ADVENTURE WITH ADRIENNE: PART 1-Zhangjiajie (张家界)

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Confession time. I’m divided on who to write for. On one hand, I have tons of wonderfully fabulous family and friends that enjoy hearing about my life and whatever may be happening in it. On the other, I’d like to add useful advice and/or tips to help anyone who may stumble this direction looking for such help. AKA a hoped for but potentially mythical audience. So……I’ll do a little bit of both, yeah? Here goes! (Plus also, I like lists.) Saturday-Getting there

  • DO NOT wait to do your laundry until the day before you fly out in the hopes 24 hours is enough time for your jeans to dry. It’s not. China is very much so in on the whole air drying thing.
  • All of that. Into one smallish and only slightly bulging rucksack. I highly recommend a canvas rucksack if rain and/or damp will not be an issue. My method: 1 outfit=2 days. Minimal toiletries. I'm talking only deodorant and shampoo here.
  • Packing in general: if you don’t mind carrying it for long periods of time, by all means bring it. If you bring it, DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR CHOICES. I have to tell myself this sometimes. This trip though, I think I did pretty good:
  • DO buy some non-perishables. We brought a small drawstring bag full of such goodies with us. When hiking, traveling, whatevering, it’s been convenient to have some crackers, trail mix, raisins, etc on hand. Also, China doesn’t seem to have been introduced to the magical tasty convenience of granola bars yet.
  • On that same note, APPARENTLY peanut butter is a liquid and will be confiscated as such by the Chinese TSA. Even if it’s a new, unopened jar. I’m not bitter.
  • DO check the weather. Prepare for rain if it says it will rain. Just do it. For me, this meant bringing a rain jacket, umbrella, and some way to make sure my canvas bag wouldn't get completely soaked. AKA plastic bags.
  • We booked our flights about a week in advance. No problem, unless you’re traveling during the holidays. I've found Ctrip very convenient.
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  • DO stay at Yijiaqin Guesthouse in Zhangjiajie if you are ever in the area. Seriously. I have never felt so…I don’t know, serviced in my whole life. The proprietor (who from here on out will be known as “Mr. Proprietor” because I do not know the correct characters or tones for his name-the pinyin sounds something like “shi wan tou”) is the best. You’ll read why. But it starts with an airport pickup by a friendly driver.
  • Speaking of lodgings, we didn’t book any of ours in advance except for this first night at Yijiaqin for the purpose of the airport pick-up. Was not a problem, but again I definitely wouldn’t risk that during a holiday. I HIGHLY recommend using Hostelworld. If hostels freak you out (which they most definitely should not), hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc also show up in the searches.

Sunday-Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

  • Woke up to the cleaning lady singing. And she was actually really good so I didn’t mind at all.
  • Our plan: go to the park! That was it. When Mr. Proprietor asked and we said as much, he pulled out a map, penciled in a three-day itinerary complete with step-by-step directions and student prices, and walked us to the bus station (5-min walk) to show us the proper minibus to take. This guy.
  • Again, DO stay here. There are options closer to the park-a minibus ride is about 40 minutes one way-but that ride is no inconvenience at all.
  • Speaking of the ride. Apparently the Chinese have some aversion to fresh air? Every person that got on the bus closed the windows. WHY?
  • You can buy a 3-day or week-long pass to the park, and if you’ve got a student ID (which we did) it’s quite a bit cheaper for just about everything you’ll have to pay for within (excluding food).
  • The card you get is matched to your fingerprint. Seriously!
  • STAIRS
  • We decided we came for HIKING so instead of the cableway we opted to climb Huangshi mountain which, if the signs are correct, there is “no point coming to the park” if you don’t make it to the top of this particular peak. HOURS of stairs. But the most beautifully strenuous hours of my life. Wouldn’t have had it any other way.
  • Anyway, it didn’t matter how sweaty we got. One sign informed us we were taking a “green shower” by being in so much fresh air. So, I mean, at least we had that kind of shower going for us.
  • Adorable, cheeky little beggar.
  • THERE ARE WILD MONKEYS!! Extremely cute, extremely testy about the whole food thing. They reeeeeallly want you to share, and they’re not always polite about it. Case in point, several of them swarmed us as we were trying to take a break and eat some fruit. Monkey stole my pear :(
  • One monkey had a really badly broken leg. Like, bone sticking out bad. We gave him a cracker. He was much more polite. Brushed off the sesame seeds on the cracker before he ate it. Guess he doesn’t like those :)
  • "Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done..." -part of Psalm 40:5
  • The VIEWS were absolutely breathtaking at every turn. Check out the gallery-style post immediately following this one for more pictures. It’s worth it. Here’s a taste.
  • When we returned, Mr. Proprietor personally walked us to the train station (10-minute walk) and helped us buy our tickets for the next leg of our journey. HE IS MY FAVORITE.
  • DO watch cartoons in Chinese. Or any language you may be attempting to learn. Especially Spongebob and Tom & Jerry, if you’re into that.

