Sunday, May 13, 2018

Friday May 11th 2018

Cloudy days in Zhangjiajie


So at this business trip to China, my main list of things to see in China was done, but I had a friend who visited Zhangjiajie a while back and it looked stunning.
So I made this airport a transfer point on this trip.

For you who do not know; Zhangjiajie was the place they filmed/got inspiration for the floating mountains in Avatar.


My flight landed in Zhangjiajie, but since most things I wanted to see was in the nearby town of Wulingyuan I stayed there (at the Pullman). I took a taxi between the towns which took about 1-1,5 hours.

The morning after (which happened to be a Friday), I went early to the entrance of the park. I have heard about the long queues so I got the before it opened (before 7 am).
I was not there during peak season, but I took no chances.

Already outside the entrance, I could see fog and clouds all around me, but hoped it would get better higher up.


I took the bus to the Bailong Elevator, which is the world's tallest lift at a staggering 326 m.

The view from below the elevator was still not good, but I still held on to the hope of it being better the higher I get.

Due to the almost-off-peak-season and the bad weather, there were zero queues to the elevator and I was elevated 300-ish meter higher very quick, went out to see the stunning view... and was met by this:
Clouds! Clouds everywhere!

You could hardly see 5 meters in front of you!
The disappointment was MASSIVE!!

And not only was it clouds, it was also a light rain.

I was not alone on the mountain, but there were not much people. So I could wander around the scenic routes fairly quickly.

One positive thing I can say about the clouds, I had no problem leaning over the frail-wood-looking railings to look down since I only saw a few meter below me.
In reality it was a loooong way down, but since I could not see it, it did not bother me.

Even the Avatar-bird-thing you could sit on and get your photos taken was empty (I imagine there is a long queue to this during peak season).


At the end of one route, I got to something called The First Bridge. During thousands of years the mountain had crumbled in a way that the only part now connected was a small ledge at the top of the mountain creating a natural bridge overhanging a drop of hundreds of meters.

This I could make out through the cloud and it looked eerie and cool:

I walked over it and walked around the small mountaintop on the other side. Still only clouds to be seen though. :(


After this disappointing trip, I was not sure what to do. There was a canyon below that had a boardwalk trail you could walk called Golden Whip Stream.

There were also other things to do at other parts of Zhangjiajie/Wulingyuan.

But since the signs were mostly in Chinese, I had no clue where to go to do either. The people here could not speak English so I was pretty lost when it came to directions.

So I just got on the first bus arriving to see where it would take me.
It took me back to the Bailong Elevator so I used it to get down again.

On my way back to the entrance, I had my plans for the rest of the day clear.

Since the clouds ruined all chances of good views of the landscape, I went to the Huanglong Cave (aka Yellow Dragon Cave). The weather doesn't really matter if you're in a cave, right?! :)


After a 20-30-minutes-ish taxi trip, I paid the entrance fee to the cave and went in.

Inside the cave, they had lit the stalactites and stalagmites with lights in different colours. It annoyed me a little at first (too much stylised effects), but after I while I just went along with it.


It was a pretty cool cave, I had to admit.

The cave was very exploited with walkways and stairs to take you further in.
No rock climbing here, nope!


And it was gigantic! The main cave was really big!
By far the biggest cave I have ever been into.


Inside there was also a nice looking bridge that took you over one of the rivers in the cave. For reference it was 3 meters wide and 22 meters long. And the distance to the water below was 17 meters.

Further in the cave, I was met by a surprise; they had built a small harbour where an (electric) boat took you to the next part of the cave.


This boat trip was also very cool. Floating on the river looking at this fascinating cave.


The boat stopped not far from the exit of the cave.

What to do next?
Well, since I was halfway there, I continued in another taxi to the Glass Bridge.
This bridge is the largest bridge with a (mostly) glass floor. 

The lady in the ticket booth sold me two tickets when I only wanted one, but there was no easy way to complain (since she did not speak English). I was also too tired and the queue behind me too long to bother arguing for more than a minute about it.
I did not understand what the other ticker was for, but held on for it. You never know.


From a distance the bridge looked cool, but I knew I was not going to like the glass parts.


 And I was correct.
OMG, this is HORRIBLE!!!

