Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zhangjiajie in the Rain

Day number two in Zhangjiajie was a bit less glamourous than the first day.  I could see out my window at 6 a.m. that it was pouring rain and after getting dressed, I headed downstairs for breakfast and to find out what the new plan would be since we clearly could not go out in this torrential rain.  We ate the same breakfast as the day before and my stomach again had difficulty processing food this early in the morning.  Just when I was about to ask about the rain and what we were going to do instead, everyone started putting on these rain ponchos and plastic booties for their shoes.  Clearly, they intended to go out in the rain. So, we got our umbrellas and we headed off to the park again.  I was worried about not enjoying the rainy experience, but I actually found it to be quite interesting.  You've gotta hand it to the Chinese.  They sure are gamers when it comes to adventure.  As crowded as the previous day was in Zhangjiajie with nice weather, it was nearly as crowded in the pouring rain.  The lines were long and there were people everywhere.  Plus, it was even harder to navigate now that all these people were holding big umbrellas and visibility was impaired.

The tour guide first took us on what I would say was a pretty long hike on the valley floor.  I'm not sure of the exact length, but it took us 3 1/2 hours to hike it at a moderate pace.  It was certainly very beautiful down in the valley.  It was very grassy and mossy.  There were many different kinds of dense trees including my personal favorite the bamboo tree.  The bamboo trees are very aggressive trees I am told and sort of "colonize" whatever area of the forest is theirs.  Wherever there are bamboo trees, there are many of them and not many other kinds of trees growing near them.  They are quite lovely.  Also along the way there are many little creeks and with them old looking bridges to cross them.  I really enjoyed this leisurely stroll at the base of these giant peaks.  It was hard to see the tall mountains at times because of the fog, but every once in a while I could see them poking out of the fog and they looked magnificent surrounded by the white backdrop.  

Later in the day, we decided that it was far too treacherous to climb the mountain on foot, so we took a cable car to the top.  It was kind of pricey at 100 yuan ($15 dollars), but I really wanted to have the experience of riding in a cable car up the mountain.  The visibility was absolutely terrible and I could barely see anything on the way up.  I caught a few small glimpses of what it might look like had I been able to see well and it made it even more disappointing for me.  When we got to the top, it was colder, windier, rainier, and foggier.  We walked around for about 30 minutes and then decided to just go back down the mountain (again on the cable car).  When we were standing in line to get back on the cable car, there was a man behind me that was clearly pointing at me and then saying something about me.  I asked Ya Lun what he was saying and this time she would not answer me and said it was "nothing."  So, I got on the cable car and in step 3 other women.  That left 4 spaces since the car can hold up to eight people.  The guy behind me looked in the car, pointed at me, and then said something to the ride attendant.  I could now tell that he was refusing to ride because he thought I was overweight and would endanger him by being in the cable car.  It was really the low point of my visit to Zhangjiajie and made me feel even worse about myself.  I decided then that I would not return to China next year unless I went back with a more traditional Chinese physique.  Ok, maybe not the 5 foot 6 inch 120 pound stature, but you know what I mean.

Once we were down at the bottom, we boarded our bus to Changsha and headed back.  I slept most of the way since I was exhausted from all the hiking the past two days and my arms were sore from holding an umbrella for 10 straight hours (sad isn't it).  Overall, I was really happy I had the opportunity to see this gorgeous national park.  I was in Zhangjiajie for 2 days and saw only two other people who weren't Asian.  It made me feel fortunate to be in this exotic place.  I wish more Westerners had the chance to see the beauty that exists in this remote part of the world.

The hotel we stayed at was run by a really nice couple who had two kids.  This is the mom and her littlest.  Isn't she cute?
It took me a second, but then I realized this is actually a basket backpack.

Looks pleasant outside doesn't it?
Still quite beautiful even in the fog.

It was actually kind of fun to see Zhangjiajie in a totally different way than the previous day.

More fun signs.  I like the emphasis on "DO NOT."  I had no intention of teasing the wild monkeys....much.

Two reasons I like this photo.  First, it's kind of sweet the way this young couple is holding hands in the rain.  Second, it shows what a great many Chinese people were wearing all day.  They had these rain ponchos and little plastic booties that go over their shoes.  Someone offered to sell me a set, but I have an image to maintain.

Interesting juxtaposition of thoughts here.  On the one hand, I'm thinking the place is serene and beautiful and should be treated with respect.  On the other hand, watch out for perils that might kill you.  

The Chinese are such rebels.  This bridge has signs clearly posted saying that there should not be more than 10 people on this bridge at a time.

Hooray!  I did get to see a wild monkey!

In America, we charge children's rates based on age.  Here, it's all about height and age is irrelevant.  A tall child better have a hefty allowance to pay for his ticket and a short adult gets to go everywhere for cheap.

What the poster said my cable ride was going to be like.

What it actually looked like out the window of my cable car.

It's hard to read, but it says: "Promises of sedan chair management: not soliciting tourists; not deceive tourists and swindle money out of tourists; and not shouting."  I can't say I was swindled out of any money, but they broke promises number 1 and 3 like a million times.
I know those beautiful peaks are out there somewhere.  I just can't see them from here.

The best shot I could get from my cable car ride.

Took this shot waiting for our bus to take us back to Changsha. Apparently, it started raining on Monday night after I fell asleep and it's now Wednesday night back in Changsha and it has not stopped raining.  It is the monsoon season they tell me and it's normal.  

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