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Discovering ZhangJiajie

Discovering Zhangjiajie

March 28, 2019

In March 2019, Personal Travel Adviser, Maria Kiss, was invited on a trip to Zhangjiajie. Here, she recounts her adventure on chairlifts, boats, glass bridges, mountain walkways, and visiting the Temple of Confucious.

Day 1 - Flying Business Class with Hainan Airlines

The trip started at London Heathrow, Terminal 3, where I met my fellow group members – there were seven of us in total from various tour operators. We were travelling Business Class with Hainan Airlines, which was a very nice experience, from the check-in we had speedy security to the departures where we had access to the Business Lounge. The Business lounge was large with comfy seats and we were given food and drink, there was also a Spa and a cinema. The seats on the plane were comfortable the seat configuration was 2-2-2, and the service was very good with Michelin star food from Alyn Williams of the Westbury.

Day 2 - Arrive Changsha

On arrival at the airport there was an hour drive to the hotel, where we dropped our bags and went to meet members of the tourist boards about the forthcoming itinerary and have dinner. The food was very good and was followed by a brief walk in the town to the restaurant district. This area is famous for its chilli with many shops selling it, in fact, there was so much chilli around you could smell it in the air.

We stayed at the Mercure Hotel – which was very good with large rooms and bathroom, clean on comfortable.

Day 3 - Hunan Museum, Taohuayuan and Taohuayuan Boat Show (the story of Taohuayuan)

Today we visited the Hunan Provincial Museum, it mainly showed artefacts from 2000 years ago – it’s interesting to walk around the large modern building is well organised with English guides walking you around. At the end of the tour you see the 2000-year-old well-preserved mummy – it’s a bit scary looking. After this, we took a long drive to Taohuayuan (3 hours). This is a very pretty park area with a lake, it’s mainly for Chinese tourists, and not really set up for westerners. The highlight of the trip was the night boat show which takes place on the river. The boat travels down the river and sections of the shore light up to show you a part of the story. It was a stunning experience it’s a shame you’ll have no idea of what’s being said, as it was all in Chinese with no translations, so just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

We stayed at the Tianxi Hotel – which was very nice. I had a large room with a modern bathroom.

Day 4 - Drive to Fenghuang Ancient Town (Phoenix Town)

We took a 3-hour drive to Fenghuang, and on arrival, we had lunch and then explored the town. It’s very pretty with beautiful buildings, and small lanes to walk around. It was really quite something then you turn corner walk down some stairs and you’ll see the most amazing river. We went on a small boat trip and took in the views of the shore. In the evening we saw a show – Border Town – with an impressive stage set up. Afterwards, a few members of the group took a night walk by the river, when it was lit up and so pretty. We did have a couple of drinks, but it’s very expensive.

Day 5 - Drive to Zhangjiajie and Visit Glass Bridge

This morning we drove to Zhangjiajie and the famous Glass Bridge over the Canyon. This is really good but it can get very crowded, so hopefully, your guide can time it in a way that you’ll avoid the peak times. The walk on the bridge is not recommend for anyone scared of heights, I’m not scared but my legs were shaking as I walked over the glass. The bridge opened in August 2016 and when it opened it was the longest and tallest glass-bottomed bridge in the world. The bridge spans the canyon between two mountain cliffs in Zhangjiajie. This is a popular attraction and it’s estimated to receive an average of 8000 people daily.

We checked in for a three-night stay at the 5* Qinghe Hotel – which had large comfortable rooms with nice bathrooms.

Day 6 – ZhangJiajie Day and Lift Back Down

From the hotel, we took a 5-minute walk to the main gate of the national park. We took a cable car to the top and walked around the area taking in the views of the mountains. Then we moved towards the Tianzi Mountain area seeing the floating mountain. This whole park is very scenic and it’s easy to walk around and was used as the inspiration for the film Avatar. To properly see these two areas of the park it takes around 5-6 hours.

Day 7 - Golden Whip Stream Walk

Today we took a walk along the  Golden Whip Stream park. This 7.5 km walk was very pleasant, there are monkeys in the park which some people were feeding, be careful of them because they can take things off you – they are very quick. The group enjoyed this walk as it was relaxing and scenic. We had lunch and 3 members of the group left us to return to the UK.

