Saturday, July 11, 2009

Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province

On the road once more, this time to a national park further north again. This time we had to jump on a train, which was a welcome relief to the bus for once. Zhangjiajie is again somewhere which is apparently one of China's major tourist attractions, which I had never heard of. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, and again it seemed different. It is hard to explain why but even though I am describing all these places as being surrounded by limestone cliffs, they all manage to seem very different from each other.

We spent a few days at Zhangjiajie as it is a fairly large national park with various walks and mountains to climb... and of course this is china, so tourist buses to catch..! My favourite parts were spent walking through the wooded areas where it is possible to snatch moments alone away from the crowds.. Climbing up to the top of the highest peak was interesting too, if not a little tiring! We managed to get quite lost one day though and ended up having to board about 5 different buses (special park buses) without really ending up anywhere.. all part of the adventure I suppose! The hotel we stayed in was hilarious, it was kind of run-down but they all were and it had a certain charm about it... I think it must have been pretty empty because we managed to get a whole hotel suite which included our own enormous living room! All slightly falling apart but great for the novelty factor. I swear the whole suite was bigger than most London flats...

On our last morning in Zhangjiajie we went on a “white water rafting trip”... bizarre it was! As per usual! We had arranged the trip through our hotel so we assumed we would be picked up but at 630, half an hour before we were due to leave our hotel manager was banging on our door telling us to get a move on... confused we rushed downstairs, assuming we'd be back in time to pick up our bags later.. but oh no! We were promptly marched back upstairs by said hotel man and ordered to pack everything up asap, he even zipped my bag up for me! This was all done in a friendly manner, but we (as usual) didn't understand the need for the panic. So at 645 we were marched across the road where we waited for about 15 minutes....only to be marched onto a local bus with the hotel manager. I had been oh so proud of myself for managing to arrange the whole thing in Chinese the previous day, that I felt severe egg on face as I didn't have a clue where we were headed or what was going on. 45 minutes later we were off the bus and waiting next to a busy main road... still confused, until a small minivan picked us up, already nearly full of Chinese fellow rafters. We squeezed in with all our luggage, much to the confusion of everyone else and headed for a 2 hour drive to the rafting point... Our hotel manager had obv wisely realised we would never understand his directions had decided to come all the way with us, why he didn't just stick us in a taxi I will never know...

The rafting trip was pretty funny really. It was all Chinese tourists, many of whom were in the most bizarre get up imaginable for a rafting trip. Men in suit trousers and shoes, a woman in a dress and high heels... bizarre! They were all incredibly friendly though, and a sort of Chinese Bette Midler took us under her wing to show us what to do. It was all pretty straightforward though. Adam may never forgive me for being typically English and polite and getting onto the back of the raft we boarder first (even though on all the other rafts grown the men and women literally bundled on and fought each other for the front seats). But asides from that we had a nice time. The scenery was beautiful, huge mountains rising up from the river...sunshine... the odd rapid which caused a few gasps and we all got a bit wet (pretty tame really though). The only negative was the length, after three hours my ass was aching!

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