Drumbrake's Travels

My trip reports

Zhangjiajie, Hunan

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April 2011

Useful thread on thorntree:  Scratching the surface of Southern Sichuan and Zhangjiajie

Thorntree NE Asia version

Thorntree Don’t forget to write version

Zhangjiajie is somewhere we have been planning to go for some time, but just haven’t got round to it. It is a nice place to go, and recommended, but with the following provisos: it’s expensive and very popular with domestic tourists.

Getting there.

Originally we booked a very cheap flight with Shanghai Airlines from Guangzhou to Zhangjiajie. Unfortunately that flight was cancelled, leaving just a direct flight with China Southern which cost 1030 Rmb. There are flights, but not everyday, from Shenzhen as well. You can consider catching a train instead – there are ones from Guangzhou and Shenzhen West.

Getting to Guangzhou Airport from Hong Kong is easier now the subway has been extended, but still a pain and you should give yourself 4 hours.  Rough times are 45 minutes on the MTR to the border; 30 minutes to cross; 20-30 minutes to get tickets for the next fast train to Guangzhou. Just over an hour on the train. 30 minutes on the subway.

Check in at the airport is easy and the flight left with no problems.  On arrival at Zhangjiajie Airport at 21:30, we found there was little public transport. There was one bus, but we were told it was going to the ‘opposite’ of where we wanted to go. This left the taxis, who brandished a 100 Rmb note to show the expected fare. We got them down to 50Rmb for the short journey into town.

Zhangjiajie Hostel

First night we stayed at Zhongtian International Youth Hostel in Zhangjiajie City. Cost was 148 Rmb for an ok double room with bathroom.  Staff at reception speak good English, and the reception area is nice with wifi, some computers, comfortable seats and some games. I think there is also a kitchen for guest use.  They don’t book onward tickets, but are helpful in giving directions.

To the Park

The next morning we went first to the train station ( 7 Rmb taxi) and booked tickets for the train back to Shenzhen in a couple of days (K9066, 225 Rmb soft sleeper).  LP says there are minibues from outside the station to Zhangjiajie Village. We found one but it had no other passengers, so it took us to the bus station in town for 2 Rmb where we were able to get another bus to the village (12 Rmb, around 40 minutes).

The YH had said that accommodation might be tight when we were there, and a couple of places we tried in the village were already full.  A woman then came up to us and asked whether we wanted somewhere to stay in the park.  We agreed and she basically became our guide for the next few hours.

Entrance Fees

248 Rmb for a 2 day ticket. There are student tickets,  but they are only for those under 24 and they will check your passport. The YH in Zhangjiajie City will sell tickets at a small discount, soI suggest that you buy there.  You are finger printed as you pass through the entrance.

Other prices in the park include Huangshizhai Cable Car (96 Rmb return),  Bailong Elevator (56 Rmb one way) and Tianzi Mountain Cable Car (52 Rmb one way). There are student discounts if you have the card and are under 24 years old.

Seeing the Park

Plan better than we did! The thread at the top is a good place to start or follow these ideas – otherwise you are doubling back a lot, and /or paying for extra cable car trips.

If you start in Zhangjiajie Village, I think best to see Huangshizhai first.  Either walk up or take a cable car or combination. There is a circular walk around the summit that takes an hour or so which is nice to do,  and also gets you away from the crowds.

View from Golden Whip Stream Walk

Next do the ‘Golden Whip Stream Scenic Route’. There is no getting away from the crowds on this path. Combining this and Huangshizhai would probably be your first day.

The next day you could do things like the Xianren Natural Bridge or Ten Mile Gallery.

Note that the maps are not very clear, and what looks close can mean a long hike up and down to get to. It is also a big park, so planning to do one area per day makes sense.  Once in the park, there does not seem to be any checking of your pass, although if you leave you need to use your card to enter again. There are 7 day passes on sale for a little more as well.

