Yunnan Province China
“Lijiang in Yunnan Province!!”
Yunnan is a good destination from Zhaoqing as there is a direct train. Getting a hard sleeper seat (try and get the bottom bunk) is an experience in itself and the 27 hour train ride to Kunming is stunning. From their you can go on to Vietnam, Tibet or travel north to Sichuan.
Guide to Zhangjiajie National Park in northern Hunan Province by Darren, previously written for an Internet forum so please excuse the informality;
Zhangjiajie National Park, Hunan Province
Zhangjiajie was the first National Park set up in China in (I'm thinking) 1979. It's pretty famous amongst the Chinese population and has had Chinese movies filmed there and Chinese songs inspired by it.
Living in Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province I set off at 11.50am local time to catch the bus to Guangzhou Tian He. There I met my girlfriend and we then caught the Airport Express to the, ahem, airport. It was a quite speedy hour and twenty minutes to Zhangjiajie City and so we went to catch a cab to Zhangjiajie Village.
This is near the National Park and the next day (after a rip-off supper and breakfast) we walked to the Park entrance. Having read that it had shockingly been upped in price to 160rmb last year you can imagine my delight by being told that this year it was now 220rmb. I can assure you that upon hearing said pricing information I was about as happy as a penguin in a microwave. Still...holiday and all that, so I paid it. It entitled us to two entries into the park - although you can get away with as much time as you like as long as you stay inside the park and don't come out. Sort of like the 'one-entry' visas many are familiar with.
The Park itself is a mixture of scenic beauty and Chinese tourist rip-off. On the first day we took a cable car to a nearby mountain and...kind of...looked down. There wasn't much else to do. This part of Zhangjiajie comes from the Yangshuo school of sticky-up rocks that looks nice. In the typical Chinese tradition every rock/mountain/hill etc. that looks nothing vaguely human in any way is still given the personification treatment regardless. Hence seven rocks sticking into the air is interpreted as 'Five Fingers' ("Hey , just pretend a couple of them are stuck together!"), a couple of crags which have the impertinence to lean within five hundred yards of each other have to suffer the nomenclature of "wooing lovers" and a tiny little wannabe mountain with a couple of holes halfway up looks like a 2nd Century BC Chinese author...As if those who named it had a daguerreotype to hand and compared the two!?!?!
ANYWAY... after strolling about the top we decided to go down the mountain and save 50 or so kuai rather than get the cable car down. BIG MISTAKE. The one thing that Zhangjiajie contains more than anything else is...steps.
After an hour of bone-crunching downward strides my knees were shaking like an alcoholic grasping his first drink of the morning. We met a Chinese guide (ethnic minority of Miao(sp?) whom number 60% of the local population) and she took us to a local guesthouse. She didn't tell us it'd take 2 and a 1/2 hours but what the hell...by the time we finished walking my thighs would rival any World Strongman contestant. I almost felt I could pull a truck with my teeth.
We then went up an elevator. Not just any elevator though...one on the side of a bloody mountain. The view was great, the cost was horrendous and we reached the destination. 80rmb for a room and 120 with heating. I'm not Captain Scott however so 120 it was. The food was very overpriced inside the national park.
The next two days saw us walking...and walking...and walking. Everything in Zhangjiajie seems to require the arrival of steppage. So the next day we climbed and then descended mountains. On the third day we visited the biggest cave in China. At least that's what the ticket touts said. Don't remember much about those two days as when your calves are throbbing like a head waking from a three-day old hangover life starts to pass you by.
Overall though I'd recommend Zhangjiajie. It's tourist trap in places and can get busy but there aren't loads of waiguoren to spoil your 'Cook as the first man exploring the Pacific' delusions and it looks great.”
Former colonial part of Guangzhou – pictures in the following links;
Guide to Shamian Island - http://preetamrai.com/weblog/archives/2005/11/22/my-little-hiding-place-shamian-dao/
Shamian Island Zhangjiajie National Forest Park