Monday-Zhangjiajie National Forest Park take 2

  • Woke up to a cacophony of children’s voices. Apparently there is a school or daycare of some sort close by. Again, I didn’t mind, but if you would that may be the only drawback to this B&B.
  • We were a bit confused what "elevator" could possibly mean on a mountain. Well, it means...elevator.
  • To the area filmed for Avatar! As outlined by Mr. Proprietor. This required a few more transportation logistics than our first day, as we had to go to the Wulingyuan entrance and take a couple buses to an “elevator.”
  • We may or may not have walked past one of our destinations for a distance longer than I care to admit. But it was a pretty enough walk in-and-of itself. Oh well.
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  • This lil’ guy was way more polite than the monkeys. As such he got more goodies from us.
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  • This area made us feel much higher up for some reason. Higher up and very, very small. Which I think is good to feel sometimes. 
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  • You could pay some guys to carry you up the stairs ON THEIR BACKS. I cannot think of a single circumstance short of a broken leg at the top that would make me want to do this. But apparently not everyone feels the same way.
  • When we returned, we asked Mr. Proprietor what local food he suggested. He walked us to the restaurant next door and ordered hot pot for us. Really good flavors. We experienced a peppercorn that when bitten into makes one very specific part of your tongue salivate uncontrollably. It was a really weird sensation. Not unpleasant, just strange.

Tuesday-City of Zhangjiajie and TRAIN

  • After two days of hiking and climbing, we were pretty beat. And we didn’t want to get burned out on the beauty of the park, so we decided to check out what Zhangjiajie itself had to offer for an afternoon.
  • Mr. Proprietor told us we could keep our room until 4:00 pm, no cost, since we wanted to rest. He also told us how to get to a pedestrian street in the city via a bus stop directly across the street from his place. Again, SERVICED.
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  • This city felt…..very China. I don’t really know how to describe what I mean by that. 
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  • Apparently May 20 is some kind of holiday about love? I’m not sure, but these arches sprang up everywhere overnight, and someone wanted to record me saying “I Love You.” I was really confused so unfortunately it came out sounding like “I Love You?” Sorry! 
  • We bought some vanilla cones because why not, and after we had finished and were just sitting and people-watching they came out and gave us each another one! For free. Just because :)
  • TRAIN TIME: The most direct way to get to Guilin from Zhangjiajie (without a flight, we didn’t really look into that) is via an 11 hour overnight train to LiuZhou, followed by a 3 hour bus ride. This is according to Mr. Proprietor, who at this point I was ready to trust with my (hypothetical) first-born child.
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  • We had heard horror stories of taking the slow (non-bullet) train in China. We got the very last two tickets (phew!), so we had no option but to take the top bunks. We were prepared for extreme crowding and minimal space. However, it wasn’t that bad at all. No horror story here!

And here is where I will conclude the story of the first half of our adventure! I’ll pick up with the funny way we got a bus to Guilin in the middle of the night at the beginning of the next post, ADVENTURE WITH ADRIENNE: PART 2-Li River. Check out the photo gallery from Zhangjiajie in the meantime!