Saturday was the best day in Zhangjiajie, as I felt well enough to get out of bed and travel with P&M up to “Heaven’s Door Mountain” — 天门山 Tiānmén Shān — via cable car and brave a cliff-side walk 1-1.6m in width (M. had to hold my hands and pull me along at some points, whew)!! Access to these mountains is heavily controlled; you can’t just drive up in a Dudu (my nickname for Didi—China’s version of Uber), although you might be able to hike it. However, with a height of 1,519 meters (4,983 feet) and the last portion to the top being 37-degree grade, only rock climbers could Spider-Man up, and that is not allowed (except Frenchman Alain Robert who free-climbed part in 2007)! If you would like to arrive early and not queue multiple times, be at the ticket counter at 7am. We did not arrive til 9am, queued for 30 minutes, then were given a time slot of 1pm to return to stand in another line for the cable cars. It felt like we wasted 4 hours, but it must have turned out well, because perhaps all the crowds take off early. So many people visit, they only allow a limited number up at one time. And good thing! Although somewhat crowded due the holiday, it wasn’t overly packed, thank zod. The claim is that the cable car ride is the longest cableway in the world: 7km, and that the road down has the most turns (99) of sharpest degrees. The bus drivers love to scare the bejesus out of you as they descend these hills so fast the bus leans and leans as Gina screams and screams. :-))
I don’t know which was more terrifying, the narrow cliff side walks several 1000 meters above flat earth or the damn bus ride down! :-))
Additional deetails and professional photos of Heaven’s Gate (or Door) can be found on these sites:
The cable car ride itself was stunning, spanning 30 minutes and several kilometers, and it provided only a teaser of what was to come...
Click “Read more” to the right...
When we were stuck with a 1pm cable car ride up, we returned to the hotel and rested. P at lunch, but M and I weren’t hungry and just wanted coffee after our naps. Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up some baozha (sp.??) to take to the top, and so we were starving later. Baozha is a steamed bun filled with either meat or vegetables. It is nourishing and healthy — at least the veggie ones. These little balls of yum are what I occasionally purchase for breakfast in the morning, on the way to school. We were going to take another cable car ride across one mountain top to another—this one looked like a ski-lift and was definitely less scary, though it was an open chair lift— but P wanted to take the trails, so we succumbed and dealt with our hunger. The trails were well worth the 40 minute or so hike to the mountaintop Cherry Restaurant. The restaurant was a huge, huge, huge disappointment. They were out of everything. Except corn and cold baozha and unknown-meat-on-a-stick. M and I had the WORST corn ever—I think I’m put off of corn for years now. How do you eff up corn-on-the-cob? What taste it had was foul, so we drowned it in Sichuan pepper sauce and soy sauce because we needed the carbs for more hiking. The only other food to be found was junk-style snack food, cookies and crap. Though we managed to find a package of peanuts to stave off the hunger. After the disheartening lunch, we headed over to the next area, which included a massive Buddhist Temple. At the entrance, it seems to be only 3 or four buildings. As you walk through one, another few pop up behind, and you keep going and going; there must have been 12 or more separate temples and other buildings!
...TO BE CONTINUED!
History of Tomb-Sweeping Day, courtesy of Travel China Guide:
“Qingming Festival (also known as Pure Brightness Festival or Tomb-sweeping Day), which falls on either April 4th or 5th of the gregorian calendar, is one of the Chinese Twenty-four Solar Terms. From that date temperatures begin to rise and rainfall increases, indicating that it is the crucial time for plowing and sowing in the spring. The festival therefore has a close relationship with agriculture. However, it is not only a seasonal symbol; it is also a day of paying respect to the dead, a spring outing, and other activities... Tomb Sweeping
Tomb sweeping is regarded as the most important custom in the Qingming Festival from which the name of Tomb-sweeping day is got. Cleaning the tomb and paying respect to the dead person with offerings are the two important parts of remembering the past relatives. Weeds around the tomb are cleared away and fresh soil is added to show care of the dead. The dead person's favourite food and wine are taken to sacrifice to them, along with paper resembling money. This is all burned in the hope that the deceased are not lacking food and money. Kowtow before the tablets set up for the dead are made... Traditional CustomsQingming Festival is a time of many different activities, among which the main ones are tomb sweeping, taking a spring outing, and flying kites. Some other lost customs like wearing willow branches on the head and riding on swings have added infinite joy in past days. It is a combination of sadness and happiness.
Today, with cremation taking over from burying, the custom has been extremely simplified in cities. Only flowers are presented to the dead relatives and revolutionary martyrs. No matter how respect is shown, good prayers for the deceased are expressed...”