Zhangjiajie – The Avatar Forest

The Chinese word for cloud is apparently Wu. I know this because I saw a lot of them in Zhangjiajie. In front of all the mountains in fact.

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Road of 99 turns

The national park of Zhangjiajie is a bit outside of town but from very near the train station you can catch a gondola up to Tianmen mountain, so we did that, catching vague glimpses of rockfaces through mist before reaching the summit. We did the glass walkway around the edge of the mountain but couldn’t see very much at all so it was a bit of a let down to be honest.

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Cool shoes though….

Giving up on that, we caught a local bus up to the national park and managed to track down a cheap hotel to stay at before finding a great little restaurant for some spicy beef and sweet and sour pork washed down by a few Tsingtao beers but given the lack of sleep on the train it was destined to be an early night.

That did at least mean we could manage a full day of sightseeing in the national park the next day so we headed into the mist, watched a few monkeys running around and then gate crashed a tour. Basically, we realised we had no clue where we were going and latched on to the first westerners we saw! Their guide (for an extra fee) showed us around the key sights – Tianzi mountain, No 1 bridge and Hallelujah peak.

You’ve all seen the movie Avatar right? Well, the Chinese like to say that it was inspired by these mountains, although director James Cameron has never confirmed that. Even so, he must have been there in very different weather than us because if it was based on what we saw, Avatar would have been set in a big grey cloudy mass and a far less impressive movie……

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Jake Sully 4 Real

After another early night in Zhangjiajie village (there’s not exactly a nightlife) we had a train to catch the next day to Beijing. Learning from previous experience we had forked out for a luxurious soft sleeper, the very pinnacle of luxury on the Chinese rail network and a huge step up for us!

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Proud moment

Arriving in Beijing having drunk most of the beer in the dining car and with a good nights sleep, we checked in at Saga hostel in Dongcheng and realised that we (especially Adam) did not have sufficient warm clothing for the freezing temperatures of Northern China so after a quick sightseeing trip to the Heavenly Altar, dropped into Pearl market to haggle ourselves some bargains. With that done, we deserved a treat so enjoyed a great dinner of Peking duck (when in Rome) and then ended up on a bit of a session in the hostel. After all, we were enjoying our last night before heading into North Korea…..

Stay in Zhangjiajie

Green Tree hotel. Cheap, cheerless. Clean rooms, hot showers, free wifi. Business hotel with few frills but the room a are heated.

 

Do in Zhangjiajie

National park. Highlights include the Hallelujah peak, Tianzi mountain and number one natural bridge. In winter, you run the risk of cloud, rain and even snow, but apparently the queues in summer are unbearable and ticket prices are higher so it’s a fifty fifty decision when to visit!

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