Do you have any fears? My mother is afraid of heights. My husband, the Bear is not a fan of flying – the take off part gets him nervous. Me? I absolutely love flying, taking off, turbulence, and having a bird’s eye view. It’s little surprise that the third post here offers, yet again, a heightened vantage point.
There’s just something about feeling as if you are on top of the world…
If you’ve seen the Box Office hit, Avatar, you may be familiar with the mountain range in China said to have inspired James Cameron, the director of the film. Cameron’s blockbuster gave this beautiful scenery a new nickname: The Avatar Mountains. In fact the mountain range in Zhangjiajie goes by several names: The Floating Mountains, The Hallelujah Mountains and simply; Zhangjiajie.
We were really excited to visit this region and get to see it all up close. The Zhangjiajie mountains are in the National Forest Park of the same name in Hunan Province, just over 1000 kilometers from Shanghai.
A quick 2 and half hours in the air and you touch down in an airport with mountains as its backdrop.
Hunan province was home to Mao Zedong, one of the country’s leaders in the 19th century. We didn’t quite make it to his childhood home and the Memorial Museum that carries his name. We were too busy exploring the natural wonders of which there is a surplus. As you may see in the image above, the world famous Tianmen Mountain aka Heaven’s Gate is visible from the airport’s tarmac! *look towards the tail of the aircraft
Tianmen Mountain is an incredible sight. A natural arch formed in this karst mountain years and years ago. As the legend goes, it started as a cave that formed due to water erosion and later, the year 263, collapsed forming the gap, the hole, the gateway to heaven. It is now known as the highest naturally formed arch in the world at more than 1500meters above sea level.
A cableway that starts in the city takes you through and over glorious landscapes and transports you to Tianmen Mountain National Park. The park is lush, green, beautiful, something that resembles a jungle in sight, sound and smell. Following the pathways will lead you to a platform from which you can gaze upon and admire this natural wonder.
And then, you climb. Nine hundred and ninety nine, yes, 999 steps takes you from the platform to the top. All those steps? Feels like a stairway to heaven indeed.
From this new vantage point you’re also able to appreciate another world-renowned sight – 99bends. Tongtian Avenue is a roadway that gives tourist the option to drive to Heaven’s Gate. The road was built to reflect 99 curves and turns from above.
On our second day we enjoyed more scenery and delight at Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. The park is so big and so full of paths and trails you could spend days just on a walkabout. We only had two days and tried to make the most of it.
We chose to have a guide for the park. Again, the park is big enough to fill a week’s worth of hiking and activities (all tickets are valid for four whole days) and we only had two days. Someone with experience and knowledge would guide us as we try to squeeze in as much as possible. She even ensured we didn’t miss this gem:
I can’t emphasise how immense this park is. It is huge! Our guide’s suggestion was to follow a trail that stretched through a large portion of the park and we’d walk along the Golden Whip Stream, all 7.5 kilometers of it. In true China style, ominous clouds rolled in and the sky opened. For most of our stroll the rain came pouring down. Wherever you travel in China during the summer months, take an umbrella.
Our next day in the park we used a different entrance. One that would take us to the world’s tallest outdoor elevator standing tall at more than 300 meters. The Bailong Elevator, which opened to the public in 2002, is built into the side of one of Zhangjiajie’s tremendous sandstone cliffs. The lower half of the elevator is actually embedded in the mountain making for an interesting ride up.
Some interesting facts shared with us during our visit is that the name, Bailong can be translated into Hundred Dragons Elevator. There was a quite a bit of opposition when the elevator was being built, mainly due to its high cost. In the end, the construction went ahead based on the argument that the elevator allows visitors to complete a trip to the highest points of the mountain in less time and are able to leave quickly and it reduces the wear that’ll come from hikers visiting the area.
After going up this memorable elevator ride you have the most magnificent view of the Avatar mountains.
And so, back to Shanghai we go but still craving that feeling of being on top of the world.
Fortunately for us, Shanghai is home to the second tallest building in the world, and so to celebrate my 5th anniversary in this crazy amazing place, we went to the top.
An early start meant we were the only visitors to the Shanghai Tower and enjoyed the observation deck by ourselves. The observation deck is on the 118th and 119th floor which is more than 550meters high.
Shanghai skies were not playing along and it was a grey, gloomy day but that didn’t put a dampener on the fun. It also didn’t keep these guys from doing their gravity defying jobs.
Would you work here? Ha!
Do you have any peaks in your area? Have you had an experience where you felt as if you were on top of the world?
I would love to hear about your experiences.