Oh baby, Zhangjiajie

We have just returned from our adventure within an adventure! While teaching here in China we get the opportunity to go on a few holidays (the word vacation is never used) our first one was this last weekend. We all did research and found some cool places we wanted to go. The winner was a national park in China that the floating mountains in the movie Avatar were based on. After seeing the mountains I understand why they inspired them. But first we had to get to Zhangjiajie and really first we had to learn how to pronounce it. The closest we can figure it is Jong-jeeya-jee which was quickly replaced by just calling it the avatar mountains. 
So our journey began with a 2 hour bus ride to the big city of Guangzhou, half our group were able to fit on the bus before us so we were cutting it close with about a half hour buffer to get to our train. We arrived at the train/bus station as a group of about 30 and were overwhelmed by the sea of asian people, this train station is a pretty big traveling hub for most of China so there were A LOT of people which was so cool and I wish I could have people watched more but we were running around trying to find our train. Luckily China is home to some of the most friendly, helpful people and a few minutes of wandering around a man came and began helping us. He didn't speak any English but we are getting pretty good at communicating through hand signs a a few chinese words. So after communicating what we needed we followed this helpful guy all over the place which included getting yelled at by a man with a megaphone which was funny and than being told to follow another Chinese woman who spoke no english but was riding the same train as us. Luckily we found our train about 10 minutes before it set sail. 
That in itself was a fun adventure and it was great how positive and proactive everyone was being. Any who our train ride there was 14 hours and most of us got sleepers so we had beds to lay in which made the trip fly by. We arrived in Zhangjiajie the next morning and set off to find our hostel. Through more pointing and sign language we found a bus to take us to our hostel. It was about a 40 minute ride and was very lovely, it was cool to see a different part of China. The bus dropped us off at another little bus station in a small mountain town which was not where our hostel was but luckily this lady began yelling to us from a bus and motioning for us to get on so naturally we listened and that bus took us straight to the hostel. 
After settling in we decided to go explore the park a little bit. After a short bus ride we entered the park and we had to be careful not to trip on each others jaws because they were all on the ground. The park was amazing! The limestone mountains shot hundreds of feet into the air and they almost look like rough pillars going into the sky. We walked around for a bit and decided to take a gondola to the top of a mountain and walk around there. The Gondola was insane and once we were on top of the mountain we realized how truly incredible it was. We were basically on the top of one of the pillars it was just wider than the rest of them and it was about a 2 hour walk around the whole thing with random views out into the beautiful park that were on platforms that was sometimes hanging over the edge of a huge cliff. It was like nothing I have ever seen. 
After wandering around for a good time we wanted to head back to our hostel. It almost seemed as if you had to ride a Tram up to the mountain because all the sides were so steep but alas we found stairs that kept going down and down and down annndddd down. They were a crazy array of switchbacks that went down the mountain it was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever done and the most exhausting. It was straight stairs for 1 hour my calves are still aching. But not to mention the beauty of walking down but as we were walking me and Konner spotted some Monkeys up in the trees and that made the whole walk worth it easily! After we finally popped out by one of the entrances to the park (keep in mind this national park is huge and full of high and low points it, you could very easily get lost and there is not really any park staff or anything like that.) so we were very happy to realize where we were. We than negotiated with a random guy to take us to our hostel in a van. Back at the hostel we went and got some awesome noodles and slept the night away. 
The next day we woke up early and planned out our whole day and set off by 9. We rode a bus on a very beautiful route up the mountains to the Bailong Elevator. It is the tallest outdoor elevator in the world (according to wiki) and it is pretty intense. I knew the view from the top would be cool but it was out of this world incredible. After we got to the top it was again just lots of cliff walking and exploring but this day had a new feature which was sheets of rain. We were all so taken back to care one bit about the rain, we quickly bought some very flattering ponchos and set off to see the beauty. We saw so many great things and we were loving every minute of it. 
Eventually it began raining even harder and clouds rolled in, which made for a very different experience. You would walk out to these platforms and just see white in every direction. Some would be disappointed but it was just a different kind of wonder. after some exploring with the clouds we all decided we were a little to soaked to keep going. There was only one problem, we had no clue where we were. We began jumping on different busses trying to communicate we wanted an entrance and finally a tour guide who spoke pretty good english told us to follow her! And follow her we did! All the way to the top of the mountains. We were entirely confused when we got to the top but it suddenly became clear that we were to ride a tram allllll the way down which sounded very cool. By this time the clouds had cleared and we rode the insane tram all the way down the mountain and quickly found our way to the exit. 
After getting back to our hostel we went to a street that had little food carts everywhere and a bunch of us got stir fry noodles which instantly became my favorite food in china. And then we went back to the hostel to relax. The final day of our vacation came and it was still raining pretty hard. We explored around town a bit and than headed back to the train station to prep for our 14 hour ride home on a seater train. The seater trains are quite compact and a bit less comfortable. I am very grateful for the experience and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but I admit its not easy sitting on a train for 14 hours while men are smoking and hawking loogies every 5 minutes. It was definitely a unique experience and I know I will always cherish it! The last 6 or so hours everyone tried to sleep and some people got very creative. Amanda was my favorite because they don't turn off the lights so she got out our umbrella and curled up in a ball underneath it on our seat. I also saw people sleeping on stairs and in the squatting position. It's inspiring how creative people get when they are sleepy. 
Finally our train rolled into town and it was just the final 3 hour commute home. We arrived home at noon which means we travelled for 18 hours. Amanda and I both collapsed into bed and are now just enjoying our sunday evening. Welp that was a very long post and I hope it was enjoyable, we mostly do this blog for our reference but we really do hope you all enjoy reading our life adventures! Now I am off to relax for the night we love you all, stay positive, love the Smiths

A long way down
exploring our options for comfort this is the Bubba and Forrest.
Amanda doing a pose at the top of the world.
Going up the Tram on the first day
My personal favorite, this was one that we saw after riding the elevator.
we were desperate for sleep...
Amanda's cocoon.
Both of them dead asleep, I was extremely worried the little guy was gonna roll down the stairs.

We have so many photos from this vacation and these are just a select few from my phone. Amanda is going post with more photos from our camera very soon so keep your eyes peeled.

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