Noilly Prattle: China 2017: 7 – late flight to Zhangjiajie

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

China 2017: 7 – late flight to Zhangjiajie

Wild Goose Pagoda

Wild Goose Pagoda
bas relief stonework - body is jade
bas relief wood carving
    Since we had a latish (20:00) flight to Zhangjiajie we decided to combine a little more sightseeing in Xi'an with the ride to the airport. So we arranged for a taxi to take us to the Wild Goose Pagoda (a well-known Xi'an landmark) before driving us to the airport in time for our 8:00pm flight. The Wild Goose Pagoda is a Buddhist Temple founded in the 8th Century. I was mostly impressed by the many bas relief carvings in wood and stone, particularly jade.

      After checking in at Xi'an Airport we had some time before boarding and found a Burger King, so we succumbed to the junk food urge before boarding our flight to Zhangjiajie.


our room in the Maosao Inn
      We arrived in Zhangjiajie at 21:45 and were met at the airport by a pre-arranged car and driver and drove to the Maosao Inn in Wulingyuan. The drive seemed endless (although it took only about an hour) through rain-dark streets and a climbing winding 2-lane road up to the town of Wulingyuan just outside the Zhangjiajie National Forest. The staff waiting in the empty lobby had limited English so we felt a bit like strangers in a strange land. Our room, however, was spacious and clean with a somewhat rough-hewn decor. The hot bath was very relaxing and the amenities seemed to work properly. The heater, though, was not able to get the room much above 19C.

      We had a mini crisis in the morning—a feeling of being unequal to a daunting task type panic attack--anxiety and paranoia about being able to get anything done with limited resources of language, knowledge of wilderness areas, etc., where to eat . . .  Finally plucking up our courage (and empty stomachs) we decided to go for it and emerged from the warm womb of our room. Fortunately, there was a new staff guy at the desk who spoke enough English to communicate about where to get some breakfast, restaurants, market, bank, park entrance, where to hail a taxi, etc., and got a photo copy of a simple map of the town to get around.

makeshift breakfast from bakery items
      Reassured and armed with our new knowledge we put together a few things from a bakery (breakfast place), had “breakfast” and walked a couple kilometers to the park entrance. The scenery of the karst mountains along the way suggested the kind of scenes we might see within the National Forest. Our intention was to try and arrange a tour but nobody at the ticket windows spoke English and we couldn't make ourselves understood, but we bought a very good site map of the park and a 3-day pass and decided that we would attempt some trips by ourselves into the park using the shuttle buses available within the park free with the entrance tickets.
karst limestone mountain formation 
      In the evening we decided to go out for dinner and explore the older part of Wulingyuan town. The restaurant scene in downtown Wulingyuan was less than exciting and we settled for a local noodle shop then strolled around the lively old town. It was colorfully lit in the evening and vibrant with people doing the things that people do in the evening: eating in restaurants, strolling around the streets, chatting in groups, some doing group dances similar to those we saw in Dali and Li Jiang in Yunnan last year.

      By then we had familiarized ourselves with the hotel and oriented ourselves within the town of Wulingyuan and the mini crisis of the morning proved to be as evanescent as a soap bubble and we looked forward to our first trek in the Zhangjiajie National Forest—or maybe it could be called the "Hallelujah Mountains"! 

No comments: