XIAN- Guide: Minnie
Great Pagoda Holiday Inn
Since we arrived into Xian so late on our delayed flight we started our day late at about 10:30. We showered, had breakfast at our hotel and then we headed out into the city at noon.
We first stopped at lunch were we got to try hand pulled noodle that the city of Xian is known for.
After this we went to an art gallery the entrance was very dark and I was definitely a bit skeptical, but inside was nicer. A sweet girl from the gallery guided us through and showed us various types of traditional art from different periods in history. One type of art that we saw was paper cutting. She said when there is a mistake one must start over and that the pieces can take weeks to make with no way to rush it, due to the intense precision needed. The guide also mentioned that a long ago it was important for women to be good at paper cutting to be married easily. Since good paper cutting shows the person has great patience and skill.
At the gallery we also saw what they called shadow puppets. Sometimes considered the Father of Theater. The are made out of hide of an animal filed down to a thin sheet, soaked for days, colored with minerals and then attached to bamboo pieces in order to help the characters tell a story.
The inside of the gallery they also showed us a variety of different painting techniques and we attempted calligraphy. It started out rough with deb’s brush being upside down, but we all managed to make somewhat decent characters by the end of our session.
That afternoon we headed to the Wild Goose Pagoda Square. It was pretty hot, so the parents went their separate way while hannah and i walked around the city. We saw a lot of local people working in tiny store fronts with so many things packed into them. Each store had a person sitting out front, often looking quite bored or over heated. I wonder how they get business. The area was quite cute with its older designs on newer buildings and all the people we passed seemed very nice.
Early evening when the sun was setting we headed to the city wall that was built to protect the inner city from invaders. The wall was both wide and long, taking a few hours to finish walking.
That night we headed to a dumpling dinner and show. They had many different types of dumplings that all were shaped as the food inside, the best shaped ones were the cabbage and the duck. The show started after we were fairly through with our meal. It included many traditional style clothing and showed different stories about Chinese dynasties. It was interesting to see, but it was extremely too loud……the entire show.
We packed up our things and headed to a jade showroom. The owner showed us how jade was carved and explained all the different types of jade to us. To my surprise we learned that Jade naturally comes in a range d beautiful colors and should have lines inside of it if it is natural.
After we went to the Terracotta warriors. An extremely large collection of Terracotta sculptures that were buried with Emperor Qin Shi Huang to protect him or keep him company in the afterlife. They were undiscovered underground for thousands of years and only discovered by a few farmers looking for water underground.
Each warrior in the display was based on a real person and has its own unique characteristics. This creates an incredibly hard puzzle for the archeologists to put back together. In addition to the warriors, the emperor created bronze chariots to ensure he could travel in the afterlife.
The discovery of this place was quite incredible to see, but for us the crowds here were a bit much. There were so many people and so many lines after a hr drive out of the city I don’t think i would recommend going unless you really wanted to see these things in person.
Following the day at the musuem we went to the airport again to fly to Zhangjiajie the main city I wanted to see, with all the incredible mountains, pillars and national park.
We flew out early evening and spent half the day at the airport. Not my favorite place to be, but we walked around a bit and found these cute little sleep boxes that seemed very funny— yet also practical.
That night we made it to our hotel by about 9pm at night and just settled in.
Zhangjiajie —Guide: Lee — Pullman Hotel
We got up early, met our guide lee and headed out for a long day of walking. To start we made our way to Baofeng Lake, only a few minutes from our hotel. We took a boat ride around the manmade lake that was very beautiful, the hills were all covered with greenery and the scene reminded me a lot of the bays in Vietnam. I enjoyed the views alot, but the tour guide for the ride was used a speaker that was way to loud.
After we took a short walk to see a waterfall very close to the road. It was crowded, but very pretty. Lastly in this area we saw the giant salamander, an animal this area is known for that lives in the lake and can live over 50 years. They can grow to 1.3m (3ft) and can weigh about 25-30kg (about 55-68lbs)! What a big lizard, to me he kind of looked like a rock, but it must be his form of camouflage.
