for the film Avatar. I think they’ve got a point. But just in case you were in any doubt…

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Does James Cameron know about this?
The views just got better and better.


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Wow
Another short bus ride around the mountain and we were treated to the “Stone Forest”.

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Stone Forest
And finally, a spectacular cable car ride back down the mountain.

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More wow
As I said, words can’t really do justice. To be honest, as good as they are, pictures struggle too. I firmly recommend you spend 20 minutes browsing through the rest of the photos (link on the right).

On day 2, we decided to see what the scenery looked like from ground level so we followed the path next to the Golden Whip stream.

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Golden Whip stream
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Karst scenery at Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
The trail is about 6km long and towards the end you have to watch out for scavenging monkeys.

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Hang on little monkey!
We wandered back the way we came and headed back into Wulingyuan, a bit blown away by the scenery, but still with enough energy left to appreciate Wulingyuan town.

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Wulingyuan
Strangely, our Lonely Planet guide only has a couple of paragraphs for Zhangjiajie. The National Forest Park alone merits an entire chapter and there’s still more to come! Stay tuned for the equally stunning Tianmen mountain…

Current Location:  Yangshuo until 18th July
Next Stop: Nanning


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