Noilly Prattle: China 2017: 8 – on our own in Wulingyuan

Monday, May 15, 2017

China 2017: 8 – on our own in Wulingyuan

Hallelujah Mts.
from Avatar
from the James Cameron film Avatar
     Xi'an was all about ancient history in the oldest capital city in Dynastic China. It was an urban experience. In contrast, the next phase of our journey in China took us to the “wilderness” experience of the Xhangjiajie National Forest within the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area. You probably never heard of “Zhangjiajie” or “Wulingyuan” but if you've seen James Cameron's 2009 film Avatar you may have have seen parts of them. The films floating "Hallelujah Mountains" were inspired in part by the karst limestone formations that can be seen in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area.

Wulingyuan Scenic Area

hand drawn map of  the
Wulingyuan Scenic Area
waiting for the bus - East Gate in background
       On our second day in Wulingyuan, armed with our beautiful hand drawn map of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, we ventured into our first unguided trek in the park; flagged a taxi in front of the hotel and took it to the eastern entrance gate for 10 yuan. The crowds were unbelievable, seemingly thousands of people in tour groups merging on the entrance. We got to the ticket windows easily enough since only the group leaders lined up to buy bulk tickets, so it didn't take very long to get our two tickets. Long lines were queued up to get onto the buses that travel all around the park to various points of interest. We boarded one going to the cable car station to the Tianzi Mountains.

queue on the stairs
       There was another horrendous queue on the stairs leading up to the cable car boarding platform—took half an hour or more to reach it. On reaching the summit and alighting from the cable car the scenery was lovely. There was some snow on the ground and icy tree branches glistened in the sunlight. We walked around the area which has karst limestone rock formations resembling the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, Utah but with trees growing on top and out of the cracks and crevices in the rock. A popular point of interest was a massive bulky looking statue commemorating a famous general of the Chinese Civil War era. 

beautiful view from the cable car summit

hoodoo like karst limestone pillar formations

statue of a civil war general

children are called 宝宝 [bao-bao] in Chinese;
actual meaning is "double treasure"

free buses travel all around the park 

       We had planned to go back down along walking trails to a monorail station about 5 km away, but were unable to find the right path. The paved paths were not well marked and had only a few confusing direction signs. We met two young women who had walked up from the monorail who said it had taken them more than three hours. Disappointed, we finally had to backtrack up to the cable car summit station and rode back down. The loading platform was much less crowded than in the morning. So was the bus we took back to the eastern gate. We could have walked the couple kilometers back to Wulingyuan but were a little tired and grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.

beef noodles
       We were famished after all that trekking in the park. The previous evening we had been surprised to see a restaurant with Arabic writing on its sign. We discovered that it was a noodle shop run by a Muslim family and heard that the food was very good and so, decided to try it. We ordered beef and noodles, stir fried beef and vegetable and a hot Chinese vegetable called chingensai in Japanese. Everything was delicious. 

stir-fried beef and vegetables

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