Zhangjiajie (Finding Avatar)

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May 8th 2012
Published: May 17th 2012
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The Heaven and Earth column was the prototype of Hallelujah relief in Avatar.
Having lived in China for three years, we have seen all of the major cities and taken many tours. We have moved our travels to other countries in Asia thinking we have seen the best of China. I was at an Expat coffee one morning and picked up a brochure for Weekend Gataways in China. The one called “Finding Avatar” promising to explore the real “Pandora” looked extremely interesting. Our weekend trip ended up beginning on Sunday night and ending on Tuesday night due to work conflicts but it was well worth the effort in scheduling and traveling during the week.

The Zhangjiajie area is known for producing mushrooms so our dinner Sunday night was at a mushroom restaurant. We love most Asian food and this was no exception. The meal was delicious and was a starter for all of the meals to come. The Hunan Province is known for their lip numbing food and they did not disappoint. Good thing we also love hot and spicy food a lot! We have always said that we seem to eat our way through our vacations.

Monday was spent up in the mountains. We took a cable car up and wandered for several hours seeing the amazing scenery in the Tianzi Mountains and then took a bus to the National Forest. I’m not sure if the pictures will do it justice but the mountains and peaks were breathtaking. The hanging mountains in the movie “Avatar” were designed from the quartzite peaks in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. We crossed stone bridges and a metal bridge with a grated floor so we could see WAY down to the forest floor. I’m not sure about the other tourists but Jason and I thought it was cool. Crazy Westerners we are! No cars are allowed in the park so after taking countless buses and climbing 1000’s of stairs we were off for a rest at the hotel. We went to the theater next door to see the Minority Show that night. It was interesting and if we spoke Mandarin we may have even understood the jokes. Oh well.

Tuesday we started with a 7km hike in the forest floor. It was such a different perspective than being up in the mountains. We walked along the Golden Whip stream on a stone path. Not exactly hiking but with millions of visitors the paths would have two foot ruts in them by now. It did make for easy going and all of the gift shops along the way were nice too. Yes, in the middle of the woods. Never pass up an opportunity to sell something. We saw many signs warning about monkeys but we were not seeing any until an hour or so into the hike and then they were everywhere. Not coming at the tourist but just enjoying the trees. They were a lot of fun to watch and there were several babies to watch too.

Then it was back on another cable car to see the other side of the mountains from Monday. Yikes, that cable goes high! I (Carrie) do not enjoy these and we took three of them. Good thing we really wanted to see the mountains. We walked up and down a ton more stairs but saw more breathtaking scenery. This was our last chance to see a sheer wonder of nature. I now understand why they had to find a way to use these mountains in a movie and share them with the world. We bought a book that shows the mountains with fog at the base of the peaks and they really do look like they are hanging in mid air.

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 24


A Snack Along the WayA Snack Along the Way
A Snack Along the Way

They were making these peanut snacks on the mountain. Tasted very good!

The Chinese have these locks engraved with their names and put them here for an everlasting relationship. Smaller locks are for couples and larger ones for families.
Natural BridgeNatural Bridge
Natural Bridge

We walked over this before we knew it was a bridge and not solid ground under us.

The Chinese buy these turtles and put them in the pond as a symbol of longevity. Our guide said they catch them at night and sell them again everyday. Funny little money scheme.
Metal BridgeMetal Bridge
Metal Bridge

You could see all the way to the forest floor.
Bailong Sightseeing ElevatorBailong Sightseeing Elevator
Bailong Sightseeing Elevator

It was a bit crowded in the evevator and half of the ride was in the dark, but it was only a 2 minute ride down the mountain. Better than another bus!
Turtle RockTurtle Rock
Turtle Rock

Zhangjiajie National Forest
New FriendNew Friend
New Friend

Everyone wants their picture taken with a "Westerner".

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