We visited two different national parks in China: Huangshan and Zhangjiajie. They were both really amazing. Pictures and words can't do them justice. Plus most of my pictures were on my phone so they're not great quality.
We arrived in Huangshan after an overnight train, and took a tuk-tuk to our hostel to drop off our bags. He tried to get us to pay double for the ride since there were 2 of us, which was annoying and slowed us down. But our hostel helped us sort it out, and once we left our big bags there were were pretty close to the bus station. We took the bus to the city closest to the entrance, and just stopped at what seemed like a random shop. We had to walk a couple minutes down the road to get to the busses that go to the park. A really nice Chinese girl who spoke English saw that we looked confused and helped us get our bus tickets. We reached the eastern entrance and said bye to her since we were walking up and she was taking the cable car. It started raining pretty hard, so we ended up getting giant yellow ponchos to help keep our stuff dry. It helped us stand out less, because everybody had one! Some people had plastic rain pants and booties too. It was pretty steamy inside our plastic bags so it got kind of sweaty, but the views whenever the clouds moved out of the way were amazing! We got to our expensive dorm room at the Baiyun Hotel in the afternoon and relaxed and had some instant noodles for lunch. The clouds were so thick you could hardly see anything in front of you. I walked around a bit more but mostly we just hung out and tried to use the internet when it was working to plan the next parts of our trip.
|clouds rolling in|
My sleep schedule was still not completely adjusted, so I had been falling asleep around 7 and waking up at 4. I got up to see what it looked like outside and it was clear there was no chance of a sunrise viewing. It was pouring rain and you couldn't see anything. So we took our time to pack up and left around 8. For the most part, it wasn't hard to find the way down but it also wasn't easy. We were never 100% sure we were going the right way. Sometimes we would try to ask one of the Chinese tour guides by miming walking with our fingers and pointing down, or else they all pointed us to the cable car. Unfortunately we missed all the views that make this longer and more difficult way worth it, but when we got low enough we could see out into the valley. It was a lot of downhill steps, and sometimes the water from the stream was just flowing down the river. We had been seeing porters the whole time but we felt especially bad for the ones going up in this weather! They are there skinny old men who carry really heavy loads on just a bamboo stick over on their shoulders. They'll even carry people in chairs on top of bamboo poles! At least they use 2 people for that. We finally made it down and followed some other people who also looked confused and managed to find the bus ticket window. We got our tickets and waited for the bus that was going to leave about 30 minutes later. It was nice to sit down in a dry bus. We got off where the bus ended and amazingly the woman at the information counter at the big bus station spoke English and told us where to go! Except them we realized it wasn't clear. We just ended up in a big parking lot. So I translated “Tunxi (the name of Huangshan City) Long-distance Bus Station” And a lady just pointed at a mini bus. We weren't sure where it would stop but we kept an eye out. We passed the bus station but luckily right after that the driver assumably asked if anyone wanted to get out so we just made an affirmative noise and ended up close to the hostel.
|Fairy Walking Bridge|
We pretty much lived in the lobby of the hostel for 2 days. We only stayed 1 night, but our train wasn't until 11pm. They were really nice there and we even got food from them a few times. It was pretty good. Fabian had also decided to take a day off before he went to the mountains so we hung out with him some and tried to do some more planning. We got lucky when it was time to go to the train station because one of the hostel workers was driving home and took us with him.
We got on our overnight train to Zhuzhou in a hard sleeper compartment – they have 3 beds on either side, so you don't quite have room to sit up, and there is no door so it's open to the hallway. We didn't really sleep. They came to exchange our tickets for these little cards, which we were really confused about, but later I realized they do that so they make sure you get off at your stop even if you're asleep. The next morning we switched to our next train. We had to get soft sleepers even though it was during the day, and it ruined us forever. They only have 2 bunks per side, so there's a lot more room, and there's a door so they're more private. We were both on the top and a really nice older couple was below us. I had a great nap in the train.
We got to the Zhangjiajie station and found a taxi. They all wanted to charge more than the hostel said it would cost, but when I tried to get them to lower the price they said no. Some drivers looked at the address and just shook their head. So we just took one. It cost a whole $3 instead of $1.50. We got to our room and met Kit, a guy from Singapore, and David from England. Kit was going to the mountains the next day and had a whole plan (and speaks Chinese) so we wanted to see if we could go with him, but I was planning on meeting an old friend from Germany, Saskia Kroesen. I hadn't seen her in 10 years! She was teaching English in another city in the Hunan province where I was. So we decided to figure out our Tibet trip and stay there another night.
We had a frustrating day of trying to book tickets and confirm our Tibet tour, which we decided to do. We met Saskia and her friend Tracey and they went up the longest cable car in the world to ------------ while we stayed back. I wish I could have spent more time with her but we really needed to get everything booked. When they got back we went to a restaurant for dinner and Tracey helped us order everything. It was so good!! Then we made her come to the supermarket with us and explain what everything was. We hung out a bit but everyone was tired so we said goodbye and went to bed.
We took the public bus in the morning to the train and bus station along with a few others from the hostel. Then we got on the bus to the park with Kate, who was from Germany but had been working in Xi'an and was traveling her way back to Europe.
Once we got our tickets, We took a detour at the bottom to
walk up to the Huangxi Village, which ended up taking forever but it
was really cool! It makes a loop, but we were pretty much the only
ones on the way down so we kept thinking we were lost. If you're ever
alone in China, it's usually not a good sign. But we made it and then
took the main way up and got up to the hostel. We dropped our stuff
off and found a lookout ledge nearby to watch the sunset. The rock
formations are really amazing. There are just these giant pillars
that go up so high. We were looking down and you can't even tell how
far above the ground you are because it is so deep. Once it was dark
we went back to the hostel and I had some rice and veggies from them.
They gave me hot cucumber but it wasn't bad. There were a bunch of
Dutch guys staying there too so we hung out with them.
|Kate, me and Jordan after a long day hiking|
|pictures can't show how high we were|
|View from "One Step to Heaven" and my handstand pic for Kate|