Each month, The Ecologist will be looking at the environmental issues we face in Dongguan. From the challenges that threaten entire manufacturing industries to issues that we came across in our day to day routines. This month, The Ecologist visited Zhangjiajie.
The first recognized national mountain forest park in China, listed as a 5A destination, the majestic Zhangjiajie, rises above the clouds with awe and wonder. In this article we will explore this mysterious mountain forest with firsthand experience of my journey there. I will tell you how to get there, what you will expect to find, the must see areas, some crucial tips, and an overall summary from an ecologist point of view. And if anything, you will understand why the creators of “Avatar” decided to film there. It is truly a landscape of beauty and wonder.
There are many roads to begin this journey from Dongguan, but the best path I found was to start with a morning subway ride. Taking the Dongguan Subway to the Humen Railway Station is quick and affordable with little added stress. Instead of taking a plane, you can take the 3 hour high-speed train to Changsha. Though it takes a little longer, it is cheaper and still convenient with a smooth ride.
From there a 4 hour bus ride is needed to get to Zhangjiajie city. Once there, more than likely it will be in the late evening, so look for a youth hotel. Many can be found very near the bus station where you just got off. Expect to pay between 80 to 120 RMB for the night. The one I was in was very cozy and well kept. The hotel attendants are very friendly and eager to help travelers. Crucial tip – ask the hotel attendants to send any luggage you prefer not to carry to the hotel you will stay at on the mountain. To send a backpack will cost you 15 RMB, while a larger suitcase will be 20 RMB. It is well worth it.
The next morning, you will need to go back to the bus station to catch the bus going to the mountain for 12 RMB per person. There are 3 gates onto the mountain. Make sure to take the bus going to Jinbian Stream, to which what I believe is the preferable entrance and the closer one. The ticket will cost 245 RMB, giving you 4 days to stay on the mountain.
Now welcome to Zhangjiajie! You are where I call the first level of the mountain. As soon as you enter, Zhangjiajie greats you with the stunning views of its famous mountain peaks. What is interesting is that these peaks, though similar to Guilin’s mountain peaks, the Zhangjiajie peaks are crafted from sandstone while the Guilin peaks are made of limestone. Going along the path will you will see the iconic Golden Whip Stream. The pure waters are see-through and its beauty adds a magical element to the environment.
Crucial tip – beware of monkeys! I’ve been around monkeys before and even studied them in Africa, but I’ve never come across monkeys so boldly aggressive as the monkeys found in Zhangjiajie. There are many signs up around the area telling travelers just this, but most do not take it seriously until a gang of these monkey thugs come rolling up. They will take your food, all of your food. The only way to prevent this is to hide any food you have deep inside your backpack and carry a large stick. Do not hit the monkeys. That is not needed. But if they do come at you, scare them off and quickly move past them. At the entrance of the mountain, locals ask payment to be your guide. The local guides will carry sticks and throw large stones at the monkeys to scare them off. Do not and I repeat do not fight a monkey for food. They are much stronger than humans and are able to tear your face off. If they see food in your hand, throw it far from you and run past them. It’s not worth it. If you don’t have food, the monkeys pose very little risk to you.
Soon you will encounter Bai Long Tian Ti, the world’s tallest outside elevator. It is a fast and exciting way to get to the second level of the park. However, once there be prepared to be a little disappointed. People do live on the mountain and thus, trash is everywhere. The sights are exquisite but the pollution will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Sadly, this area is where all the “Avatar” views can be seen. Its still very beautiful but you will have to share the viewing platforms with the abandoned rubbish. It gets better though!
It starts to get dark around 5pm to 6pm so make sure to have a hotel for the night. The hotels are inviting but in poor condition. They make food but as you can understand its a bit expensive. After a day on the mountain, and defending against monkeys, a hot meal is a welcome sight even with the added cost. It is cold on the mountain so make sure dress warmly and prepare for a cold night.
In the morning, head off to what I call the third level. This is where it gets better in sightseeing and in pollution control. One place that is needed to be seen during the morning is Tian Bo Fu. It is quite the adventure to get there and truly not for the faint of heart. With winding paths along the cliff side, extremely narrow passage ways and ending with a challenging climb on a vertical metal ladder to a glorious view, the adventure seeker will have no complaints. Throughout the day as you continue your journey, make your way to the cableway of the Emperor Mountain where the skybox will take you back down to the first level within 6 to 8 mins. Crucial tip – the last bus to the park exit is at 6pm. If you miss this bus you will need to go back up in the skybox and walk all the way back in the dark to a hotel.
This is for a 2 day stay on the mountain and lets you see the main attractions. However, there are many other places in Zhangjiajie to go see. Three of which deserve special recognition; the glass bridge of Daxiagu, the Heavens gate of Tianmenshan and The Yellow Dragon Grotto. Overall, Zhangjiajie was a great delight to behold and being out in nature witnessing its grand landscape is something I will always hold on to, I hope you get the same chance.
点此阅读中文: Chinese (Simplified)