Wednesday at 12:39(pm)
We’re going on an adventure! First stop: ‘长沙’Changsha! Fortunately a taxi arrived as we stood outside the campus gates and we were soon on our way to Ningbo Lishe Airport. We chatted a little to the taxi driver but it’s still a bit hit and miss whether we understand everything they say. The weather was boiling on Wednesday reaching about thirty one degrees. I felt like I was melting in the back of the taxi. Half an hour later we arrived at the airport. Ningbo airport was tiny in comparison to others airports in China, to give you an idea of its size: we thought it was similar to East Midlands airport. The flight was easy. We’ve realised that all Chinese flights include a meal which is such a luxury compared to the European budget airlines. For once the plane departed on time and we arrived at four o’clock on the dot. My rucksack was already in baggage reclaim when we arrived five minutes later and we were on a bus into changsha city centre in no time. The biggest difference between Changsha and Ningbo is that it is so green here! It’s quite hard to explain and it sounds unusual for that to be the most noticeable thing.. But I feel like i haven’t seen lots of greenery in ages! Even the grass in Ningbo isn’t a bold green and some parts look quite dead.
It was a faff to get to hostel. The first bus was easy to get yet took a while. The next bus from the train station was a little harder to find but we made it! The hostel staff were pretty unfriendly but the room made up for it! We had forgotten we had booked a twin room. It was luxury. And it was only about £12, which is a bargain! After relaxing for a short our rumbling stomachs told us to get moving and find food. As we were only here for one night we wanted to wander around a bit of the city too. We walked for about five minutes in the direction of the park we had seen from the bus as we passed it earlier on. It was pretty big – bigger than Hyde Park! We walked up to a monument and came across a balcony that looked over one wide long space that was full of Chinese people dancing. It was so lovely. I love how the Chinese get together in public places in the early mornings and evenings to blast music from some small speakers and dance for hours. We then found a dodgy looking amusement park that was quite creepy. Some of the rides were completely shut down whilst a few others were lit and working. There weren’t many people using them so we ignored the temptation to have a go on a big spinny swing ride! As it was already quite late we headed back to our hostel and found street food on the way. We both had the barbecued kind and stacked our trays. It was delicioussssss. I am going to miss being able just to buy cheap, fresh meals on the street in the UK. Once home we got ready for bed and set our alarms for our early flight the next day. One funny moment: a moped’s alarm starting going off somewhere nearby and Luis pulls a “how dare it do this?” face. He walks to the window and opens the curtain, the sound stops the moment he peeks: “see? It knows to shut up”. I couldn’t help laughing. XD
On Thursday morning we woke up at six thirty and met the taxi waiting downstairs at seven. It took about forty minutes to get to Changsha Airport. Little did we know that the fates were laughing at our oblivious happiness as we strolled up to the check-in desk… The moment the lady asked us: “where are you going?” I almost knew that something wasn’t right. A minute later she dropped the bombshell: our flight was yesterday. We were slightly stunned (as anyone would be). How did this happen? Why was everything still not simple?! I know all of my friends and family are putting their heads in their hands right now… #sorrynotsorry #thewaythecookiecrumbles
Luis thought she was playing a joke on us until he saw our piece of paper clearly (but not so clearly) stating that we had bought a flight for the 1st April than the 2nd. Somehow we managed to play an April Fool’s on ourselves…
We went to the help desk and managed to buy another ticket. Fortunately the ticket was only 280 yuan. We returned to the check-in desk and were at security in minutes. Once we were through it was annouced that our flight was boarding. This was a little peculiar as it was only ten past eight and our flight wasn’t to depart until ten to nine! We went through the ticket check and got on a quite empty bus. For the next five minutes Luis was panicking next to me. Were we getting on the right plane? After ten minutes there were still only twenty people on the bus. Alas we headed off and soon enough some small propeller aeroplanes came into view! My second propeller plane of my year abroad!! Eeeek! It was tiny and pretty loud and clunky when the propellers started but quite a smooth flight. The take off was a little bumpy but the landing was better than big planes have had.
Zhangjiajie has a tiiiiny airport! It was hilarious to see a hoard of taxi drivers spot us as we left the tenrminal building and start shouting “taxi!”. They followed us as we googled the address for the hostel and when we realised they were offering to take us for two hundred yuan I instantly said no. I marched away from them towards the bus area when one ran up to me and said sixty yuan. We decided to take it because it was the cheapest offer we had received and we didn’t know of another way of getting to the hostel.
