We're back for another round of the BucketListly Solo Traveler's Journal, and since this is the first entry of the year, let me take you on a special trip to a place where not many foreigners have traveled to, the Zhangjiajie.
Zhangjiaj National Park is situated in the Hunan province, China and it was the first national park ever built in China. It was later popularized because of the movie "Avatar" that took the inspiration from this place to depict the memorable floating Hallelujah mountains as we all saw in the movie. The uniquely formed spires that spread throughout 11,900 acres of this national park makes it one of the most magical landscape you will ever see. The scale of the mountains, and how each and every spire move in parallax as you walk away are astoundingly beautiful that you sometimes forget that you are walking and ended up staring at these spires in wonder.
Today, let's explore every corner of the Zhangjiajie national park, the difficulty of traveling in a country that no one speaks English and how you can go too without having to plan as much as I did.
Day 0: Transiting from Guangzhou to Zhangjiajie
I flew China Southern Airline from Bangkok to Guangzhou and headed out to Zhangjiaj with a connecting flight. From my 4 flights experiences with the airline, I had 2 delays, 1 cancelled and only 1 flight that all went well. I'm not sure if it was my luck, or delaying and cancel are normal for the airline.
A very cheap, very nice hotel called Tu Niu Hostel(Biao Zhi Men) that I stayed in Wulingyuan. 5 minutes walk from the national park gate. They also do a pickup from the Zhangjiaj airport for 115 Yuan. I think it was reasonable since it took me 50 minutes to get to the hotel from the airport.
Day 1: Upper part - Tian Zi Mountains and YuanJiaJie Mountains
I saw many photos of this place with huge crowds before and so I woke up very early to get to the gate before the crowd flock in, but to my surprise, there saw no one at the gate at all. I was among the first, with other officials walking through the entrance. Apparently, January is the coldest month and there were no crowd whatsoever, I almost had the national park to myself! Upon entering the gate, I paid 245 Yuan for a 3-day pass, scanned my finger and just walked onto the bus that was waiting for me.
There are 2 entrances that you can go to top, the cable car to Tianzi Mountain area and the Bailong elevator. These two entrances will put you on the opposite side of the national park so choose which way you want to go. I went with the cable car first, and walked down the trail through the Golden Whip stream instead of going the down the elevator the next day.
Even when you are just going up the cable car, you will start to see more and more of these magnificent spires.
Since I was way too early plus it was the lowest season, I had to walk to the next sightseeing point because the free shuttle bus doesn't run until it is full.
Although there are fog blocking the visibility of mountains, it somehow made it more mysterious.
This is what I mean when I say I almost had the whole place to myself. It was a very low season, only a few restaurants are open during this time. It will depend on your preferences. Do you like buzzing crowded place but with more options, or do you like the solitude of having the place to yourself at your own pace, but with less options available? I prefer the latter, that's why I came here in the winter.
Zhangjiaj national park is huge. Solitude can be found in every corners of this park.
Don't get me wrong, winter here is extremely cold. It was 3 - 5 degree Celsius, and I had to wear 3 layers, even while sleeping at a cheap hostel with no heater, or water for that mater.
Who could turn away from this mesmerizing sights?
The local enjoying the beauty of their own home land.
Me with the Statue of He Long in He Long Park.
After finishing the walk in Tianzi mountain, I took another bus to the second stop, the YuanJiaJie mountain area where I found a rocky road with a sign that said "One Step to Heaven". Because of my curiosity, I decided to walk into the forest and 1 hour later following the trail, I ended up at this beautiful sightseeing spot. It was a 2 hours round trip walk that reward you with this magnificent scenery overlooking the spires.
It's lunch time, and I found myself heading in the wrong direction going down mountains. Although, I wasted a lot of energy climbing back up, at least, I got this beautiful shot.
And this is where I ended up having lunch. A noodle along the street because all the restaurants are closed during winter.
After reenergizing myself, I headed to see the No 1 first natural bridge in the world which situated in the North Western part of the park. These are the views along the way.
This place is definitely not for people who have acrophobia. With my frozen and numb fingers and a glove, I wasn't sure if I will accidentally drop my camera if I go further out of the balcony to take this photo.
This may be cliche, but the photos don't do this place justice. The scale and dimension you get from walking toward these cliffs will really give you the shake even if you are not scared of heights.
More alone time. Thank god I decided to come during winter!
Love locks hanging near the No 1 Natural bridge area for family prosperity.
And here it is, the renown natural bridge. Can't imagine how crowded it would be during the high season.
After I found the bridge, the sun was setting and it was time for me to head back to the hostel I'm planning to stay on top of the mountain. I ended up staying at the first hostel I saw which is called Mango Youth Hostel. 100 Yuan per night, with an okay room, no water, and no heater. It was so cold that I had to wrap myself in multiple blankets like a burrito. The plus side is the WIFI was available and fast because I was the only one staying in the hostel.
I went out for a walk to catch a sight of the Milky Way, but it was way too bright and I didn't have the power to wake up in the middle of the night for a shot, so these are all I got.
And that concludes my first day in Zhangjiaj national park and the end of the Solo Traveler's Journal Part 1.
What do you think of part 1? Do you plan to also travel to Zhangjiaj? Let us know in the comment below
Click here for part 2 as we go down to the lower parts of the mountain and explore the lower Zhangjiajie.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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