Day 5 was another day of hiking adventure in the Zhangjiajie National Park (张家界国家森林公园) where we had to bring along the plastic admission ticket that we used the day before to enter Ten-Mile Art Gallery and Golden Whip Brook. If you had read my previous post, you would have remembered we scanned our thumbprints upon entry so that the ticket would have an unique identification code to ensure no one else is able to use our ticket. We entered the national park via the Wulingyuan gate (武陵源门票站), and at 8+ in the morning, it was already filled with visitors as it was a Saturday + Mid-Autumn Festival long weekend (中秋节长周末).
The first stop of the day was to the peak of Mount Tianzi via the cableway (天子山索道). Getting to the cableway station was like a prelude to the hiking we would be experiencing later – we had to climb a long flight of stairs (that never seem to end) up to join in the queue.
Oh, you will need to pay for the cableway ticket (single trip RMB 67, about S$13.60) as it is not included in the national park entrance fee. If you want to save money on this, then the only way is to climb up to the peak of about 1,200m high as private vehicles such as coaches are not allowed in the park. 😉
We were told by our tour guide to stand close to one another together so as to prevent others from cutting queue. True enough, we encountered a few instances where some locals would try to tell us their friends were in front and they wanted to join them. After waiting for less than half an hour, we boarded the cable car, although it felt as if we had been standing there for a long time. Our tour guide mentioned that this was already considered very good as usually during super peak periods, visitors have to queue for at least 2 hours before they could board the cable car. Gosh! Don’t think I have such patience to visit the park during super peak periods then…
Within walking distance upon arrival at the peak is the He Long Park (贺龙公园) – built to commemorate Marshal He Long (贺龙元帅), one of the founding fathers of China, who was born in a peasant family in the Sangzhi county located west of Mount Tianzi.
The statue of Marshal He Long was constructed in 1986. With a height of 6.5m and weight of 9 tonnes, it is one of the biggest statues in China built over the past century. As seen from the photo above, the park’s name was inscribed by retired Chinese politician Jiang Zemin (江泽民) on 28 March 1995 when he was still in office. This park has several observation decks, from which visitors can get the best views of Mount Tianzi.
It’s pretty amazing how numerous of these towering vertical sandstone peaks were formed over the years to become a forest landscape. Didn’t know what to say except “WOW” when we saw them repeatedly at the many observation decks in the park. 🙂 No wonder there is a sign at the park indicating that “you will regret it if you don’t see the scenery (不看此景，终生遗憾)”!
After admiring the spectacular landscape, it was time for some “civilisation” as we were brought to the world’s highest MacDonald’s. The fast food restaurant is housed in a building that looks like a modern replication of the ethnic houses we see in Zhangjiajie. Apparently the price of food and beverages at this MacDonald’s is about 30% higher than those found in the city. Since it was very hot and humid that day, we bought a coke float each to quench our thirst, and it cost RMB 10 (about S$2), so not that expensive if you compare it to the price in Singapore! 😛
Thereafter, we boarded a small eco-bus (that was like a roller coaster ride for 40 minutes as it drove through the bendy roads on the mountain) to get to the only restaurant on the mountains that caters to tour groups (so-said the tour guide) for lunch. She repeatedly reminded us to have a heavier breakfast that morning as the local food in that restaurant may not suit our palates but we would not have alternative choices. Well, she was indeed experienced enough to predict this. We did not finish most of the dishes as they were very different from the previous meals and tasted weird to us. Guess the only food that was more unique yet acceptable for us was the bamboo rice as shown in the photo collage below.
Never mind about the food, viewing the breathtaking landscape at Yuanjiajie (袁家界景区) was more important after lunch. Without further ado, I shall let my photos do the “talking” here. 🙂
After hiking and jostling with the crowd to take photos for more than 1.5 hours, we were ready to take a ride on the Bai Long Elevator (literally “Hundred Dragon Elevator”, or 百龙天梯). It holds 3 Guinness Book of World Records – first for being the tallest full-exposure outdoor elevator, second, it is the world’s tallest double-deck sightseeing elevator, and third, it is the world’s fastest passenger traffic elevator with the biggest carrying capacity. Construction of the elevator began in September 1999, and was in operation in April 2002. It was manufactured using equipment mainly from a famous German elevator company at a cost of RMB 180 million. For your information, you need to pay an additional fee of RMB 72 (about S$14.60) to ride on the elevator (one way), it is not part of the national park entrance fee.
In less than 2 minutes, we descended to the foot of the huge cliffs, travelling 330m downwards. If we had hiked all the way down, it would have taken an average person 2.5 hours to do so. Well, there has been some controversy on the construction of this elevator in a world heritage site, due to the potential harm caused to the surrounding landscape. Nonetheless I must say it is a smart and impressive invention by the Chinese. So this marks the end of our approximately 6 hours of hiking adventure for the day! 🙂