We stayed in Zhangjiajie International Youth Hostel on the north side of the river. It was situated on the fourth floor of an eleven-storey building. The room was nice and clean; it had a shower room/toilet. The reception part is completely different to the rest of the building and looks out of place. Nonetheless it was a good hostel 😀
The weather had taken a turn for the worse and it started pouring down. We decided to change from our optimistic shorts and t-shirts into jeans and thin jumpers. Then we were off! We caught a taxi to the bus station and couldn’t believe how heavy the rain was. It was definitely washing away my hopes of seeing anything during our stay here. Having been up since half past six we were starving by half past eleven. Our stomachs led us toward by the McDonald’s in the bus station! I know; all I seem to do is eat McDonald’s….. I promise you I do eat Chinese food! Following that we headed into the bus station and managed to ask our way to the right bus. The question for us was: but where do we want to go? We knew that there were three different possible day trips on offer. In the end we settled on going up to ‘天门山’Tianmen Mountain as it was closer and we could see the cable car go over our heads as we stood chatting to a chinese woman. The bus took us to the cable car station and off we went. We managed to get student reduced price tickets as I kept insisting that we were real students by flashing my passport residence permit along with my student card. Once bought, we were on the cable car in no time. We had it to ourselves, which was lovely!
It was incredible. We didn’t know what to expect but we were not disappointed. The cable car ride lasts half an hour. It is the “longest cable car ride” in the world with a total length of 7,455 metres! At first you go over a little hill and along a short valley full of fields and a few houses. Then we started the ascent up to the top. The incline changed from a modest 30° angle to over 45°! Wow. I’m not the best with heights but I’m so glad I went up it! As the clouds started to break we caught sight of the mountain tops surrounding us. Eeekk!!
Once we arrived, we followed the west line around the side of the mountain side (it was right on the edge!) and arrived at the glass walkway. Luis was excited. I was not. I remember going up to the calgary tower with my family and not being able to step on the glass floor there so how the hell was I going to be able to do this?! Everyone has to wear cotton shoe protectors to walk on the glass. The negative of this was they soaked up the rainwater like a sponge. Hence our shoes were quite damp once we reached the other side. I slowly stepped across the glass walkway, stealing many opportunities to step onto parts that were rock when I could. It was freaking scary but worth it! The view was beautiful. We were above one line of clouds and the others had cleared giving way to bright warm sunshine. We finished it in ten minutes and followed the path along the mountain. We decided to follow a path that kept going up and up (my calves are going to be hench in no time) and ended up at a chair lift that people can take to get to the temple. At the time it was really cloudy and the map confused us a little so we decided against taking it. Instead we climbed up more steps to this small round pagoda-like building called the Fairy Temple. From the top of it we caught sight of a bridge in the distance. Luis really wanted to go on it so we pulled out the map and decided that the chairlift was probably a good idea… We went back inside the fairy building and saw an elevator. We got in it thinking it’d take us down to the chairlift. But no. It went quite a way down! We found ourselved back at the main entrance! We were a bit baffled. This time we took the west line again but followed a different path that took us to the suspension bridge. Waheyyy. It was absolutely amazing meandering our way along on the side of the mountain. No picture can really demonstrate how fantastic it was. We absolutely loved it.
Eventually we arrived at the Buddhist Temple on one of the peaks of Tianmen Mountain. It was beautiful and boldly painted in reds, blues, and gold. From there we caught the chair lift back across to the fairy thing and the view was so good. The clouds seemed to burn off in seconds giving us a lovely view back over the suspension bridge we had crossed and the mountains beyond. Luis was cursing our luck again by wishing that the clouds had cleared on the bridge. Nevertheless it was beautiful just being up there. We then headed towards the east path but were disappointed to find the massive escalators were closed 😦 on a lower part of the mountain there is ‘heavens gate’ which is a massive gaping arch in the rock that has 999 steps leading up to it. I was so excited to go but alas.. It the not meant to be. We decided to head back down and go relax in the hostel for a little bit. When we arrived at the bottom I largely underestimated how long it would take to walk back to the hostel. It was good to see the city but my legs and feet were dying by the end of it.. The bed was so comfortable after that XD