In my engineering mind, I know it was safe, but I could not convince the rest of my body.

I did walk (or "stupid looking skipping" to be honest) over a small part, then larger bits of glass until I made it over a whole plate of glass.
But I did it scared as hell.

But this illusion of danger did not bother most Chinese. They did a lot of sitting, laying or jumping on the glass, making cool photos.
This was not for me.


But the view from here was nice though. Not much clouds at all.


After walking (carefully) across the bridge, we came to another entrance where they checked for tickets to let people down to the valley.

So this was apparently what the other ticket was used for!

And since I had the ticket, I figured I might as well use it. :)

We climbed down some steep stairs inside the mountain and then on wooden ledges and stairs attached to the mountain side.

At the bottom of the valley, the boardwalk trail started.



And it was beautiful down here!


We followed a stream and all you had to do was just enjoy the beauty of nature!
(and ignore the exploitation of this valley - and the trees with big spider webs)





After quite a bit of walking the stream ended in a lake.


There was a harbour here where boats took us the last stretch over the lake to the bus station where the bus to the glass bridge started from).

Once there, I took a taxi back to my hotel after an exhausting, but fun day.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Saturday May 12th 2018


The next day, my plans were to visit Tianmen Mountain. To get there I first had to go by taxi to Zhangjiajie to take a cable car.

This cable car is one of the longest passenger cable cars in the world. It's 7,2 km long and is up to 1200 meters above ground.

Not that I saw any of this - or the (most likely) wonderful view.
Because it was cloudy today as well. :(

Once at the top, I walked on the narrow ledges around the mountain top.
Just like yesterday, the clouds made sure you could not see how high up you really were. Probably a good thing.


Even though most of the view was obstructed by clouds, seeing the nearby mountain top peak up through the clouds was beautiful.


We walked on ledges, walkways and even bridges-ish like this to get close to Heaven's Gate (aka Tianmen Cave).

And meanwhile the view was very nice (even though I was growing very tired of the clouds and wanted to see the whole mountains).


They also had two walkways around parts of the mountain which were made of - you guessed it - glass.
They are called skywalks and cost extra (ticket booths close to the entrance of each walkway).

Both the side and the floor was made of glass and there was NO WAY I was going on either one of them.
There were also only one direction to walk on them so once you onto one, you had to walk the full length.


I walked (on the normal walkways) to this peak which I am sure offers a beautiful view - but all I got to see was more clouds.

On the way there you could look down and see the Heaven's gate:


No clouds at the gate at least!

The Heaven's gate is similar to The First Bridge I (almost) saw yesterday.
The mountain had collapsed so there was a hole through the mountain side.


The exploitation of this mountain was also very apparent.
If not for the sky walks, kiosks and other buildings so how about this:
They had built an ESCALATOR through the mountain to get you down to Heaven's Gate.

At the actual Heaven's Gate, I was met by another disappointment. The clouds were back!

It looked so good from above, but now it's just cloudy again.
I could barely see the cave (it's the brighter fog surrounded by darker fog)

My original plan was to walk up the stairs (called Stairway to Heaven   >.<  ), but since I was at top already, I walked down instead.

And if you do not feel like walking - there was another escalator which took you down to the base of the stairs!

There were lots of steps! But finally I got there and - kinda - took another photo of the stairway and the gate:

After this, I took the bus down the 99 Bends - a narrow road down the mountain side with 99 bends. I have seen pictures of it and it looked amazing and scary at the same time.
But I saw only clouds while going from side to side (from the road turns) in the bus.  :(


Once I got down again and back to the cable car station, I went back to Wulingyuan by taxi.

Since the weather looked was now (mostly because it was now mid-day and the sun was up for real), I decided to make another attempt at the park I visited yesterday morning. Hopefully I would see more this time..

And did I ever!
Already at the base of the Bailong Elevator, I knew I would finally get to see the reasons I got here in the first place!

I could even see the elevator from the outside!


At the top again and... yes! Still no clouds!

It was hot as hell though, but the view was spectacular!

And now people sat on the Avatar-Bird-thing again!

Here is the famous Avatar mountain top (aka Hallelujah Mountain).


It was so beautiful up here when you could actually see something!


And here is a picture of the First Bridge - without clouds!

