It all started here...

It all started here...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wulingyuan, Zhangjiajie National Park

Ctourus -- 7-day Tour of Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China 
Day 5 - Wulingyuan of Zhangjiajie, November 10, 2017

After visiting the Tianmen Mountain Park area the day before, we would be moving over to the Wulingyuan area of Zhangjiajie National Park today.

Exterior of Ziyu Hotel in Zhangjiajie where we stayed the night before as we left the hotel in the morning.

Street scene outside of the hotel.

On our way to Wulingyuan.

Toll booths of Zhangjiajie.

Arriving our first stop at Wulingyuan--Jun Sheng Sand and Stone Painting Institute. 

I remember we visited another location of the same establishment in Zhangjiajie on our last trip so this was not a surprise for us. This was just a short stop and I don't even think they expect us to do any shopping here anyway.

These paintings using stones, sand, and other natural materials were truly amazing!

And, of course, they were quite expensive.

This one represents the beauty of Zhangjiajie quite well.

Waiting for our bus outside the building as we were leaving.

Unique buildings.

Next stop, tea shopping!

Royal Tea Shop

A statue of Lu Yu, the Tea Saint.

Tea was served and we were told that steaming our eyes with that tea will help relieve any discomfort of the eyes. We were kept in there for close to two hours, until purchases were done.

Lunch was served here at this restaurant.

The entrance of Wulingyuan (Yuanjiajie) part of the park was right in town.

After our guide purchased the tickets we were led to take the shuttle bus inside the park.

We got off at the Gold Whip Stream stop (Jin Bien Brook金鞭溪) for a few photos. Unfortunately we did not have a chance to walk further down the stream like our last time here.

Beautiful mountains all around.

Ah Mei, the assistant guide and photographer for this part of the tour, she was a pleasant addition on our tour. At the end of the tour she presented us with printed photo books and a video of our trip here for those who wanted to purchase. 

Our next stop was the World's Highest Outdoor Elevator (Hundred-Dragon Heavenly Ladder百龍天梯). This elevator will take us from the bottom of the mountain to the top in about one minute. 

Bai Long Tien Ti

Getting in line for the ride up.

Inside the elevator. The glass panels were kind of dirty making it hard to see clearly from the inside.

One more shot from inside of the elevator as we were going up.

Now we were much closer to the amazing sights of the rock formations.

I believe this was the rock shown in 'Avatar', the Hallelujah rock.

Weather was not perfect but certainly better than our last time here.

(from my iphone)

Back down to the bottom after another ride on the elevator.

As we were leaving the park on the shuttle, I happened to snap a photo of the dam on Suoxi Lake with my iphone.

Jin Xiu FengHuang International Hotel (International Splendid East) 錦綉東都大酒店
We then checked into the hotel where we would spend the next two nights in Wulingyuan. Quite convenient in town.

I believe we had dinner at the hotel that evening before going out for a show that we had to pay extra for ($80 USD) which is called Zhangjiajie Charm Xiangxi, a show about local culture and history.

Waiting to enter the auditorium.

It was quite an interesting show with plenty of dancing and acting. I especially enjoyed the part about the 'walking-dead' of Xiangxi 湘西趕屍. After the show indoor, they also had another show outside which was more of a fun show with audience participation. A good way to end the evening.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tianmen Mountain National Forest, Zhangjiajie

Ctourus -- 7-day Tour of Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China 
Day 4 - Fenghuang to Zhangjiajie, November 9, 2017

Breakfast at the restaurant next door to the hotel was quite hectic this morning. We all got up early with the 6:00 am morning call but by the time we got to the dining hall it was already crowded with many tour groups there. The buffet lines were long and massive, and there were not enough tables for everyone there. Not sure if its because of the inexperience of the hotel/restaurant or they just didn't care, it was not a very pleasant experience.

As scheduled, we left the town of Feng Huang at 8:00 am for the drive to Zhangjiajie. One of the items listed on the itinerary was passing through the Aizhai Bridge (矮寨大橋). I figured that I should pay attention if they put that on the itinerary even though we will just have a glimpse of it driving through. Our guide did announce it when we were getting close to the bridge so we were prepared.

