China Travels: TianZi Mountains, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)

TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)
TianZi Mountains, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)

TianZi Mountains was also another major highlight on my recent trip to Mainland China. TianZi Mountains might not ring a bell to you but this would probably look quite familiar to some of you:

TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)
TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)

Yeap, TianZi Mountains is where they filmed the background for Avatar!

TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)
TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)
TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)
TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)

The entire place was just columns of mountains as far as your eye can see. It’s pretty amazing and I can tell you that my photos do the place no justice at all. I couldn’t capture the majestic feel of the place; the area was just too wide!

Also, it was too bright and sunny on the day we were there and the sun was basically in my face the entire time because of the path we took so it was almost impossible to take much pictures.

If you google “TianZi Mountains” you will see some really amazing pictures of the place; especially those with the skirts of clouds/fog between the mountain towers, it’d really make you feel like you were in heaven. I didn’t have the luck to experience that because of the sunny weather conditions when I was there.

That said, the famed Bailong Elevator (百龙电梯) is also in the area. The Bailong Elevator is the world’s highest and heaviest elevator built into the side of a huge cliff. The lifts are all glass and has two levels. I took the upper one.

Bailong Elevator (百龙电梯)
Bailong Elevator (百龙电梯)

In the 1 minute or so ride up the 330 metres lift, you get to see this (photo below) and coz the mountains are so huge, you don’t feel that the lift moving at 3 metres per second is very fast. (Mind you, the average waiting time in the queue for the lift is 1.5 hours. Happy queueing.) The view changes barely as you zoom up the cliff.

TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)
TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)

From the entrance of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, when you take the shuttle bus towards the cableway (10 minutes ride or so). The first stop is at the Ten Mile Gallery (十里画廊). You’ll see another section of the TianZi Mountains along this route. This path also allows you to walk/climb up to the top of the TianZi Mountains as I heard.

Ten Mile Gallery (十里画廊)
3 Sisters on the right at Ten Mile Gallery (十里画廊)

Just before you enter the area to take the Bailong Elevator, there is a place called Golden Whip Stream (金鞭溪大峡谷). It is a very lovely and cool place to walk along. Unfortunately, the stream has mostly dried up because of the impending winter.

Golden Whip Stream (金鞭溪大峡谷)
Golden Whip Stream (金鞭溪大峡谷)

Because of time in a group tour (as usual), I only spent like 15~20 minutes at the Golden Whip Stream out of the entire 5 km worth of the valley.

We spent a good 2~3 hours walking along the path at the top of the TianZi Mountains from the Bailong Elevators. There are several routes I believe and I’m not sure which one I was on. Hahahaha.

TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)
TianZi Mountain, Yuanjiajie (天子山, 袁家界)

Damn footpath on the mountain top was so high up that we couldn’t see the bottom of the valley. It was pretty scary to stand at the edge of the cliff even with the metal railings. LOL. Most people stood at least 1 foot away from the railings as they tried to look down. No one dared to lean on the railings as far as I noticed.

When we were done at the top of the TianZi Mountains, we took the cable car down. Unfortunately or fortunately, by the time we reached the cable car to head down after 1.5 hours in the queue, the sun has set and there was nothing to see… which was a bit of a waste since the cable car ride was also meant for us to get a bird’s eye view as we headed down.

Still, it was quite something to take a cable car ride halfway down the mountains in pretty much complete darkness. LOL. At least I couldn’t see the height to freak out… BUT the 6 of us (1 SG male, 3 SG females, 2 Chinese National males) in the cable car still screamed when we bounced through the cable connector towers. XD We are not that much different after all.

In case anyone is reading this with the intention to backpack, our tour group got a 3 day pass into Zhangjiajie (I don’t know which entrance we used as well sorry) and it costs 245 yuan (as printed on the ticket) and entry is via a card which you tap to enter and it’s associated with your fingerprint so it is not transferrable. You will need to present your passport during ticket purchase as well. The price of the entry card does not include the cost of the cable car ride (67 yuan one way) and the Bailong Elevator (72 yuan one way).

There are loads of vendors selling some food along the entire way so not too much worries if you get hungry in between. Still, bring along a bottle of water to stay hydrated for the walk/hike.

Finally, remember that this is China, there are a gazillion people everywhere and always. So make sure you buffer for a lot of time in anticipation of the queues and crowds especially on a weekend. According to our tour guide, the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park sees around 300,000 ~ 400,000 visitors on a REGULAR weekend. You’ve been warned. 🙂

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