Also, now I could see how high up I was - and the minimal safety the ledges held.

In these mountains there are also monkeys.
I did not see any yesterday, but today there were plenty.


And, as most monkeys do in tourist areas, they snatched food from people walking by.


It was fascinating to see them jump from one mountain top to another using the trees several hundred meters from the valley ground.

After this it was time to return to the hotel, time to move on tomorrow.

After a disappointing start of both days, they both turned out pretty good!


And I leave you with a picture I took the morning after (Sunday).
Of course the weather was perfect so I could even see Heaven's Gate from the airport...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Cloudbusting

Take my word for it; if you ever travels close to this area, pay Zhangjiajie a visit, it is fantastic!

Sure, I had some issues with the weather, but at least the queues were short. =)

If you visit this place in peak-season the queues are said to be hours long in certain places (like the Bailong Elevator and probably the glass bridge).

If you intend to visit the same places I did, I advise you to stay in Zhangjiajie instead and take a one-day trip to Wulingyuan.
Independant on where you stay, try to get there early to make the Bailong Elevator when it opens (which was 7:00 am when I was there).
Note that you need to take a bus inside the entrance to get to the elevator. It takes about 15 minutes and is free of charge.

But of course, as you seen in my pictures; if it's cloudy you will see nothing - so consider doing something else before lunch and go up in the mountains in the afternoon.
Sure the queues will be longer, but at least you get to see the view. No use getting there quick if you only see clouds.

So check the weather and then decide in where to start the day.


A note for the glass bridge: if you have the time, make sure you get the ticket for the valley as well!
It was by far the best experience on my first day.

Until next time!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday January 19th 2018

The Tent
(aka Lots of money for a very small reward)


I was making yet another business trip to China and with some smart planning, I managed to get a transfer in Osaka for the same price as transfering elsewhere.

So time to check off another building on the 21-list!


Once I landed in Osaka, I went to my hotel (I had choosed the Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport to save  time), checking in - and then straight out again.

I took a JR train from the airport to Kyoto, since it seemed easiest - which it was.
It took about 65 minutes and no tranfers. I highly recommend this route if you are going from Osaka airport.

Once in Kyoto (oh, the memories came back from when I was here the last time), I took bus 100 (206 will also work) about 15 minutes (cost: 230 Yen, pay when you get off the bus) to the bus stop Gojo-zaka. From here you easily walk to Kiyomizu-dera in 10 minutes.

The entrance to the temple looks pretty nice:

Inside looked ok, less than I expected, but when I came out on the other side I could really see the reparations I had read about that was ongoing.
And this side is the iconic view of the temple when you google it.

What I got...was a tent.

Very disappointing. :(
I am not sure I have ever before spent this much (hotel, train, bus, entrence etc) for this little.
But at least I got the satisfaction off checking something off my list. A very small consolation at this point.

I walked around the area for a few more minutes; checked out the "3 waterfalls", some other temples - and then when back to Osaka and my hotel.

Tomorrow I go back to work in China.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thursday November 23rd 2017

Athens in Ruins


Got up really early (03:30) to get to the airport and catch a flight to CdG in Paris. There I transfered to another flight that would take me to Athens and make sure I could check off another item on my 21-list.

During the flight to Athens we flew over the beautiful Alps.


From the airport I took the Metro to central Athens,it was very easy find the way and get tickets.

I did however have a hard time finding the hotel; the streets we not easy to follow and the hotel sign was not very big. But eventually I was there; the Home and Poetry Hotel.

The staff were supernice and I got the room Solomos (they have named all their rooms after Greek poets).

Not stopping for long, I headed out again. I passed the Hadrian's Arch and got to the ruins of the Temple of Zeus. For such small remains, it was actually pretty nice. 


I walked on towards the Panathenaic Stadium, where the olympic flame is handed over to the host nation after been lit in Olympia and travelled over Greece to Athens. The tourch was actually handed over to South Korea just a month ago.

It's an amazing stadium where you really could feel wings of history.
And so much marble!

Then I walk across the National Garden towards my hotel. I first stopped at a restaurant (called Saita) where I had Sovlaki and tried the greek beer Eza.
The food was good! The beer not so much.

Back at the hotel just in time for some sleep.