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Avatar Mountains in Hunan Province


Zhangjiajie is where you will find the very mountains that were the inspiration for Pandora’s Hallelujah Mountains in the international Hollywood blockbuster ‘Avatar’.  Apparently the choice for Avatar’s setting was sealed when a Hollywood photographer went to Hunan Province in 2008.

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So with that in mind and a full day and night to spare, my destination of choice was Zhangjiajie which is located in the northwestern part of Hunan Province.

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The flight from Beijing departed on a Friday evening at 6.30pm and lasted two and a half hours – late of course departing Beijing due to the usual congestion at the airport.  The evening of our arrival was just spent relaxing as the following day we had a tour booked through a tour company (tour@chinatour.net).  I had also organised for our travel guide to pick us up from the airport and transport us to our hotel which was very convenient.

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We were taken to our ‘four star’ hotel (Zhang LanTian Hotel) which was not western four stars by any standards and what gave it away you might ask… well when we first arrived there was a 15′ blow up santa clause in the foyer singing some strange song not in the slightest bit related to christmas.  Oh and also the cream doilies everywhere in my room; but it was clean so no complaints in that regard.

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Zhangjiajie National Forest is one of several national parks n the Wulingyuan Scenic Area.  The Tianzi Mountain was our first point of call.  It is renowned for its rocky peaks in various shapes or pillar like foundations which are the result of may years of erosion.

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Access to the top of the mountain is by cable car, which was particularly high and for me, very scary, being so frightened of heights.

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The mist was thick and real (unlike Beijing’s ‘mist’ – which all visitors know is smog) which made the formations even more beautiful.  A further trek up the mountain was either by foot or a very cute little car running along tracks…I took the car as it also affords you the opportunity to take a rest at a lovely little shop which serves corn and peanut muffins (strange but true) and ok tasting hot chocolate.

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The locals are very proud of the fact that a replica of their hometown is on the big screen but for them it means business opportunities.  And rightly so!  Many vendors are selling 3D photos of the peaks adorned with Avatar characters.  I didn’t bother with a 3D photo but managed to sneak a quick photo of one of the blue flying things (no idea what they are called in the movie) with a pillar as a backdrop.

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After a very long and full day of walking and looking at the magnificent mountains, we finished with a visit to a local museum followed by dinner and a trip to the airport for  our flight back to Beijing.  At the airport, our flight was supposed to depart just after 10pm, however with the usual frustrations of departure delays, our arrival was closer to 2am – thank goodness we had booked a driver to pick us up.

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