Tianmen Mountain, Zhangjiajie - China

Tianmen Mountain, Zhangjiajie - China

Written By: Ronel

ZHANGJIAJIE 

Prepare to be amazed with jaw-dropping experiences when visiting Zhangjiajie in the Northwest of Hunan province in China. We arrived at Hehua airport and took the train to the centre of the city. With the help of our GPS we quickly found our hotel. Not so quickly we booked in with the non-English speaking receptionist. With the ‘dubious’ help of our translator (not always correct communication by the sometimes shocked looks we got and vigorous shaking of the head), we at last got our room key. After unpacking and a lot of ‘wow’s’ looking out the window at the amazing mountain views, we quickly set off to explore this small city. The town itself didn’t seem busy except for the huge crossroad in the middle of town. There were a few taxis travelling up and down the main street, but not much traffic. The huge cableway going straight across the buildings up into the mountains is hard to miss. You can see the cable cars going up and down from just about anywhere in town.

We had a hard time choosing a place to eat as the many eateries and restaurants offer so many mouth-watering options. After roaming the little streets for what seemed like hours, we eventually chose a restaurant at random. We again had lots of fun ordering from the ‘non-English menu, but the few dishes we chose proved a hit, except all three dishes were heavily loaded with chillies! We made the mistake of following the waiter’s advice and ordered some kind of strong alcohol, still don’t know exactly what it was, and paired with our chilli dishes, proved very hard to stomach, even just the tiniest bit! We now know that it is possible to fight over water in a restaurant full of onlookers! After about 3 litres of water each and a few beers, we decided to call it a night as we wanted to get up early to visit the Tianmen Mountain area.

TIANMEN MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST PARK

After breakfast we set off to the cableway station to buy our tickets for the entrance and transport to Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park. There are several combination tickets you can buy, but none of them include riding the cableway up as well as down. We opted for taking the shuttle bus, travelling via Tongtian Highway, one of the world’s most dangerous roads, to visit the Tianmen Cave, then coming back with the cableway. The road has 99 bends, seriously scary as the road seems never to end and at every bend I thought it was my last moment on earth. This feeling was exacerbated by the other passengers giving little shrieks at every bend. Eventually at the shuttle bus drop off zone, a light rain had set in and we scrambled along with many other tourists to the smiling shop owner selling raincoats, at double the price we would have paid in town! That was a lesson for us, as we started in lovely sunny weather, we never thought that the weather could change so much higher up. Here we had to buy another ticket to take the escalators up to the summit. There are 19 sets of separate escalators that you take consecutively to reach the summit.

TIANMEN CAVE (HEAVEN’S DOOR)

We got off the escalators at Tianmen Cave (Heaven’s Door) and looked down at the brave souls who decided to walk up the 999 steep and narrow steps called ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Tianmen Cave is the highest naturally formed arch in the world. This water-eroded hole between two peaks is about 5,000 feet above sea level. The impressive views and the unique formation are the reasons most people trek up the mountain. The cave itself is about 430 feet tall and 190 feet wide.

GLASS WALKWAYS ON THE SUMMIT

From there we took the escalators up to the summit and on to the different hiking paths along stunning scenery. It is about 7km to go around the whole mountain. It was a sight to behold when we got the glass ‘Walk of Faith’ skywalk, the older skywalk on the western side of the mountain. It is 60m long and 1.6m wide. You need to buy a separate ticket to walk on the glass walkways.  Having donned our special foot coverings needed before walking across the skywalk we did this amazing adrenaline pumping walk, looking down the steep cliffs and wondering if you would be the first to fall down this man-made walkway. Feeling brave after our successful walk with no consequences but lifelong memories, we then headed to the eastern side to walk across the ‘Coiled Dragon Cliff’, the 100m newer glass skywalk. As the weather was not too good, we didn’t have a clear view, but certainly got enough scary views and glimpses to imprint in our memories forever.  It is terrifying to look down to the bottom of the cliff and Tongtian Avenue. It takes a bit of bravery to walk across this walkway and some tourists turned around, and some others struggled to walk all the way and hung onto the rails for dear life, waiting for the nerves to calm down before continuing.

CLIFF HANGING WALKWAY

As if this was not enough, we found the cliff-hanging walkway, winding 1.6km long and around 1400m high along the edges of the mountain. The fog surrounding us made it look fairy like and very unreal. Further on, we found the ‘Forest of Wishes’, many trees covered in red ribbons, each ribbon representing a wish, looking eerie in the fog.

TIANMEN MOUNTAIN TEMPLE

Along the way we also found the Tianmen Mountain Temple, a Buddhist temple built in AD870 originally. It was destroyed during the early 20th century and rebuilt on the same site around 1949. We slowly made our way back, unwilling to leave this magical place, then walked across the wooden hanging bridge and on to the cableway station for our trip down to Zhangjiajie.

TIANMEN CABLEWAY

After a very long wait for our turn, walking through a few large rooms with winding lanes, we at last got into our cable car for the wonderful ride down this amazing mountain with stunning views. At 7455m it is the longest passenger cableway in the world. Looking down at the 99 bends of the Tongtian Highway we could appreciate why it was so scary going up in the shuttle bus. The cable car passes over farmlands and of course the buildings in the town before you get off at the cable car station.

A bit weary from all the stairs, walks, views and experiences and of course feeling ravishing, we fell into one of the many restaurants and had our fill of lovely Chinese fare. A wonderful experience highly recommended.

 

 

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Countries: China
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