The Pandora world of the Avatar movie five years ago was very intriguing. The makers reference Guilin and Zhang Jia Jie mountains as inspiration for the design of the landscape. Below is the video from the makers of Avatar as a refresher, making a quick reference to Zhang Jia Jie in 3:35-4:07. Three of us, plus a toddler of 2 years old while we were in Hunan, China, decided to sneak in 2-days off from our Hunan trip for a visit to Zhang Jia Jie to witness the magnificent sight of this mountain range. Zhang Jia Jie is a protected zone in China and its signature sight is the endless high range of quartzite sandstone columns that rise more than 200m. There are also caves that are filled with stalactites and stalagmites. We had a tour guide with us for a day to bring us around as the area is huge and we only have effectively a day to tour the area. It is recommended to do a 3-days tour so we were only able to do a few key sites. We arrived in the evening at Zhang Jia Jie’s airport. A small one without bridge which makes it possible for me a get a shot of the Chinese characters of Zhang Jia Jie upon disembarking the plane. We stayed at the National Hotel that was built a few years ago for national level guests, but to our dismay, it was not well-maintained.
First thing in the morning after breakfast, we took a 10-min short walk from our hotel to the entrance of Zhang Jia Jie’s National Park. Greeting us at the entrance was a 9-storey pagoda.
After the pagoda, that was when the real tour started! There were directional signs to the various places and the first place that we covered was Tian Zi San, which directly translated to mean Son of Heaven Mountain.
Within Tian Zi San is the He Long Garden, named after General He Long. We were pleasantly surprised to find a McDonalds so high up in China! A nice cold cup of ice-cream was a huge relief to the heat wave that swept the region that week.
To get a better view of the surroundings in He Long Garden, we went up the Tian Zi Ge (Tower). The top of the tower offers 360 degrees view of the surrounding mountain ranges. Breathtaking and inspiring sight. A pity that my iPhone camera did not do justice to the backdrop as it does not seem to adjust well to the light and colours.
We found General He Long’s (1896-1969) statue in our walk. He is a much respected Chinese military leader, especially by his tribe Tu Jia people who lived in this region.
We started walking towards our next destination, the Hallelujah Mountain which is on the left side of the map. The first thing that greeted us was a signboard that says Tu Jia Spiderman, live performance! This definitely stirred up our curiosity! As some of you might have guessed, there was a charge to get closer for a better photo which I obviously did not pay. So I was left with a maximum zoomed shot on my phone camera showing a yellow speck who was the spiderman, scaling up the cliff. The sight of seeing a man’s size against the majestic ginormous mountain humbles the very existence of humankind.
No. 1 Bridge of the Earth is a natural bridge, actually an arch that is formed naturally through the corrosion of different minerals by waterfalls and other elements created this unusual occurrence. This is 300m high! We were standing at a higher point and thus it was with great difficulty to capture the bridge amidst the lush green trees.
The Mesa is the early stage of the Zhangjiajie land formation. They have flat tops and the most popular one here is Huangshizhai. I was told that it was unusual to have such clear skies. The usual sight will be with clouds and mist surrounding the peaks, giving them a mystical look. The clear skies provided for us clear view of the formations though.
The Immortal Pine peak might look rather familiar. Perhaps this is the one that was used in the movie Avatar, except that they suspended them in mid-air. I wished I had a little more space and time to take in the scenery as the walkway was narrow and there were lots of visitors trying to pass through. So I quickly took some photos and gave way.
The next highlight was the Bai Long Sky Elevator. We started at the highest floor of 326! It was an amazing ride descending the cliff of a mountain in a glass elevator. So we saw the mountain upclose to have a feel of the height, width and breath of these formations.
The spot where we got off the elevator was another breathtaking spot. We were surrounded by mountain ranges, this time not above them. The feeling was completely different from the previous where we looked from across or above.
Our final destination was the Shili Painted Corridor, which literally translated to mean 10-mile Art Gallery. The mile is the Chinese mile, which is equivalent to 500m. The Art Gallery had a total distance of 5km one way. So a return journey was 10km. We were pleased to know that they had a tram service, otherwise we might have to run the 10km due to the limitation of time! As the name suggested, it was really an art gallery displaying all the works of God’s amazing creation. I love the imagination of the locals who gave beautiful names to the groups of peaks. Some of them looked like a lady carrying a basket, some looked like a hunch old man. At the end of the tram ride before turning back, was the Three Sisters Peaks, each having their unique characteristics.
The trip was lightening speed and coupled with the crowd that was there, I would say that it was a good one. I believe without the rush, and perhaps with less crowd, I would have completely immersed myself in this surrounding. I do wish to see the mountains with clouds and mist as what I imagined it to be before I arrived.