Sunday, July 28, 2019

Day 2: Changsha to Zhangjiajie City to Wulingyuan Town

11th April 2019 (Thursday)

[To have a better view of the wide landscape photos, you are encouraged to download them, zoom in so that the top and bottom of the photos touch the edge of your computer screen and then scroll them left and right to get a 180° perspective of the landscape]

When I came down to the hostel lobby, I realised that it was raining. I decided to take a taxi. I asked the receptionist whether she could call me a taxi but she kept saying that it was not far. I was able to understand her perfectly but I needed a taxi because it was raining. I even told her it was "xià yǔ" (raining) but she still did not get me. She thought I could not understand her and proceeded to use her app translator. I said I understood her but it was raining. It just reminded me of a humorous video clip of a Japanese waitress who kept shaking her head despite the flawless Japanese the foreigners were speaking to order their food. Her mind was closed, even when I said that it was raining in Chinese. Finally, her ears opened, and she said "xia yue". Only then did she tell me to wait at the road for the taxi. She wasn't going to call a taxi for me!

She wrote me a note to show the taxi driver that I wanted to go to Changzhutan Station. At that hour, there was no taxi passing by, not any vehicles. It was already 6:21 a.m. While looking around for shelter from the rain, I saw a Jiǎozi (steamed dumpling) shop.

The Jiǎozi was ¥6/ steamer. It was good, and I decided to take away another basket of the dumpling. I asked the shop owner's wife which side of the street I should wait for the taxi, whether it was on this or the other side of the street.

She asked me to go to the "rukou", i.e. the intersection (entrance) of the street with the main road.

On reaching the road intersection, I decided to just walk to Changzhutan Bus Station. Along the way, I asked a shop owner to confirm the direction. She said, "Cross the road" while pointing to the red traffic light ahead. There was no road crossing. As I went to look for a safe place to cross, I spotted the railway entrances on both sides of the street. It dawned on me that I could just take the underground passage to cross the street.

As I continued walking forward, I saw an overhead bridge and thought the bus station might be across the road on my right. As I walked slowly looking out for Changzhutan Bus Station, I saw the Changzhutan Bus Station signage on my left. The ticket office was beside it and it was just right in front of me.

I went to the ticket counter. She asked me for my ID and I pulled out my passport, which I had readied earlier and gave it to her. The Changsha-Zhangjiajie ticket was ¥120.

Departure time was 7:50 a.m. The bus arrived late and departed at only 8:04 a.m. Forty-five minutes after departing, we had to disembark and move to another waiting bus, before continuing with the journey to Zhangjiajie.

The bus arrived at Zhangjiajie at about 12:47 a.m. I have lots of time to spare and was in no hurry to go to Wulingyuan which was an hour's ride away. First, I had to purchase the bus ticket for the ride from Zhangjiajie to Fenghuang on 16th April 2019.

After that, I went to look for lunch. I had read that there was a restaurant on the first floor of Many Supermarket, which was on the same building as McDonalds. Then, I walked into Many Supermarket to buy some provisions for the next day's lunch at Yuanjiajie. 

At 1:30 p.m., I was ready to go to Wulingyuan. I had both read and watched Youtube videos that there wasn't any need to buy a bus ticket to Wulingyuan. Instead, it was mentioned that passengers only needed to pay for their bus fares in the bus, with some posters saying it was ¥20 and some saying ¥12. Well, the bus fare was ¥14 (as at 11 April 2019). No tickets were issued.

All the posts and videos that I watched failed to mention in detail about taking the mini-buses to Wulingyuan. For non-Chinese speakers, taking the bus would undoubtedly be difficult as no bus station workers seemed to speak English. For the benefit of readers who intend to take the bus to Wulingyuan from Zhangjiajie Bus Station, the photos below would show you the steps.

All "Dà Bāo, Xiǎo Bāo" (big bag, small bag) needed to go through the security scanning machine

The bus departed for Wulingyuan at 1:45 p.m. The bus fare was was ¥14.

On arrival at Wulingyuan an hour later, many passengers disembarked at a stop. Since some passengers remained in their seats, I decided to stay in the bus. I thought the bus would next proceed to the bus station.

I was wrong. No, it stopped at another point and the remaining passengers alighted. I was confused but nevertheless, I disembarked too.

Okay, I thought Wulingyuan was a small town and I should be able to find my way to Destination Youth Hostel, where I had booked my accommodation for three nights. Using my Garmin, the direction sign showed the route to the hostel. As I crossed the road and followed the direction, I saw mini-buses like the one I took earlier.

This must be the bus station, which was across the road from the bus stop where I alighted earlier.  I continued following the gps direction into the station shown on my Garmin but it led to a dead-end which was supposed to be Destination Youth Hostel. I looked around carefully. It was not there. Maybe, it was on the other side of the wall. So, I left the station and went around the perimeter to find Destination Youth Hostel. I could not find it. The coordinates given by was wrong.

As I continued searching for Destination Youth Hostel, a guy called and approached me. I was not sure whether he was another taxi tout or not. I showed him my hostel printout and he pointed me to another direction. As I walked away from him, I noticed another "Destination Youth Hostel" in my gps waypoint which I had forgotten. I followed the direction to this waypoint. I could not find the hostel signage. I asked 4 - 5 people but could still not find it. Finally, one shop owner pointed to me the location, which was just about 4 - 5 doors away, the building with the prettiest flowers adorning the front arcade.

During the check-in, the receptionist gave me a free map of Wulingyuan National Park. He told me that I could ask him about going to and getting around the park if I were to buy the entrance park entrance ticket from him. It would also be cheaper at ¥228 instead of the normal price of ¥248.

After putting down my stuff in my room, I took a shower to freshen up. Then, it was time for me to find the way to Wulingyuan entrance gate. It was to the west of the hostel. I confirmed the direction with the receptionist and went out.

As I walked to the main street, I saw what looked like a night market. I decided to visit the place and strolled through the street. At the other end of the street on my right, I saw Wulingyuan entrance gate. It was a chance discovery. I would know how to go to Wulingyuan Park tomorrow. It was just a short walk from the hostel.

It was still early for dinner. I strolled around randomly to see as much of the town as possible. There was not much to see. In the end, I ended up here for dinner. Unlike my previous China trips, I decided that I should not hold back on how much I would spend on food. It was time to enjoy my hard-earned money.