After work on Thursday Jared and I went home to finish packing, make sandwiches, eat dinner, and make our way to the train station. Our train left at 7:21 and went from Chongqing to Huaihua. We would arrive in Huaihua at 4:30am and then catch our train to Zhangjiajie at 5:30. At least that’s what we thought. The first train from Chongqing to Huaiahua left 10 mins behind schedule. The train ride was rather smooth and the trains were not bad at all. Our students had said they could be really bad but actually they were quite comfortable. There were maybe 30ish beds per train car. Each train car is divided into 5 or 6 sections and in each section are 6 beds. 3 beds lined each wall: 1 bed near the floor, 1 above that in the middle, and 1 closer to the ceiling of the train. We had the middle beds. There were little kids under us that were demon children. Within 20 mins of boarding the train, 2 train attendants asked to take a picture with me. They were women so I was a little confused because they normally want to take a picture with Jared but hey that’s better for me haha
We arrived in Huaihua over an hour late. So we thought we missed our train to Zhangjiajie. We arrived in Huaihua to find out our next train was delayed 2 hours. We waited and it became 3 hours and then there was no time at all. We had to exchange our tickets for a train that left at 9:13 which was the time we were supposed to arrive at Zhangjiajie, now we wouldn’t arrive until 12:34pm on Friday June 27th.
So we arrived in Zhangjiajie and weren’t exactly sure how to get to the park. We ended up taking a taxi and this guy tried to get us a tour guide. The tour guide guy was hardcore trying to sell us a tour, but it was expensive and I can navigate myself. He tried telling us that they don’t speak Mandarin because the people in the park are all minorities. Then he said that they hate Americans and that without a guide you would get lost and never find your way around. Well, let me tell you that was all BS. We navigated, found our way and talked to people in Mandarin just fine.
When we got to the park, we bought maps that had all the trails on it and we just followed that. It was pretty easy actually. The first thing we saw when we stepped into the park was MONKEYSSSS. Lots of them! I actually took more pictures of monkeys than the mountains right in front of me. I mean come on, monkeys or mountains? Def monkeys every time.
Anyway once we got past the monkeys, we saw how beautiful the park is. There were trees, a river, the mountains above us, grass and it was nice to be in nature. It was like being in a forest with a tropical rainforest jungle feel. It was hot and humid but thankfully that first day wasn’t that hot at all and it was cloudy. I haven’t seen that many plants and animals since I arrived in China.
The first hour or so was a pretty nice hike because it was mostly flat with some incline going up, but the second and third hours were tough. I’m not the most active person but I do go to yoga and I run on the treadmill at the gym and I walk A LOT. The hike during those 2 hours was just stairs going up and around the mountain. It was a very tiring and sweaty hike. I think I sweated off 5 pounds doing that hike, but when we finally got to a platform to look out over the mountains I forgot all about that torturous hike and was in complete awe. The mountain makes you work for it but it was so worth it the moment my eyes saw the view.
It is the most incredible place I’ve ever been. I’ve travelled a lot but I mostly saw cities. The only place that was even close to Zhangjiajie was Slovenia’s Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj but they were picturesque and gorgeous whereas Zhangjiajie is magnificent and awe-inspiring. Zhangjiajie is so amazing that I don’t know how anyone can even question whether there is a God or not. I know there is a scientific explanation for how Zhangjiajie was created and there were several signs explaining that there, but I personally don’t think that anything that marvelous and astounding came to be all by itself.
Once we finished the rest of the hike up to our hostel, showered and ate some dinner because we were starving, we went down the path next to the hostel and looked out over the mountains while enjoying a nice cold Tsingtao beer. The next day we walked to the bus stop and took the bus to the other side of the park. On the way to the bus stop we saw rice fields and people going to work in the fields. While we were on the bus we saw some great views of the mountains. The roads were really windy and the bus driver was driving way faster than he should. It was kind of scary. Chinese drivers already aren’t the safest drivers but those bus drivers take the cake for worst driving, although we didn’t die or get into an accident so I guess I can’t complain.
The other side of the park was even better than the side we hiked up. There were dozens of platforms to look at the mountains and even though they were all similar they weren’t all exactly the same. While going down to one of the lookouts I got cornered taking pictures with random Chinese people. I was just minding my own business taking a picture of the mountains and then the next thing I know I have a line of people wanting to take a picture with me. Seriously. No joke. Being foreigners we always get asked to take photos with random people but Zhangjiajie has the record so far. I personally had like 15 people take a picture with me or of me within 10 mins and together Jared and I took at least 5 more pictures with people.
We tried to take the cable car down the mountain but it was broken L and we had to hike down. It wasn’t that bad because we were going down and we did get to see more nature and more views of the mountains for the first half of the way down. The second half was pretty boring actually because there wasn’t anything cool or interesting to look at and it was just stairs down. Towards the end there were some rivers and mini waterfalls which were pretty. And we saw a creature we never saw or heard of before… it was like a bug but it was white and walked around like a peacock with his feathers on full display the only thing was this thing was about the size of the nail on my pinky. We made it to the bottom, hopped on the bus to the exit, and then walked to the bus station to catch a bus to the train station. Once back we went to McDonald’s for some much needed lunch and to chill out for a while before our train. Once we got on the train it was smooth sailing till we arrived back in Chongqing Sunday June 29th at 6:45am.