See the colours change as the light changes

Staying in the Park

Our ‘guide’ took us to a village of guesthouses close to the ‘Upper Station of Bailong Elevator’. It’s about 10 minutes walk from the bus terminus there on a small road on the right. Walking down that road for another 10 minutes or so will get you to lots of small guesthouses; the first night we stayed at a place before the main village – we were charged 200 Rmb which is too much, and food there was also expensive. There seems to be an unofficial rule that you can only eat in the place you stay in, so check not only the room costs but the food costs as well.

Not so good - expensive room and food. Keep walking past it.

The second night we found a better place in the village, which was very clean, only costs 100 Rmb, had free wifi and a computer for guests to use, extras such as hairdryer and kettle in the room, and very good food at reasonable prices.  Contact details are Tel 13574483310 / 13574476181 ; qq 1125683318 / 200608539 . I don’t think much any English is spoken, but the manger, Ding Ding, is helpful and friendly.  Highly recommended.

Ding Ding Guesthouse- spot the clean sheets!

The YH has a branch in the park – Yuanjiejie. It was fully booked when we were there. The problem I can see with it is transport. We went past it on one of the free buses and it seemed a long way from anywhere. The bus we were on was full, and wasn’t stopping to pick up anyone.

Guides

Lots of the people staying in that area had their own private guide – and I was the only non Chinese. I’m not sure whether a guide is really necessary, and one of the guides we saw just seemed to be walking up and down Golden Whip Stream Scenic Route with different guests each day. That said, if you want one then the price is very reasonable – 50-100 Rmb a day. This thread, Zhangjiajie in Hunan, has more information about guides and things to do.

Cable cars, buses and Elevators

See above for prices. The rides are fast on the cable cars but the views are great. For the elevator,  it saves having to walk an hour or so up the steps.

Yellow Stone Village Cablecar

Inside the park there are free buses which are generally good, but a little confusing to use at first. They also stop at around 530pm, so make sure you  don’t miss the last one.  At Zhangjiajie village, there only seems to be one free bus to the cable car base at Huangshizhai. There is no bus between Zhangjiajie village and Suoxiyu Scenic Zone. From Suoxiyu Scenic Zone there is a bus to the Bialong Elevator, and one to Wulingyuan maybe via Tianzi cable car base. From Tianzi there seemed to be more destinations available.

At the top of Bialong Elevator there is a bus first to near ‘Greatest Natural Bridge’. You then need to walk around 5 minutes to catch the next bus to Tianzi – this is a minibus and the road is quite twisty – journey takes around 30 minutes. There are sometimes long queues for the buses / cable cars.

Pollution

It rained for an hour or so on one day, and this did clear up the smog for a few hours. But then by the middle of the next day the mountains in the near distance were becoming blurred. This made photo taking harder.

Tour Groups

It is a very popular destination – I wonder where all the entrance money goes! Tour guides do like to keep their groups to popular places, so if you go off the main trail a little, you can still have the spectacular views without the crowds. However, after 2 days we were beginning to have enough of loud speakers and flags. I think the scenery can also affect the enjoyment – as I said the smog spoilt views somewhat,  but even with clear skies I ‘m not sure how much of the rock formations I can take before they all start looking the same and you wonder whether the pictures you took on day one are any different from day three! There are rice terraces there, but they require a long walk or private transport to get to.

Monkeys in the park

Leaving the park

We left from Wulingyuan via Tianzi cable car. From the park entrance we caught a city bus to the bus station- 1 Rmb, and then another bus to Zhangjiajie City (11 Rmb, 45 minutes). Wulingyuan looked like it had much more accomdation options than Zhangjiajie village. In Zhangjiajie City we had an ok lunch – not many choices and then went to the train station to catch the train back south.

Train

The K9066 actually heads north and then east before getting to Changsha and heading south. The first couple of hours is in day light and is quite a scenic journey. We got off in Dongguan and caught the express train to Shenzhen rather than going to Shenzhen West. The K train did not have the air conditioning turned on, which was not a big problem, although in the top bunk it gets a little stuffy.

A scenic route north.

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Written by drumbrake

April 26, 2011 at 9:59 pm

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