Sunday, January 25: The forecast for today is as bad as it was yesterday, but as it’s our last day here, we’ve hired a guide to make sure we see the best of what there is to see in the shortest amount of time. She meets us at our hotel at 10:00 and we head by taxi to the entrance to the park and then directly by the park bus to the Bailong Elevator, which will take us to the heights of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.
me on the platform of the Bailong Elevator
According to Prafulla.net:‘The Bailong Elevator’ at Zhangjiajie National Park, China : The Highest and Heaviest Outdoor Elevator in the World: Zhangjiajie Bailong Elevator (Chinese百龙天梯) is a glass elevator built on the side of a huge rock in the Wulingyuan Scenic Reserve in Zhangjiajie, China. It is 1070 ft (330m) high and claimed to be the world’s tallest glass elevator.
It is the highest outdoor elevator in the world and it has three Guinness World Records: 1) World’s tallest full-exposure outdoor elevator; 2) World’s tallest double-deck sightseeing elevator and 3) World’s fastest passenger traffic elevator with biggest carrying capacity.
However, due to the potential harm caused to the surrounding landscape, its future remains uncertain.
Views of our surroundings from the bottom of the Bailong Elevator
According to Top China Travel.com: Bailong Elevator: Bailong Elevator, or Hundred Dragons Elevator, includes three exposure sightseeing elevators running parallel to one another. Each elevator can take 50 passengers every time and the speed is 3 m/s. If the three elevators run simultaneously, the amount of one-way passengers can reach 4,000 per hour.
The Bailong Elevator allows people to “go sightseeing up the mountain during the day,” and return to the bottom by nightfall. So it provides convenience in transportation for visitors. Moreover, passengers can access amazing scenery on the elevator, including the World Bridge of Yuanjiajie, Wulong village and Yangjiajie. The elevator integrates Mount Tianzi, Yuanjiajie, and Jinbian Stream as a single entity, solving traffic bottleneck problems in this scenic spot.
Sadly, I don’t take a picture of the elevator to show here, because I actually think it’s quite ugly. You can see the actual elevator on one of the links above.
View from the deck of the Bailong Elevator
Prior to the elevator’s opening in 2002, it took visitors more than three hours to drive on dangerous mountain roads to Yuanjiajie. It took more than five hours if you drove from the foot of mountain to Yuanjiajie scenic spot. Since Bailong Elevator has been accessible to visitors, the time has shortened to one minute and 58 seconds, which is considered to be a miracle.
We pay a lot of money to be whisked quickly up the elevator to the walkways built along the heights of the National Park. The fog is so thick today you could stir it with a spoon, but as morning fog usually yields to clear skies later in the day, I figure it will get better as the day progresses. I am dead wrong.
At the top of the elevator, the walkway begins
Our guide Kathy is one of the ethnic minority people who lives in the area (I can’t remember which minority). At the top of the mountain she sings us a native song. I would put my video on YouTube and link to it here, but YouTube is nearly impossible to use in China. Maybe when I return to the USA, I’ll be able to post it. I’m sure she’s thrilled to be taking people on a tour here on this dreary and cold day.
Our cute guide
We get some glimpses of the park’s pinnacles early on.
first glimpses from the top…
…and that’s all they are: glimpses
But as we continue to walk, the fog gets thicker and thicker. We get to a spot that shows a placard of the Avatar Mountain. This is what we see:
The Avatar Mountain
I’m not kidding. We can’t even see the outline of the famous mountain that looks so pretty on the placard. I honestly want to cry. I am so frustrated that this fog won’t allow us even a glimpse of some of the beautiful mountains here.
We do get so see scores of monkeys climbing over the trees and the walkways and the railings. One of them even jumps on a girl’s backpack as she’s walking and tries to take some food from her. She screeches, as I suppose I would do too if a monkey jumped on my back!
monkeys in the park
a pensive fellow
all lined up
There are several kinds of monkeys in the park
Mike and his monkey friends
We continue on the walk and I feel increasingly depressed and frustrated. I have so looked forward to coming to this place. I’ve dreamed of having wonderful pictures to share, but all I can see is fog. In some spots, the wind is blowing and the fog looks more wispy than in other places. I stand in those areas for a long time, determined to wait until the wind blogs the fog away, if even for a split second, so I can see the mountains. Here’s a gallery of some of what I see, but it isn’t much.
See, you can almost see!
There they are!!
Look. If you squint hard enough you can see them? Right?
There they are!
There are a couple of better views along the way as the fog does clear intermittently.
a few peeks of a few peaks
some slightly clearer views
more slightly clear views
We continue on until we come to the No. 1 Bridge in the Earth. A stone near the bridge says: This natural bridge connects the natural moat with a span of 50 meters, a height of 350 meters, a width of 4 meters, and a thickness of 5 meters. When sunny, the bridge opening is obviously seen, when rainy the fog drifts in with sounds.
The No. 1 Bridge in the Earth
I’m trying to smile, but you can see it’s difficult. I really want to cry and feel like I’m on the verge of doing so. Can you tell?
me at the No. 1 Bridge in the Earth
The No. 1 Bridge in the Earth
The No. 1 Bridge in the Earth
Locks on the bridge
a few more glimpses from the bridge
fleeting sights along the bridge
looking into the depths
View from No. 1 Bridge in the Earth
More locks on the bridge
Mike on the bridge with the Chinese tourists
Mike and I on No. 1 Bridge
We look out on the opposite side of the No. 1 Bridge in the Earth, and we can barely see some of the pinnacles on the other side.
Views from No. 1 Bridge
Views from the other side
This must be beautiful if you could see it!
the literally “mystical” Zhangjiajie
After our walk, we walk to another mountain, where I stand on the edge of a steep precipice.
Me on edge
Finally, we make it to a lunch place where we order my usual Chinese dishes of salty green beans sautéed with hot peppers and scrambled eggs with tomato.
Our guide tries to take us to an old village on the mountain. We start to go in, but when she tells us we have to pay another entry fee, we decline. I’m too depressed to go further. Every bit of this trip has cost us a fortune, from hiring the guide, to paying the fee to go up the elevator to coming back down the elevator. The fees are endless at this place.
the entry to the village that we don’t go into
outside of the village
As we’re returning to take the elevator back down, we come to this statue of Marshal He Long. A group of Chinese businessmen are milling about and posing with the statue.
He Long was a Chinese military leader who lived from March 22, 1896 – June 8, 1969. He was from a poor rural family of the Tujia ethnic group in Hunan, and his family was not able to provide him with any formal education. He began his revolutionary career after avenging the death of his uncle, when he fled to become an outlaw and attracted a small personal army around him. You can read more about him here: Long March Leaders: Marshal He Long.
Statue of Marshal He Long
As we leave through the visitor’s center, we see these gorgeous photos of the park. Here’s what Zhangjiajie should look like on a nicer day.
This is what Zhangjiajie SHOULD look like!
What I wish I’d seen
Unless I someday make it back to the park, what I saw today is all I will ever see. Sadly, this will be my memory of the park: a mere suggestion of what it really is.
Last views of the park from the Bailong Elevator platform
final view of Zhangjiajie
We take the park bus back to the entrance, where the bus driver is much more careful and slow-moving than yesterday’s driver, who careened around the many curvy cliffside roads to return us to earth.
Back at our hotel. we rest awhile before going to a Chinese acrobatic and dance show at a venue next to our hotel. More about that in another post. 🙂