Day 4 — Zhangjiajie National Forest Park ...

Three-day park pass: 245RMB/1210NT/CAN$44 (admission validated by fingerprint)

Set out early to find perfect weather! We grabbed some noodles (4RMB/20NT/CAN$0.71) near our hotel and then hopped a local bus for the 45-minute ride (12RMB/59NT/CAN$2.14) over to the main entrance of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

The shuttle buses within the park are free and convenient. We hopped on one, making our way over to the Bailong elevatorIt was 72RMB/355NT/CAN$13 one-way. Once on top of the mountain, one can wander for hours to enjoy the views. The park is absolutely superb! I walked around in a state of awe most of the day. (images in the album on the right)

Things of note:

There wasn't much signage around the park and the maps that were available were not terribly accurate. It was a bit difficult to navigate your way around at times.

What is known as the "Avatar Mountains" is obviously the most popular part of the park as there were thousands and thousands of people. Most were on a group tour, which meant there were guides with microphones shouting everywhere.

Thousands and thousand of tourists
The amount of people trying to sell you stuff or charge you to take pictures (some with your own camera) and stands selling drinks and souvenirs was overwhelming. Ladies selling cucumbers and tomatoes were every few meters sitting around the trails in the park. It made it very hard to enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature, to be honest. It was ridiculously noisy and there was constant pushing.

As if the noise from the yelling and microphones wasn't enough, there were elderly ladies selling whistles (1RMB) everywhere. I believe every little kid had one, which added to the already excruciating noise.

There was a HUGE McDonalds inside the park; like, three or four McDonalds put together to create a monstrous one — gross.

Rather than take the cable car down, we decided to walk. It's a 5.8km walk that consists of uneven stone steps all the way down. My left knee was throbbing by the time we got to the bottom and this unfortunately slowed me down to a hobbling pace for the remainder of the trip.

Tiny local restaurant #3 was at a tiny shop two doors down from the guesthouse. We had Kong Xin Cai, delicious Gongbao Jiding, scrumptious Mapo Doufu and, of course, a nice cold beer ... or two! Unfortunately this little restaurant was closed for the remainder of our time in Zhangjiajie otherwise we may have eaten here the whole week.

It was easy to crash early after a long, exciting day. We planned to head back to a different part of the park the following morning. The owner of the hotel said the weather called for rain. I slept with my fingers crossed hoping to awake to more blue skies!

Day 3 — Tianmen Mountain ...

One-day mountain pass: 240RMB/1175NT/CAN$43 (guesthouse discount)

Out of the hotel around 7am to find the sun shining and the skies blue. The weather couldn't have been more perfect! The owners of our guesthouse weren't up at this early hour but their twelve-year-old daughter was and insisted on walking us over toward the cable car station.

Food stall #3 sold yummy Youtiao at 2RMB/10NT/CAN$0.36 each. This was breakfast, along with some fruit from one of the local markets.

Tianmen Mountain is absolutely stunning! I can't even begin to put it into words nor do I feel the images in the album on the sidebar (see right) do the place any justice. If there is one place to add to your bucket list, this is most definitely it.

The cable car ride up is said to be the 'longest passenger cableway of high mountains in the world.' The cableway is 7,455 meters, has an ascent of 1,279 meters and the highest gradient is 37 degrees. Once on the mountain, one can spend hours and hours and hours checking out the sights. We covered all the trails shown on the map here.
Things of note:

Leaving at 7am in the morning means one only has to wait about a half hour to get into a cable car. A guest at the hotel said he went around 10am and was stuck in line for two and a half hours.

It's an extra 5RMB to walk across the see through platform. It wasn't terribly exciting due to the mass amounts of people on it.

There is a ski lift up on the mountain to save some walking time. It's 25RMB/one-way. We took the lift but realized we missed a lot of the sites, so we hiked back and forth.

While being in one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, it was quite strange that tons of people were pointing and repeatedly saying 外國人 (wàiguórén) meaning foreigner. Words cannot even describe the surrounding beauty and yet we seemed to be the spectacle. Really? After awhile, my travel partner and I started calling back 中國人 (zhōngguórén) meaning Chinese person. It seemed most appropriate and caused the finger pointing to stop in most cases, but not all.

Bathrooms are terribly stinky all over china and most are, of course, without tissues. Line-ups don't exist, especially in the bathroom. People push past and if the bathroom has no door, no problem. Women and children drop their pants and crouch right in front of you. Thanks for sharing!

Tiny local restaurant #2 was a restaurant on the corner of the alley of where we were staying. We had been gone eight hours and barely had anything to eat. The server gave us an English menu, which means higher prices according to my travel partner, Tom, who ordered and paid for dinner. The food was quite delicious with the exception of the intestines that had been ordered by accident. Eeek.

Image: Charles Liu @ the nanfang
What I found interesting and what I later learned happens all over China is that every restaurant you go to gives you set dishes wrapped in plastic, like this image here. This is done to show that the dishes have been sterilized. If restaurants are doing this all over China (every place I went to for two weeks was) think of the amounts of plastic being used for this alone.

Most local restaurants will give you hot tea and a plastic bucket upon your arrival. One would think the tea was for drinking but this isn't the case. After you remove the plastic from your place setting, you are to rinse the items with the hot tea and then discard the tea into the plastic bowl. This way you know your dishes are clean. Interesting.

After filling our faces with delicious food and some cold beers, it was time to take a rest and get to bed early as the next day would prove to be another big one!