Zhangjiajie April 2015

Zhangjiajie is located in Hunan province in south central China.  The most notable feature of the national park is its pillar like rock formations.  After rain, there will be mist and low hanging clouds and the rock pillars will appear to float like in the Avatar movie.  Unfortunately the day we went, there was only this haze that flattens out the landscape and my photographs really didn’t do this place justice.  It is beautiful but I most probably won’t return again mainly because of the crowds.  The ticket is good for 3 days but all the cable car, elevator, train, and boat rides are extra.

We stayed at the Pullman Zhangjiajie Hotel in Wulingyuan.  It is definitely one of the better run hotels in the area.  The breakfast buffet has a lot of variety and overall it is clean and modern.  The main benefit of staying here is that it is within walking distance to the gates of the national park.  There is also a street nearby called Xibu Street with many small local restaurants and shops.

DSCF0009Xibs Street built to look like an old Chinese town.

DSCF0003All kinds of chilli sauces used in the spicy Hunan cuisine.

DSCF0007A tourist trying to get into a local temple.

DSCF0014Locals hanging out on Xibu Street.


Day 1, we took the Ten Mile Gallery Train that ended at the Three Sisters where the two on the left look like they are carrying their babies and the one on the right is supposedly pregnant.  Along the way, there are many natural sculptures like the Medicine Man with the basket on his back.  Basically the park made up names for all the rocks that even vaguely resembled anything :)

DSCF0022“Thumbs up” mountain from the Ten Mile Gallery Train.


DSCF0037The Three Sisters at the end of the Ten Mile Gallery Train ride.

DSCF0040The two sisters on the left and in the center are carrying their babies and the sister on the right is supposedly pregnant.

DSCF0047Towards the right is the Medicine Man with a basket full of herbs on his back.

Then we took the park bus to the Bailong elevator where the stress began….. after over 3 hours in line and then being squished into the elevator and not being able to see out the glass window, we arrived at the lookout.  The Bailong elevator is a glass elevator built onto the side of the cliff in Wulingyuan area of Zhangjiajie.  It is a very short ride up but the line took us over 3 hours with people constantly pushing and trying to cut in front of you.  It was torture.  I noticed there was a sign for VIPs but our guide said one had to pre-book and it had to be a group of at least 6 people or so.  At that point, I was willing to pay anything to get me out of that line.  I suspect one could take the gondola up from Tianzi Mountain on the other side and take a park bus to where the elevator is located up on the cliff.  Find out before you go.

DSCF0051The super long line for the Bailong Elevator.

DSCF0065These rocky landscapes are a distinct feature of ancient Chinese paintings.

DSCF0069These rock pillars are the result of countless years of erosion.  Much of it caused by the expanding ice in the winter and the plants which grow on them.

DSCF0077Rock pillars in other parts of the world (ie. Cappadocia, Meteora) normally don’t have any foliage growing on them.

DSCF0092This 1,080 meter tall sandstone pillar has been officially named the Hallelujah Mountain in honor of the film Avatar.


DSCF0105“First Bridge under the Sun”

DSCF0101Locks next to the “First Bridge under the Sun” in Tianbo Mansion.

DSCF0114Wonder who started this love lock idea? The French or the Chinese or…?

DSCF0115The Chinese characters on the lock says on the top “First Bridge under the Sun” and then vertically the names of the two lovers on each side and in the middle, “Heart to heart, together forever”.

DSCF0130View of Chinese tiled roofs from lunch.

DSCF0136Sandstone pillars of Tianzi Mountain.

DSCF0133Tianzi Mountain


DSCF0145The rock pillars in this area are more narrow and concentrated.

DSCF0168They said this rock resembles a young woman carrying a basket of flowers.  I can sort of see it :)

DSCF0181Starting to get dark, so we decided to call it a day and descended by cable car in Yangjiajie area.


DSCF0188I thought it was very random for the roof of the cable car station to say “Love”.

Day 2: We started the day at Bao Feng Lake, which is a freshwater lake in the Wulingyuan area.  It is surrounded by forested stone peaks and the short cruise circles the lake.  It is pretty but not a must.  If you are pressed for time, it’s ok to skip it.

DSCF0211Bao Feng Lake

DSCF0207Bao Feng Lake

Then we headed up to Huangzhizhai (Yellow Stone Stronghold) by cable car.  It is the largest viewing platform in the park of these sandstone pillars.

DSCF0225Heading up to Huangzhizhai


DSCF0257On the top right is one of the viewing platforms.


By now, we were a bit “rock-pillared-out” and everything started looking the same and the ooh’s and the ahh’s from yesterday were no more.  We decided to go for a stroll along the Golden Whip Stream.



DSCF0283Views of the rock pillars from the Golden Whip Stream.


DSCF0288Many monkeys hanging out in the area.


Lamanai Oct 2014

As mentioned in a previous post, Caracol and Lamanai are the two most important political centers in Maya Belize.  Unfortunately, Caracol was closed during our

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