I've just returned from China and as it is so long I will post my Trip Report in the relevant areas. I hope you will find it informative and not boring!
DOLTON HOTEL, CHANGSHA
Arrived Changsha, Hunan airport in the evening and had a good run by taxi into the city. I had planned to take a taxi to one of the nearby food streets for dinner but as we had been travelling since early morning with very little sleep the night before we opted to eat at the hotel. I had read reviews on TA so had low expectations about eating in the hotel’s restaurant. Well we were warned!
CHANGSHA TO ZHANGJIAJIE/WULINGYUAN – QINGHE JINJIANG HOTEL
I had pre-booked a driver for Zhangjiajie and rail tickets through Jeffrey Tang. Jeffrey met us at the hotel to discuss our “tour” in the park because we chose to do our own thing. He arrived during breakfast with our tickets for the train from Changsha to Zhangjiajie. The hotel is close to the railway station but time was getting away so Jeffrey came with us in the taxi and raced with us through the station, carrying my bag, to make sure we made it to the train on time.
Buses from Changsha to Zhangjiajie take less time and may have been a better option. The “Super Fast Train” which took over 4 hours compared to 3 to 3 ½ hours in a bus, was dirty and the seats had seen better days. Nevertheless it was a new experience for us. We were the only non-Chinese on the train. Throughout the trip rail staff positioned themselves in the aisle and launched into long loud spiels in Chinese (which we could not understand). At first we thought it may have been political but it became clear the first woman was doing a sales pitch with a book that had pictures of food on the cover. Recipes? Next came a young woman with a bucket of water demonstrating a chamois-like cloth. She wiped the floor to show how well it could be washed, probably the first time in years the floor of the train had been cleaned! I bought one of these cloths to use to wring out my laundry in our hotel rooms but it didn’t work as well as the one she demonstrated. Mmm.
We were relieved when the train journey ended and our driver was waiting for us at the station. Because the weather forecast was predicting rain in the next few days, Jeffrey suggested that we change our original plan and visit Tianmen Mountain that afternoon before continuing on to Wulingyuan and our Hotel Qinghe Jinjiang. Our driver did not speak English but kept in touch with Jeffrey by ‘phone. He suggested she take us to the beautiful Da Cheng Shanshui Hotel for lunch. This quick lunch was the best food we had in this area.
The driver dropped us at the cable way for Tianmen Shan and we called her when we returned. We were told the cable way is almost 8 km long and is certainly an experience in itself. This is the setting where the movie Avatar was filmed and is extremely spectacular. We really didn’t have a lot of time and our original plan to visit Tianmen Shan on our final day before an evening flight would probably have worked better. Highly recommended.
After a pleasant drive from Zhangjiajie through the mountains we arrived at our hotel Qinghe Jinjiang. A very comfortable place to spend the next three nights.
QINGHE JINJIANG HOTEL - WULINGYUAN
We took the Bailong Elevator which goes to the top of the mountain, an engineering feat in itself. The scenery is awe inspiring on a grand scale.
QINGHE JINJIANG HOTEL – WULINGYUAN
We met an Australian couple who invited us to visit the park with them. We went to Baofeng Lake and Yellow Dragon Cave. The day was very warm without the predicted rain we expected. The cave is huge, cool and 7 km in length including a boat trip. It is an impressive cave system with unnecessary coloured lighting. Surprisingly it was quite dry for a limestone cave. There are lots of stairs and lots of people. Once you are committed to the tour you really can’t change your mind. Our number was not large enough for an English guide and the Chinese one had the ubiquitous mega-microphone ever-ready at her lips.
OVERNIGHT GRAND CENTRAL HOTEL, SHANGHAI
This morning we checked out of our room and stored our bags with the hotel so that we could take advantage of the day, before an evening flight to Shanghai.
This was my favourite day in Zhangjiajie. We walked the 6 km along Golden Whip Stream, easy walking in the valley below the towering spires, much quieter and calming after all the crowds on the mountain. Just beautiful with flowering trees and wildflowers in bloom. There are monkeys living in the forest, swinging in the trees and seeking attention from tourists (and food which is not allowed and will make them aggressive.)
We took a taxi back to the hotel then walked through the town to find an ATM and a restaurant for lunch. When we returned to the hotel our driver was waiting to take us to the airport for our 7.10 pm flight to Shanghai.
CONTINUED ON SHANGHAI FORUM........