zhangjiajie china

10 Stunning Views of Zhangjiajie that People Overlook

Zhangjiajie, whose old name is Dayong, is in the northwest of Hunan Province, China. Its capital city is Changsa, where Mao Tze-Tung was born, is situated about 330 km from the city.

The changing name from Dayong to Zhangjiajie happened in 1994, 2 years after the inclusion of Wulingyuan Scenic Park on UNESCO Heritage Site list. Thanks to that, Zhangjiajie has gained more popularity in the country and around the world ever since. Not to mention James Cameron used it as the inspiration of Pandora in his movie Avatar in 2009, where the indigenous inhabitants called Na’vi live.

When I joined a 5-day-tour from Chan Brothers Indonesia to explore the most panoramic and cultural places in Zhangjiajie by bus, from Wulingyuan Scenic Park, Tianmen mountain, Fenghuang Ancient City, Red Stone Forest to The Grand Canyon, I noticed that the city has more things to offer than just what people say and write in media.

The distance from one place to another was quite overwhelming, taking 5 to 6 hours journey by bus. Every day was a long day, especially I and the rest of the group had to get up at 6 am, sometimes 5, to save time and avoid long queues.

Leaving Changsa, tall buildings gradually disappeared when the greener side of Zhangjiajie came out of the blue. The mingle of traditional wooden houses that belong to Miao minority people, modern civilization, the nature and modern agriculture in suburban areas never failed to amaze me.

It was hard sometimes to stay awake waiting for great spots to appear. To be honest, I mostly killed the time on the road to sleep longer. When I was lucky enough to get up, I took my chances to immortalize the beauty on the road from the bus window that we would never be able to visit.

Since the bus never stopped in these areas, the time was very crucial as they would be gone in seconds. I admit that perfection is not something I could achieve. Nonetheless, as a novice in photography, my Fuji XA-1 mirrorless camera seemed to be able to make my wish come true.

Although I already posted some of these images a couple years ago, this time I would like to present an extended version of it.

ON THE WAY TO FENGHUANG ANCIENT CITY

 

zhangjiajie china

zhangjiajie china

zhangjiajie china

ON THE WAY TO RED STONE FOREST

zhangjiajie china

ON THE WAY TO MT. TIANMEN AND WULINGYUAN SCENIC PARK

zhangjiajie china

zhangjiajie china

zhangjiajie china

zhangjiajie china

zhangjiajie china

ON THE WAY TO GRAND CANYON

zhangjiajie china

Bear in mind that I’m not affiliated in any travel bureaus and I captured these images for personal purposes only. Nonetheless, should you need further information about the trip (Indonesian residents only), please kindly contact:

Chan Brothers Travel Indonesia
Kompleks Roxy Mas Blok E2 No. 5-7, Jl. K.H.Hasyim Ashari No. 125, RW.8, Cideng, Gambir, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10150
Phone: (021) 26533333
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Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Way

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “On the Way.”

Many major attractions in Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, China take long hours drive to reach. In the beginning, I made use most of my time to sleep in the bus along the way to compensate 6 am morning calls (sometimes 5 am).

However, I realized that I should not miss one thing that I would never be able to do during the tour: visiting traditional houses of indigenous people in the region, the Miao minorities. Thus, I felt a sense of urgency to capture them, although they were just from the bus window.

What I like best is that they let the houses just the way they are, untouched by tourists.

miao traditional house

miao house

miao traditional house

Rushing and Struggling in Hectic Phoenix Ancient Town

The six-hour-journey (including toilet breaks) from Changsha, the capital of Hunan province in China and the birthplace of the late president Mao, to Phoenix (or Fenghuang) Ancient Town was not in vain.

The town built in the early 18th century, during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of Qing Dynasty, has very well-preserved architecture from that period, that nowadays incorporates shops offering souvenirs, traditional handicrafts, eateries, silverware, local delicacies, traditional costume rentals, fruit markets and many more. Including those situated by the Tuo river (Tuo Jia) banks, old bridges and wood-structured boats crossing the river. The Tujia and Miao minorities, who have been resided for generations, still maintain their tradition from both the appearance and the way of live.

Therefore, fantasizing myself being on the set of kung fu movies or part of the character in Chinese traditional paintings was no longer necessary when I was there. It succeeded bringing me to the flashback atmosphere, when the last dynasty of China before turning into a republic was still on a blaze of glory.

What a great way to start my first visit to China.

Its magnetic attraction, that continues to mesmerize visitors across the country and around the world, comes with a price, apart from the entrance fee. The ancient town becomes a land of abundant opportunities to make a living, resulting in fierce competition among entrepreneurs. Street vendors never leave visitors out of sight, greeting them with merchandise and service to sell before they know it. Including those who dilly dally on street.

