We arrived at Changsha by Thai Airline via Bangkok. Check-in Crowne Plaza hotel late at night, and missed our dinner, despite the five-star hotel was located in the city centre. As usual we check- out early, and hardly have the opportunity to enjoy the facilities in all the hotels, except for sleep, shower and meals. Again we skipped all the city and surrounding attractions, and travelled four hours (about 320 km) to our destination, Wulinguan, Hunan Province. (Changsha is the capital and the hot bed for Chinese revolutionaries, including Chairman Mao). After lunch, we travelled to our destination some 15 min. away.
Wulingyuan (Chinese: 武陵源; pinyin: Wǔlíngyuán) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hunan Province. It comprises Zhangjiajie National Park, Suixiyu Valley Natural Reserve and Tianzi Mountain Natural Reserve. Together they covered 135 sq. mile. It is popularly known as Zhangjiajie or Avatar for western ears.
On arrival there we saw a long queue of people. (Mind you China has a population of 1.3 billion people, and many have no qualms in overtaking queue by crude ways In fact we jumped queue too in a legally permitted way.). It’s not unusual to stand and queue for four hours. Somehow our local tour guide helped us to bypass that first hurdle, and we went straight to a VIP express- lane, which required another one and half hour of waiting. You need strong legs, big bladders, some tolerance of dehydration, the ability to shut your ears to human noises, and power of gossips to fill in the time. Then it was a half hour (covering seven km at 38 degree twists) of exciting ride by the world’s longest cable car (French technology, Poma) just to reach a moderate height summit. You have your rest and stroll around to snap pictures after pictures. Then you are wheeled in electric bus, ascend a mountain to decent another, in 99 twists and turns of serpentine narrow road, in rain and mist. Or you could borrow uniform from skating transformer to speed up. Fantastic view all the way, if you survive the journey well. Finally we arrive at the bottom of Tian Shan Men (lit. Sky Hole Mountain), with a height of 4900 ft, and 999 concrete steps to climb. The gate is caused by water erosion between two peaks, and is 100 ft wide. When I reached the summit, I couldn’t visualise the hole, despite I was standing within it, for it was drizzling and foggy. In the hole, I could not see the hole; too near to see things too closed. The descent journey down the 999 steps required strong and steady pair of legs and stamina. For my age and osteoarthritis, I was no slower than the young ones. The Point Therapy did help with mobility.