The Coolest National Park I’d Never Heard Of
I owe James Cameron an apology.
Following our visit to Ha Long Bay, I may have implied that he needed to use more of the Earth’s natural beauty in his movies rather than relying on computer graphics. It turns out he was at least two steps ahead of me.
Step 1 – Knowing Zhangjiajie National Park existed
I hadn’t heard of it before we entered China. I still don’t know how to pronounce it.
Step 2 – Using the natural beauty of Zhangjiajie National Park in a movie
The Hallelujah mountains of Avatar are real, except for the floating part. In the very scenes that I suggested he use the Earth’s natural beauty, he already had.
I think my career as an armchair director is officially over.
Zhangjiajie National Park is one of the most stunning national parks I’ve ever been to. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it has over 3000 skyscraper-esque karsts – most of which are thousands of feet tall. The scale of the place is immense. Our pictures don’t do it any justice. Photographers, bring a wide-angle lens.
Getting around this huge park is a wonder in and of itself. The park has an efficiently run array of concrete paths, tunnels, cable cars, roads and even a Guinness Book of World Records elevator. Buses whiz people around the park at blistering speeds that require a good grip even when you’re sitting down. We saw a bus door flung open as it arrived at the top of the mountain so three people could sprint to the bushes and throw up. As I said, it’s quite a ride.
We also got another buffet sized serving of Chinese domestic tourism. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
1. Chinese people travel in groups. The bigger the better.
2. Group leaders have really annoying portable speakers. The louder the better (for them).
3. Most Chinese people don’t enjoy hiking up and down mountains. They build cable cars, elevators or get carried to the top.
Luckily number 3, minimized the impact numbers 1 and 2 for us. Hiking was the only real escape from the crowds. Our experience is pretty well documented. Apparently, single family travel has enough uncertainties that in Chinese culture it’s considered risky to travel. Missing a bus or train seems to be a major concern.
For anyone traveling to China, we think Zhangjiajie National Park is a must.