Student Blogs/Jessica T. in China

Jessica in front of the mountains

My typical tourist photo!

After first arriving in China back in September, I have only traveled to other large cities in and around the country such as Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong and Bangkok. This past weekend, along with a couple of friends, I made my first trip away from all the hustle and bustle from these cities and journeyed inwards towards central China. Our destination was one of China’s most famous national parks: Zhangjiajie or 涨价界.

Zhangjiajie is a large national forest park that features beautiful mountains along with caves, waterfalls, rivers, lush forests and a large variety of different animals. Our trip was quick, but nothing short of amazing. We were only there for two days, but those two days were packed full of adventure and sightseeing! Even getting to the park was an adventure in itself.

It was my first time on a long distance train; we traveled for more than 22 hours from Shanghai to the city of Zhangjiajie. The long distance trains are so different from the bullet trains that I’ve previously been on. The long distance trains have beds that are stacked on top of each other in groups of three in each section of the car. I managed to get the top bunk and the two people below me were complete strangers, which made me feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but it also made it that much more exciting to be outside of my comfort zone. During our long journey towards Zhangjiajie, there were workers walking up and down the aisles of the train frequently offering food and snacks so there was never a moment of hunger. At the end of the long train ride, I felt pretty good to have had my first experience on a long distance train with my friends. It was actually quite fun… with the exception of the squat toilets.

Then came the adventure of getting to the park itself. The train took us to the city of Zhangjiajie, but we still had to take the bus to get to Zhangjiajie National Park.  We managed to find the bus easily, little did we know that we actually got on the wrong bus. The bus took us to the East entrance of the park, but the hotel we booked was actually at the West entrance. The park is so huge that it would take us another hour by car just to get to the other side. We managed to hire a taxi driver to take us there because by then the public buses weren’t running anymore. Our driver was so nice though! We made it safely to our hotel after driving on some of the worst roads I have ever seen in my life! There were parts during the taxi ride where we would pass by really old villages that didn’t even have paved roads or streetlights so not only was it dark, the roads were very narrow and had such big potholes that I thought we were going to tumble down the mountain at any moment. Again, it was definitely a fun experience.

Looking up the mountain, with the mountain tops in the fog

The view of some of the mountains from the bottom.

The park was so beautiful! The first day we hiked in the park from below, which meant that we were able to see the mountains from the bottom. I’ve never seen mountains like these before and it was so amazing to see the contrasts between places like Zhangjiajie and huge mega-cities such as Shanghai. There must have been over a thousand different plant species and seeing the mountain tops covered in the natural fog made it seem so mysterious and beautiful. We also managed to see a lot of monkeys hanging around the paths as they watched people passing by.

A monkey perched on a post in the mountains watching people go by

One of the wild monkeys that liked to people watch!

The second day was my favourite day. We took the cable car up into the mountain tops and the view on our way up was so incredible!

A view of the mountain side from the cable car

Our view from the cable car ride up the mountains!

I must have said this a million times during our trip, much to the dismay of my friends, but the Avatar movie was filmed in Zhangjiajie! As we rose higher and higher into the mountains, I could see why the filmmakers would choose this place to film this kind of movie. The scenery was majestic and it all seemed so surreal to me. Once we got to the top we went to the most famous spot in the whole park to take pictures. The view was spectacular and I don’t think that the photos really capture the beauty of what it looks like in real life. We were really high up, so it felt like we were looking at a sea of mountains.

A view of the mountains that inspired the movie Avatar

Avatar inspiring mountain scenery

Going to Zhangjiajie was really rewarding for me and I’ll never forget this experience. I’ll also never get over how nice the locals were. They really go out of their way to help you and I think that’s really great and it really made our trip so much better. I highly recommend going to places like these in China, should you ever come to this country. It’ll give you such a different perspective as to what this country is really like and what it really has to offer. 

A stream running though the park with lots of trees around it

Beautiful stream we found on our hike through the park

Friday, May 27, 2016 in , ,
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