Friday, January 23: Everyone should know by now my aversion to buses, especially those of the Chinese variety. Usually I won’t submit to one over two hours long, opting for a train or a plane if possible. Sometimes I’ll even pay a taxi an exorbitant sum just to avoid them. In this case, we need to get back to Jishou this morning for a 10:48 train to Zhangjiajie, only about an hour’s bus ride, but I still don’t want to take the bus. We decide we’ll pay for a taxi, directly from our hotel to Jishou. I can’t remember the amount we pay, but whatever it is, it’s worth it. Sometimes I don’t care about money and I will opt for comfort and convenience over all else.
We arrive at the Jishou train station and wait with the usual hordes to board. This is not a fast train, but an older one that makes numerous stops along the way. I love the new comfortable bullet trains, but I couldn’t find one for this trip. This one is due to arrive in Zhangjiajie at 12:33, but as it’s late to arrive in Jishou, it’s also late to arrive at our destination.
The seats on this one are a little cramped, with three seats facing another three seats. These are called the hard seats and were the only option on this train. The bullet trains have only two soft and larger comfortable seats on them, and they all face forward. It seems every college student in Hunan province is on this one. They all have the same break from school that I do.
Somehow, Angela, my student helper who bought these tickets for me, wasn’t able to get seats for Mike and I together. However, he’s sitting behind me, back to back.
Here’s a view of our whole car. Notice how everyone’s on their mobile phones.
And of course, we must have at least one picture of a Chinese train toilet.
Zhangjiajie must be a big destination because the train station here is sprawling and relatively new. New buildings in China seem to always be large to accommodate the large crowds of people.
Mike was worried about heating in our hotels, as I told him that I’ve heard there is no heat generally in Chinese buildings south of the Yangtze River in China. He asked me to book us a nice hotel in Zhangjiajie, so I booked the Hotel Pullman Zhangjiajie, which is a real treat. It turns out we don’t encounter many heating problems in our hotels generally, but this one is exceptionally toasty. Most of the older buildings have wall unit air-conditioners that double as heaters, but they’re not that warm unless you happen to be right under them.
We have a great view of the pool below, but of course it is too cold to enjoy a pool.
The best thing about the room is the bathtub. I love a long hot soak, and am normally a daily bath taker when I’m at home in Virginia. Sadly, I’ve had to give up my baths for the most part when I’ve lived abroad. I also like that the folding doors open up to the rest of the room so you can have a bath with a view!
Since it’s late afternoon by the time we settle in and eat some outrageously expensive pasta for lunch at the hotel, we decide to visit Baofeng Lake Scenic Area, which will not be so time-consuming as the Wulingyuan Scenic Reserve (widely known as Zhangjiajie). At the entrance, a sign states that senior citizens get a discount, and so I give the woman the reduced price for Mike, insisting that he’s a senior citizen. She refuses to accept the reduced fee and keeps waving her hand back and forth emphatically: “NO!” After going around and around about this, someone else comes to the rescue in our stand-off and states in broken English that this reduction is only for Chinese citizens.
When we enter the Scenic Area, there is a pedestrian-only road, and we walk uphill a long way until we see steps climbing up and up into the clouds. It’s a very long walk up, with many stops to catch our breath along the way.
According to ChinaTravel.com: Baofeng Lake: Baofeng Lake and the area immediately surrounding it offer pristinely beautiful natural scenery. Being located high up in the mountains, the lake catches some of the first and purest runoff water from the mountain peaks. Its height also guarantees an air freshness not found around lakes at lower altitudes. Baofeng Lake is bordered by lush green trees and shrub-clad stone peaks of various shapes that enclose the lake and give it a fairytale-like atmosphere. Indeed, Baofeng Lake is a reservoir, with a dam enclosing its waters, not for the purpose of power generation, but for the purpose of crop irrigation.
There’s a boat ride around the 2-kilometer lake, but we have to wait a bit for enough people to get on the boat. Apparently, it’s the last one of the day. So we wander around and check out the scenery, with the karst reflections on the water’s surface.
A Chinese woman, who is at the lake with her boyfriend, speaks excellent English and talks to us for some time about her business of exporting mostly to Middle Eastern countries. She also asks us a lot of questions about ourselves. We ride on the same boat together.
The boat ride is actually quite short. It’s overcast today, but tomorrow rain and fog are forecast, so I guess we should be happy with the non-leaking clouds. It’s a little disappointing after our sunny but cold days in Fenghuang.
As we approach this little cottage, a woman in ethnic costume walks out on the porch and serenades us with a lovely melodic song.
All onboard give her a round of applause and we continue on our little boat ride.
The average depth of the lake is 72 meters, and as I stand near the edge of the boat to take pictures, the Chinese woman asks me if I’m not afraid to stand so close to the edge of the boat when the water is so deep. I say to her that it doesn’t really matter about the depth of the water because I can swim. Whether it’s 10 meters or 100 meters makes no difference. I guess I don’t understand these kinds of fears.
Here’s the boat.
After our boat ride, we are deposited on another shore, and we walk down many flights of steps to the valley floor. Here’s our view from above as we walk down.
We see this old set of steps that is no longer used. It looks a little scary and precipitous!
At the bottom, we find a koi pond.
And a hanging bridge, which we walk over. It is more scenic from below.
From the valley floor, we can see the karsts towering above us.
As well as a grove of bamboo.
We decide we will walk back to town, which turns out to be quite a long haul, especially after all the stair climbing and descending we did to get to Baofeng Hu. We find a restaurant, where I use my WayGo app to read the all-Chinese menu and we order a meal of bok choy, eggs with scallions, rice and pickled radishes, accompanied by two tall beers. As most people know already, I don’t have many choices in Chinese restaurants as the meat is all full of gristle, fat and bones. These make me gag.
We drop by a convenience store to buy some water, orange juice and a box of some of my favorite chocolate mousse cake snacks. We’re exhausted from our day of travel and our long uphill and downhill hike, so I take a long hot bath and we conk out early. The forecast for tomorrow is still for rain and fog, but I keep foolishly hoping it will change just in time for us to explore the reserve.