Then we visited Baofeng Lake, where we had a Chinese speaking guide, using a megaphone, telling a story about finding true love, with Chinese people singing songs on the lake. It was a pretty lake and could be relaxing but as we didn’t know what was going on, and it was very noisy, it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

Day 8 Tianmen Mountain - Fairy Fox Show

Today was the best day of the trip. We took an hour’s drive to see the mountain. On arrival at the mountain it starts with a 30 minutes cable car ride to the top it’s the longest in the world – the last part of this is very steep going up at 37 degrees over sheer cliffs to one of the mountain peaks – I didn’t like that very much. The queue to the cable cars can take a long time and again this will have to be timed right to avoid the waiting time. Once you reach the top you have a walk around the mountain and experience the glass walkway, it’s quite something the views are incredible. The walkway was opened in November 2011 and is 4,600 feet high. After this we took a chairlift to go a little higher, walk on a suspension bridge, then in a park area down a lot of stairs which lead to the escalator which seems odd in the middle of the mountain. We descended down to the ground level (took around 40 minutes). Midway you can get off the escalator and walk down 999 steps instead. When you are at the bus you can take great photo’s of the mountain and then on the bus you do the drive called 99 bends. Tonight we saw a famous show called the Love Story of Fairy Fox. This had an English translation but it was still a little confusing, but the scenes were all very impressive.

Day 9 – Folk Garden of Tujian Nationality and Fly to Jinan

The first stop this morning was to visit the Folk Garden of Tujian, it was a place of worship, here you’ll see ancient buildings and an impressive large courtyard. We were taken into the building and saw old clothes and ancient actifacts. It was a pleasant place to spend a little time.

We then transferred to the airport for our flight to Jinan.

Day 10 - Jinan to Qufu

This morning we went to the old city to take a boat on Daming lake, the whole experience was enjoyed by all of us, it was definitely the hi-light of Shandong province. Everywhere was so clean and the water was a fresh spring – all the local people would be filling large containers to collect the water. The cruise was very nice and when we left the boat we all walked around the town. Again this was all very pretty a perfect place to relax and take in the sights. After this, we took a 2-hour bus ride to Qufu the home to Confucius.
This afternoon we visited the Confucius Tomb, this was in a large park area with a lot of old trees, we took an electric cart to get closer to the tomb.

Day 11 - Confucius Temple and Mansion and Bullet train to Qingdao

This morning we spent the day at the Confucius Temple and Mansion. The grounds were large, and it will take some time to walk around.
Our experience of the bullet train was good, the Chinese are well organised for the train service. We had 2nd class seats, this really wasn’t too bad, and the seats were comfortable.

Day 12 - Qingdao Tour

This morning we started the day by driving over the main bridge – its 37.5 Km long the 3 rd longest in the world. After this we went to Xianyushan Hill for a Panoramic view of the city, which was very nice, from the hill you climb the stairs of a Pagoda and you see the beach area, there are a number of parks around also, and the Pier. In the park later that day I was told there is a small Zoo which has 2 Panda’s in it.

After lunch we went to the Tsingtao Brewery – this was very good well organised and well explained. We all enjoyed the tour and found it very informative. At the end, you get to try the beer and we were lucky to get special labels made for our very own beer bottle.

Day 13 - Old Town, Boat Tour, Fly to UK

This morning we had a nice walk around the old town, the streets were tree-lined and it was very pleasant and peaceful. The town is split into two part’s old and new, and this is clearly seen in the photo’s. The old part has low-level red brick buildings, the new part has large modern skyscrapers. We had a boat tour to see the skyline it was a little choppy on the water but we had a good 20 minutes sailing around the coast taking in the views. In better weather, this would be a pleasant trip, and a night tour seeing all the lights would be good also.

We then transferred to the airport for the flight home. This took just over an hour’s drive. The airport will be modernised in September 2019, but it didn’t look too bad, it had everything you need. Business Class on Beijing Capital Airlines was good but not as good as the outbound flight with Hainan.

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