Karst mountains, longest cable car ride in the world
28.09.2015 - 30.09.2015 26 °C
We moved from the town of Wulingyuan to the city of Zhangiajie on 28 September. We took the little bus from the clock tower, cost is ten yuan and the distance is about 35 km.
The driver had been instructed to let us off at the train station which was the last stop.
When we arrived at our destination a teenage fellow passenger showed us exactly where to go to pick up our train tickets. People here are very nice to tourists.
I had emailed the hotel to get transfer service from the train station at two pm but had not heard back. Without wifi or cell phone service I had no way of contacting them so just hoped for the best. We had decided to pick up all our train tickets at once. A gentleman of Chinese descent who now lives in LA helped translate when there was a problem with the tickets.
We pre-booked all our train tickets through DIY China online. They charge a small fee but since we were travelling during a very busy holiday season in China we did not want to be stranded. Picking all the tickets up at the same station cost fifty yuan but saved lots of hassle. In all, we have five tickets each.
I was stressing over the hotel transfer situation, we tried to take a cab but they refused, too close. You needed a phone number to get onto wifi and so I could not get hooked up. Where was that American now??? I went to MacDonalds but there was a phone number requirement there also and nobody spoke English. Various people tried to help me get onto wifi but I could not seem to explain my issue due to the language barrier. I had a phone, but I did not have phone service. It seemed complicated to explain because everybody expects you to have cell service. Finally a guard seemed to understand, took out his phone and called the hotel. He signaled for me to stay put and from that I gathered that somebody was coming. I then plunked myself down beside Rhea and wept. Embarrassing but true. And at 205 pm our English speaking landlord arrived. He had a different name written on his paper, maybe he had been over at train arrivals holding that up!! True he spoke English but not enough for us to discuss the name discrepancy.
His hostel was maybe three walking blocks from the train station, a bit longer driving but honestly we would never have found it. From a main street you went down an alley street, lined with businesses and then at the last alley street that branched off you took a left turn. Our room was up a flight of stairs but staff carried our packs and we were pleased the room was bigger, backed on to an elementary school playground and had a lot of hooks to hang things up. The beds were hard but seemed a bit more comfortable than our previous bed.
We asked a couple of other guests, an American and Australian, where they had been eating and on their recommendation went to a cafe a few blocks away and I had kung pao chicken. Rhea was kind of off chicken, she had seen so many caged chickens in Wulingyuan, so she had eggs (???) and tomatoes. There was some kind of weiner-like substance in with the chicken so I pushed that aside.
On 29 Sept our landlord drove us to the cable car entrance for Tianman Mountain. This is suppose to be the longest cable car ride in the world so we bought round trip tickets. Now to the long line up. The National Holiday starts officially on Oct 1 but there are so many tourists here it is mind boggling. We wait in line for 1.5 hours. Quite a few people stare at us, several take pictures, I don't know whether we are spectacles or celebrities, but it helps pass the time. If they take our picture I try to take theirs.
This dog was ahead of us in line and I don't think he had a ticket:
The cable car ride is fun, it goes a long ways over fairly flat ground and eventually really climbs, kind of scary in one or two places.
It takes about thirty minutes. Now we are at Tianmen Park and their are numerous cliff hanging trails, all paved with wood railings, but I am experiencing vertigo and want to hug the mountain wall side, not always possible with all the other tourists. Since I am dizzy and sort of scared in a fun way now, I decide the glass walkways will not be good for me and we do not go that route. For the next few hours I feel a bit disorented, guess I am a bit afraid of heights. However, we enjoyed the descent on the cable car.
Back at the starting point of our journey we notice the line up is now really small - do not come first thing in the morning - wait til 1130 or 1 pm. I am sure the vast majority of tourists come early to beat the crowds!!
We take a taxi to a shopping centre and go first to the prominent KFC to have a cup of coffee and decide what we need to buy. While we sit there I take a few pictures:
Rhea likes these split pants on babies, she is going to buy a pair for her new grandson.
Eventually we shopped and the main item we wanted was a suitcase with 360 degree wheels. I was just so tired of struggling with my backpack, staggering around to put it on and then struggling again to take it off. There have been no cobble stone streets and I can't imagine arriving at our next hotel with those packs. So we buy a matching set, Rhea will keep the big one and I will keep the carry on size, they are kind of cheaply made but they move like a dream. The staff at the department store did not speak English but were very helpful. Nodding, head shaking, showing the price on a calculator, etc. We then wandered into a kind of upper scale department store where I bought a cute pair of pants for my two year old grand daughter. It seems I can always find something for her!!
We took a taxi back to our hostel and chatted with the two young backpackers who had had an exiting day getting lost hiking on Wulingyuan. Hey, we haven't been lost yet. The foibles of others make us glad to be alive and traveling independently in China. Of course we never venture too far afield but still...
The kids in the school next door seem to start quite early and there is a lot of singing. Pretty upbeat, some of it is in English and one song is a kind of phonetic ABC song. Maybe kids here should learn that song too. It is quite catchy.
Our landlord will drive us to the train station tomorrow. We have been to two mountain resorts in China now, we ate moon cakes on 28 September, we have eaten a lot of noodles and supplement with soda crackers, digestive biscuits and oranges. I bought a knife so we can peel fruit, we are getting more organized.
Now we can pack our clothes in suitcases and Rhea's case is big enough for the backpacks which we will use to carry souvenirs on the way home. For the next three weeks though we will not have a need for them, we feel quite civilized walking along with our new luggage, so easy to sit down, so easy to move them around. My right shoulder was sore before we started, now my left shoulder is sore too. High time to ditch the backpacks!!
On our last morning in Zhangjiajie we wandered around the neighbourhood. Just down the street from our hostel a band was playing. The girls working at Hotel California coffee house told us the reason for the band was the celebration of the birth of a new baby. Fun. Because the girls spoke good English we asked them to write the name of the hotel in Yichang in characters.