The Aizhai Bridge is a suspension bridge built as part of an expressway from Chongqing to the city of Changsha completed in 2011 and opened to traffic in 2012. It is the 7th highest bridge in the world and the world's 15th longest suspension bridge. Out of the 400 or so highest bridges of the world, none has a main span as long as Aizhai and it is also the world's highest and longest tunnel-to-tunnel bridge. Now, that's incredible! It would be nice if we had a chance to get out and take some pictures but I assume there was no parking space on the bridge for us to do that.

Driving on the Aizhai Bridge.

Looked like a huge elevator built next to the bridge.

A stop at the rest area in Bao Jing.

We all got some snacks from the supermarket at the rest stop.

Arriving at our first shopping stop--mattress shop in Zhangjiajie. 

This seems to be a newly developed area with high-rise apartment buildings nearby.

Entrance to the mattress shop. We were in there for close to two hours. That was about the average time we spent in each shopping places in the days to come.

Now I don't remember where I took this picture of the salamander. Probably at the restaurant we had lunch after the mattress shop.

Tianmen Mountain (Heaven's-Gate Mountain 天門山)
After another simple and quick lunch, we came to the cable car station near downtown Zhangjiajie for the long ride up to the top of the mountains. I remember when we were here the last time it was very busy and crowded. Fortunately, it was not the case this time around. It didn't take long for us to get on the cable cars with the short line. For those who may have problems with height, better prepare yourself for the 'scary' ride!

The line up was quite OK that day.

Quick and easy!

Here we go!

Each cable car holds eight passengers.

It was fine at the beginning of the ride.

Then it got higher and higher up.

Now we are above the very winding road that leads to the top of the mountain.

Almost to the top.

Getting ready to walk through this "cliff-hanging walkway". We did not do this the last time we were here because of the weather. It was rainy and cloudy with very low visibility. Fortunately, we have great weather this day.

Tickets $5.00 RMB

To walk across the 'glass' section of the path, we had to put on protective 'socks' over our shoes.

If the piece of glass broke, you know what will happen...!

If you can handle this 'view' under your feet you will be OK.

The problem for me was not the height, it was more about getting through the people who were posing along the walkway. They would be sitting or laying down on the glass panels causing 'traffic jam' for those who just wanted to walk by.

Looking back at the 'glass panel' section of the cliff.

"Cliff-hanging walkway"

I think that's the jumping platform at the top of the mountain on the right.

The hole - 'Heaven's Gate' of the mountain.

After the walk around the cliff, we were ready to take the escalators down. There are 13 escalators, one after another, built inside the mountain. They weren't there the last time we were here.

Reaching the 'hole' at some point.

More to go...

I believe they hold these 'flying' competitions/demonstrations every year for the dare devils. They would jump from a platform at the top of the mountain wearing these specially made suits to fly through the 'hole'.

That's the gate (hole)! Walking up those steps was the only way to go the last time we were here. We did not take the challenge though.

"Ladder to Heaven"

After a few more photos it was time for us to get back down. This time instead of taking the cable car, we took the 'roller coaster', sorry, the shuttle, down. It went very fast down the curvy road which has 99 hair-pin turns. I was thinking if we would be on the news the next day...

Snapped a picture of the 'gate' while on the bus.

Yep, that's the road where the 'roller coaster' traveled.

At one of the turns.

Happy to be alive! A distant view of the "Heaven's Gate".

Dinner was like a feast that evening with a big bowl of steaming noodle in the middle.
To celebrate life, maybe?

Zi Yu Hotel, Zhangjiajie (紫御大酒店)
Checked into our hotel for the night, ZiYu Hotel, after dinner. I had to skip the 'optional' show that we paid extra for that evening because I was not feeling well. Stomach problem. I thought it was best for me to stay and rest while the others went to the "Tianmen Fox Fairy Musical Show" which cost $80 USD per person. There was a total of five 'optional' add-ons, each costing $80 USD for a total of $400 USD per person on this trip on top of the cost of the tour. We were aware of that from the get go, so it was no big deal.

Even though I missed the show, it was nice that I got to spend a relaxing evening at the hotel. At our age, sometimes not doing too much is just what we need.