The streets are so packed with visitors who come like an unstoppable deluge. Brushing one’s shoulder while walking down the street is almost inevitable, especially in narrow alleys. It is quite difficult to take pictures of your favourite spots without being bumped. The “say cheese” and “selfie” may fail or turn easily into a candid when uninvited guests (read: crowds) unexpectedly appear in the picture.

Since then, I finally found out that waiting for a perfect moment does not always guarantee success. So I did a little twist in immortalizing my travel moments to adapt with the situation: press that button, think later! Thus, some of these photographs are results of imperfections, when the intended message may turn into a different story.

No matter what happened, now I understand why the phoenixes that once flew over the town were reluctant to leave, that leads to the discovery of the pretty old town. Legend has it.

phoenix ancient town

RAINY DAY IN TOWN

Rain momentarily stops people from flooding the street. But it won’t last long. The further you walk, the more crowds you get.

black tofu china

I’M LOVIN’ IT

I broke my “non- fried food consumption” daily regime for a day just for tasting the famous stinky tofu. The black colour and the fermented brine pungent smell didn’t stop me from trying. It actually tastes great, as the soy sauce is definitely the perfect match for the tofu. I just didn’t use the chili because I can’t take spicy food.

smoked meat

SMOKED MEAT

Yes, they look gruesome, yet edible. Smoking apparently is a popular way of preserving, cooking and flavoring food in Hunan province, from meat to tofu and bamboo shoots. The skinned pig face somehow reminds me of Texas Chain Massacre movie, but slightly better because it’s not a human face.

food

KEEPING THE TRADITION

One of the added values to buy souvenirs is to watch the makers doing it traditionally.

trading buffalo horn works

LOOK, IT WON’T GET BURNED!

Massage tools made of buffalo thorns are sold for RMB 5. Usually, the seller convinces future buyers by demonstrating a burning test and claiming those with reddish color have a better quality. I’m not sure how they matter for a better massage. I think it’s just another trick to lure the tourists. Other buffalo thorn handicrafts include (cigar) pipes, combs, hair accessories, etc. Something that animal right activists would hate.

chongde hall fenghuang ancient town

GHOST CHILD

At Chongde Hall, floods of people is often hard to avoid. That what makes the boy looks like a ghost.

flower crown

ARTISAN FLOWER CROWN 

Flower crown street vendors, from young to old women, are everywhere in town, selling their goods in competitive price for RMB 5. This old woman was tying up fresh flowers to the crown frame. Another particular item that Hunan villagers often bring (not only the vendors) is the “woven basket backpack” used for carrying just about anything, from merchandise, dirty clothes, groceries, to babies.

flower vendor in traditional costume

OOPS… WHATEVER….

My mom and her friend asked me to take a picture of them. But, all of the sudden, this old lady appeared beside my mom’s friend, offering a flower crown. In that moment, I wasn’t ready yet with my camera. Seconds later, she realized that there was no hope for purchase from the two women. She finally walked away in front of my mom’s friend, regardless what I was doing. I still took my chance to press the button and think later for the result. Well, only my mom was captured in the picture and there was nothing I could do about it.

tourist

THE TOURIST

While capturing the crowded alley on the way to Chongde Hall, I got this woman instead. I think she represents the real tourist of Phoenix. She doesn’t only have a flower crown on her head, but also a backpack in the front part of her body as a sign of pick-pocketing awareness. She also makes a statement, “This! is My New (followed with an Apple logo) Phone”.

phoenix town hunan

UNTITLED

traditional costumeSTREET PHOTOGRAPHER AND HER CLIENTS

Street photographers, who are surprisingly only women for this profession, were taking her clients who rented the Miao traditional costume to the famous view of Tuo river for a photo session. The woman with a gray jacket needed more patience until the photo session team left the scene, so her husband could take a picture of her properly.

tuo jia river

TRADITIONAL HOUSES BY THE RIVER

Nearly all inside these traditional houses are meant for commercial purposes, from restaurants, markets, handicrafts, to modern bars.

MIND YOUR STEP

The most challenging way to cross the river. The concrete blocks fear certain people to walk on it.

PHEW!

The woman, wearing a traditional Miao costume, rushed to the shore after successfully crossed the river through the concrete block bridge without falling down.

fruit vendors

RUNNING FOR LIFE?

I’m not sure what the fruit vendors were running from. But for sure, I adore their strength and agility. The can effortlessly walk on a narrow bridge with heavy merchandise on both shoulders, even precede the crowds, who are still occupying the space.

budweiser

BUD AT THE BAR

The ancient town has a modern bar, too.

native lady seller

CAN YOU TAKE CARE OF THEM FOR A WHILE? I’M BUSY!

Selfie. A global trend, no matter what.

THE LAUNDRY

Hanging towels, a bra and socks outside indicates a daily life, besides a mess. Until today, the locals still wash their clothes manually in Tuo River.

crossbow shooting gallery

NOBODY FEELS LIKE PLAYING

Silence means struggle when income depends on the traffic, like this crossbow shooting gallery.