Next, we stopped for a quick early lunch at an organic restaurant near by. The guide ordered us a variety of food, but really we were not too hungry yet. Once we finished up our meal and we headed to the Yuanjiajie Scenic Area. Here we got our first glimpse of the natural beauty of this area, all the hills and mountains are unlike anything on the US. They have these dense forests of different trees with winding branches that just feel extremely wild. At the bottom of the mountain we passed under the highest building in the city. Lee said that the government made a rule that all buildings needed to be shorter than the entrance to this nature park.
To get up to the scenic area we used a glass elevator that takes a little over a minute to go 320m or about 1049ft. When we got to the top it was amazing there were a few clouds in the sky, but honestly we could see a lot and Lee said that we had really good luck with the weather. We took our time wondering past the many limestone pillars that inspired the movie avatar and saw the mountain where the avatar people “lived.” Lee says that the avatar’s home is floating because the day the writer went to Zhangjiajie the bottom of the mountain was covered in clouds. Knowing how sick we were of the crowds Lee was very sweet and took us down a few less crowded paths where we could enjoy the views without the massive crowds and loud noise.
Once past the pillar area we headed to Tianzi Mountain meaning “Son of Heaven”, a place dedicated toXiang Dakun, a farmer who led a revolt against the government.
Then to get down the mountain we headed to a different part of the viewing areas and rode down in a cable car that reminded me a lot of the cable cars at the MN state fair.
That night we drove back into town to go to dinner and explore the town on foot. When we arrived at the restaurant they gave us a warm welcome with drums and rice wine which was fun. The food was pretty good too, the only disappointing part was that the place was so loud we couldn’t hear each other.
On the streets in the park we found a large group of women dancing and Lee said it was all the local housewives that come out daily to dance together. We heard many things about how close knit the communities in china can be and this is a great example. In the shops I found dumpling dough rollers, random local snacks and more of my favorite — dragonfruit. Hannah and I also had some fun hammering away at the tourist candy shops before walking back to the hotel and going to bed.
That morning we got up early to fit in all we could before our early evening flight to Hangzhou.
In order to get to the top of these cliffs we had to take two buses, climb 999 steps and take more escalators inside the mountain. The first bus ride I rode up next to this super sweet guy that didn’t speak English, but wanted to talk to me so bad he got out a translator app to ask me about myself. How fun! Ride one was fairly flat, but the second ride was a bit more wild the drivers all went pretty quickly up the winding roads and almost everyone was holding onto the seat in front of them.
About 1.5-2 hours after we entered the nature park we made it to the bottom of the natural archway in the mountain that they call heavens gate. The archway at its tallest point is 130m (420ft) off the ground. In the past the archway was used for worship, wingsuit events and car racing down the winding road. There was even a statue of Alain Robert, French —a french man who free solo climbed about 200m (650 ft) up and down the wall in 2007.
To get up to the bottom of the gate there were the 999 steps because in chinese culture 9 is the highest and most important number, yet 8 is actually the most lucky or desired due to its similarity to the infinity sign. The day was fairly cool and a bit cloudy so climbing the steps was not as hot the days before, plus the elevation of the area was still a few thousand feet closer to sea level than colorado so I think I had an advantage.
Once we made it to the top ,we were a little over 4900 ft above the ground and the views were very impressive. We walked around a bit along the small pathways overhanging the massive cliff lines. Then we headed to the glass pathway, where we put on little red booties to keep the dirt off the pathway. I have definitely been on glass bridges/floors before, but this one was a very long way down probably the tallest I’ve been on.
After that we walked around the mountain top and took in all the incredible views. In one part we even saw the “”The Forest of Wishes””, where people bought a small red ribbon to write a wish on it and attach it to a tree in hopes it comes true.
Due to our earlier flight time we had to go down the mountain fairly early because the cable car ride down to the city took 30min. The ride was about 7.2km long and first moved over down the mountain side before going through the farm/city. It was a beautiful and fun ride.
At the airport we said goodbye to our guide Lee, got a few snacks and headed to Hangzhou.