Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Zhangjiajie National Park - China's First and Most Famous - Our First Day

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We arrived in Zhangjiaje early evening and were met by our trekking guide, Bree Phan.  Bree is about five feet tall, pretty as a model can be, and was decked out in a summer dress, long curled hair, makeup and six inch heels.  I commented on her "hiking attire" and she laughed saying she always likes to meet her clients this way to make a good first impression.  She promised a more appropriate attire for the remainder of the adventure...smile.

This was the most expensive aspect of our China tour...a five day visit to the first national park of China, established in 1982, and world famous.  For identification, the floating islands from the movie "Avatar" were filmed on location here as well as much of the exterior shots of the film.

Our Chinese hotel was a 3^ tourist class accommodation with a five star room.  Comfy king bed, beautiful bathroom, nice and quiet on the top floors, with stellar WiFi.  It is located on the main street of Zhangjiajie Village.  A gentle stream runs down one side, beautifully landscaped as only the Chinese seem to do.  On one side are hotels side by side ranging of hostels to five star luxury.  On the other side are restaurants featuring various versions of Hunan cuisine with the very spicy "hot pot" as a featured dish in most.  We settled in nicely, had a grand dinner for about $15 USD and were fast asleep well before 9PM.  It was a long day and still hot when we got back to the hotel.

Bree promised us a spectacular first day out and she did not fail us.  We left a hotel a bit later to avoid the early morning Chinese tourist groups.  This is national school vacation and the place is swamped with folks from all over the country.  Touring China has become a huge multi-billion dollar business in China and there are hotels and resorts and park services being built everywhere.  Their economy is booming the emerging middle class is spending it as fast as it is earned...or so it seems.  Western tourists are still an oddity and we got lots of stares, smiles, and requests for photos.  This is a far out location, hard to get to unless you have advice and thus there may have been less then 20 westerners seen all day long.  We seem to stand out a bit so we aren't too hard to spot...smile.

The park is huge and it will take four days to tour it.  Today we started off at the visitor center.  A nine-story pagoda graces the entrance.  The place was still mobbed with tourist groups.  It was noisy and chaotic.

Bree got our tickets and we were finger printed at the entrance gate
From there it was a 40 minute bus ride up into the canyons.  The drive was stunning with the rock formations on both sides.

We reached the end of the main road and headed for the 1500' high exterior mounted glass elevator that would take us to the top of the canyons.

At the top Bree oriented us to our location and we started our trek along the canyon rim.

These are waster receptacles and there were places thoughtfully throughout the park.
Here's our gal in her black and white polka dot shorts.

The views from the edge were amazing.

A local macaque suddenly scared by the shotgun bursts the park rangers use to scare them off.  By the time we got to the next landing they were were all gone except for this little guy.  Apartently they are quite a nuisance to guests...stealing sunglasses, camera, and phones and getting into your bags looking for food...smile.

Of course there had to be an omage to the movie "Avatar" and here it was...and the locals loved my pose so much they kept asking to take photos...dozens of them...didn't help that my ego was swelling.

The pillar...some 2000' feet tall...amazing.

Caterpillar finding refuge from the footfalls of the crowds.
Natural Bridge and another massive pillar.

Finally a trail all to ourselves.

Another humorous sign...anyone caught smoking the forest faces an immediate fine and some jail time if caught...even with that we still say folks "breaking" the rules.
After nearly five miles of hiking and climbing up and down stairs...some 20+ flights in total, we got a break and rode the cable car back down to the bottom of the mountain.

It was amazing day ending with a hot pot dinner of glass noodles and sauzage...and of course some Star Trek episodes.  Tomorrow we have a six mile hike through the Dragon Canyons....

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