Saturday, June 19, 2010

Trip to Fenghuang and Zhangjiajie

During the past four days I have been traveling with my uncle and his colleagues to Fenghuang and Zhangjiajie, two unique destinations in the Hunan Province.

Fenghuang is located about five hours driving from the capital Changsha. It is an ancient city with much history; however, much has been commercialized for tourism. We stayed at a nice hotel overlooking the entrance to the ancient city.

At night, we experienced the bustling street life and visited many little shops.

China’s Southern Great Wall is located near the ancient city. We visited a portion of it the next day.

We also toured a village of the Miao people, a Chinese ethnic minority. They have their own spoken language that is very different from Mandarin Chinese. The people are mostly farmers and have a very rich culture. The tourism development there definitely has mixed effects on their lives. They can definitely make more money by selling traditional jewelry and outfits. However, their way-of-life is disrupted by construction and daily tourism.

On the way to the village, a little boy of about five or six began following us with some traditional jewelry. It was extremely cheap (about 20 cents for a bangle of bracelets) but none of us were interested. However, the little boy was not to be deterred. “Please buy one,” he kept mumbling while stubbornly following our tour group. We kept declining politely but the boy just repeated the request over and over while continuing to walk with us. He must have followed us for half a mile. Finally a member of our group stuffed a coin into his hands.

The Miao people do have extra revenue from performing traditional dances and songs for audiences, selling their wares, and guiding tour groups. However, it felt strange and invasive to observe their lifestyle like they are some different sort of fascinating species.

Zhangjiajie is China’s first national park. We traveled there on the second day of our trip. It is known for its gorgeous mountains. The landscape in the blockbuster movie Avatar is based upon this park.

We rode a cable car to the highest point of the mountains and then hiked the way down.

There are many mountains that resemble objects such as humans and animals. This is called the Three Sisters.

I can understand why so many people visit Zhangjiajie. The views are simply amazing. Hopefully China will be able to preserve this national treasure. As of right now there aren’t too many signs of human intrusion besides a few buses, cable cars, little shops, and the steps up the mountain.

Next I will visit Xi’an for a week. I may not be able to update right away if I cannot find internet access, but please stay tuned!

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