China - Zhangjiajie and the Yellow Cave

I mentioned before that Hunan Province is a poor place but it is bustling with over 68 million people. It is rich in natural resources and boasts a very popular but small tourist destination in Mao’s hometown.  The real high point of this trip figurative and literally was Zhangjiajie, China’s first  National Forest Park, which has also been designated s a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The scenery is just stunning and makes a trip to China worthwhile.  The capital of Hunan is Changsha, into which we flew from Beijing. It has a population of around 6 million but it is a very bustling and growing city. A lot of industry here means smoggy skies but we enjoyed the visit here. From here it was a 4 hour ride to Zhangjiajie City with its population of just over 1 million.  As a very new city created as the gateway to the Forest Park, it is building like mad since its creation in 1982.

One of the major tourist attractions is the Yellow Cave, a stunning warren of huge caves, spectacular sights, and miles of exploration ahead. From another website: This is actually a system of limestone caves that includes an underground stream, a waterfall, ninety-six passageways and thousands of stalagmites and stalactites.

The first night after the Friendship Forum conference, we went to a folkloric show by the native To-gia minority peoples and besides the entertaining dances and singing, you learn something about the cultural of today’s China. Things like they like their sound systems very loud and I do mean very loud, and they love to have the reverberation feature turned on so you get this incredible echo effect.  You will see some of the images from the show but what I didn’t catch on film were a couple of very tall contortionists, a man who not only walks through fire and coals but picks them up and a male singer who can break glass. He was something. The strong man tricks they pulled were impressive as well.

Pat and I have a plan whereby she uses the Skype phone that is attached to my computer to give me a wakeup call (China time) each day and for the most part it works pretty well. It is great hearing her voice and of course, with the jet lag and the like, her call at say 7:am usually catches me after I have been up for several hours.  Then one morning, before I ever heard from Pat, I got five wake up calls from the hotel as well as a knock on the door to make sure I was up.  Pat was able to call the hotel but not connect to my room and the second morning at this particular hotel, ended up calling our friends Kitty and Bart so I padded down the hall in pajamas to talk to her on their room phone. In a couple of hotels, the Chinese speaking staff could not figure out who she wanted to talk to so I never got a call. What helped in some cases was that I was able to give her the room number I would be in.

I also was able to pick up a SIM card that would work with my Motorola AT&T cell phone to give me cell phone service while in China.  Unfortunately, I didn’t really think that part through well enough as it took me several stops before I finally found an English speaking sales clerk in a store that could understand that I wanted a card that would allow me to make calls overseas as well as within China. When it works it is pretty neat as you take out your old SIM card and (since they are incredibly tiny, take care not to bend it or damage it) replace it with the new one. Unlock the phone with the code you previously got from your phone dealer weeks earlier, (in my case AT&T),  and you effectively have a Chinese cell phone with a new phone number. My problem is that I didn’t read or pay attention enough as I was buying the card as we were heading through the airport to catch a flight and while I paid 120 Yuan for the card, that really translates to just $17 US, of which nearly half was buying the temp service and the card, which means I really only got about $7.25 worth of calling minutes, which unfortunately disappeared after making two calls to the states.  In fact, when I was buying it, the sales girl suggested that I use a different dialing plan to save money but I didn’t.  Better strategy next time. Oh yes, so when I was nearly out of minutes, I then discovered that to gain more minutes, I would have to purchase a minutes card from China Mobile and of course, they were not to be found anywhere until I got to Shanghai and that was just a couple days from heading home.

Check out Skype at

So, from here, now to the top of Yuanjianjie Mountain .

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