After Shanghai, we took a 20-hour train ride to reach Zhangjiajie National Park, which is right in the middle of the country. The unusually shaped peaks became famous as the inspiration of the Avatar film (although the filmmakers never said anything about that, the park uses the connection for its promotion).

We spent 3 days hiking around the place, it was amazingly beautiful but so intense that our legs hurt for another 3 days after that!



View of the top of the peak…


…and the lower part of the same peak


Doesn’t it look like that bit in the middle will detach and fall any minute?


Imagine the birds singing in the dense tropical forest below


Morning mist in the valley

These guys wanted to steal everyone's food

These guys wanted to steal everyone’s food


Hard work… the staircase was convenient, but imagine climbing it for over 2 hours! Worse than that workout machine in the gym, because it doesn’t count the floors! ;D


Because this is China, and a famous attraction, this also means millions of tourists every year, many of them coming on organised tours with a guide that yells into a microphone… We were lucky to arrive there just after the school holidays were over, but the visit was still a game to avoid the crowds. We were going there as early as possible, avoided the lifts and the main viewpoints, but still got stuck with everyone else a few times. So the park also looks like this:


Hundreds of buses at the entrance gate waiting to carry the tourists up until the lift


Hundreds of people waiting for their turn to take the “Avatar picture”

After the hiking, we took a night train to Guilin, and spent a week in the area, jumping from village to village with local buses. We started with visiting the village of Xingping near the river Li:


On the river Li, with the crazy surrounding peaks


Fishermen… and photographers. It seems the fishermen only work and train their fishing cormorans for the tourists these days


A happy tourist who got his cormoran picture

Cycling around the little villages and rice fields

Cycling around the little villages and rice fields

Weird fruits that we saw growing everywhere - looks like green pear-shaped grapefruits

Weird fruits that we saw growing everywhere – looks like green pear-shaped grapefruits

Then we went to the Longji rice terraces, exploring the area around the beautiful wooden village of Dazhai. The rice terraces are built by the villagers all around the steep mountains to be able to grow and irrigate the rice, and have to be meticulously maintained. Their regular pattern looks like scales of a reptile, and that is why the area is also called the Dragon’s Backbone.


Morning mist


We slept in one these wooden creaky houses

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A chinese lady met on the trail shoved her wildflower bouquet into my hands for the picture!


The inhabitants of the area mostly belong to the Zhuang and Yao minorities, who are different from the Han Chinese and have own traditions, beliefs and even clothing


After this, we took a few local buses and went to an even more remote place called Sanjiang. It’s a collection of several villages famous for its well-maintained traditional architecture and especially the unique bridges, all surrounded by the rice fields.


The local buses also serve as school buses. Guess how many school children can fit into a bus? An unlimited number!


Walking around the Sanjiang villages



They are called the “wind and rain bridges”, because well… they protect from wind and rain! And they all have little benches inside so that people can sit, chat and hangout




Rice drying on the ground


Cesar fascinated by the bamboo wheels that use the river flow to irrigate the fieds by bringing the water up and trickling it to the fields


Each little village has a big pagoda for the social life: festivals, elders that hangout and watch TV, etc


We came when a food festival was taking place in one of the villages


Traditional clothing for the festival


Bamboo dance: the bamboo sticks are rhythmically beaten and the dancers have to jump in time, to avoid getting their legs hit


We joined the dance and made some friends for a big selfie


Almost a full moon – on the way home after the emotions

After this week in the chinese countryside, we got quite a different feel of the country, compared to the big cities we visited earlier on. We really liked it and would have wanted to see more, but we were approaching the final days of our 30-day visa, and it was time to head towards the exit. We decided to spend a day in Guangzhou (Canton) and then exit via Macao.

Guangzhou is a very large and modern city, but also has colonial architecture and a tropical climate that makes it feel somehow exotic.


Tropical plants and colonial architecture


Tropical China


Opera house designed by Zaha Hadid – interesting but unfortunately not very well maintained


The inside of the opera house


We went to see a Taiwan percussions show that was on that evening – got to see the inside of the opera, and also be amazed at how entire beautiful melodies can be played with just percussions



Elegant tower and elegant Cesar


Typical train stations in China look more like a big airport, with several gates, waiting lounges allocated by train, boarding 30mins before etc. Better to arrive early to find your way. With so many people, they are really good at crowd mangement!

And then it was time to catch a local train towards the border city of Zhuhai from where we could simply walk to Macao, where there are no visas or internet censorship! More about it in a next post 😉