Exploring Zhangjiajie: the Land of Avatar

Apr 18, 2017 1:30:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

CAPA_DanielleThai_Blogger_Shanghai.pngDanielle Thai is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A resource economics major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Shanghai this semester.

In this week's post, Danielle takes us to Zhangjiajie, the city where the movie Avatar was filmed with scenic views.


Ever heard of Zhangjiajie in China? Your answer is probably no, but what if I told you it is where the movie Avatar was filmed? Now images of the scenes will be flashing in your mind if you've seen the movie (not the cartoon Avatar, but the Avatar with the blue people). Once I realized that the movie was filmed in China, I wanted to go visit while I am here.

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After talking with my friends and seeing who was interested, there ended up being eight people altogether. While planning the trip we tried to pronounce the town name but it was difficult to say and we did not even know if we were saying it correctly. So we just began calling Zhangjiajie “Avatar Place” to keep things simple. Half of us left Wednesday evening and the other half left Thursday evening due to class. We ended up booking our flights and hostel individually since each person had different plans. We also booked a two-day tour altogether to take us to the top sites.

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I was one of the lucky ones who had the ability to leave on Wednesday evening right after my midterm. The four of us had an extra day to explore Zhangjiajie while we waited for the others to arrive. On Thursday we visited the Yellow Dragon Cavern, the first cave I have ever gone into. I don't have anything to compare it to, but it was pretty spectacular. Some tunnels of the cave were barely five-feet tall before opening up into enormous caverns. The rocks were of different sizes, heights, and shapes,and although the colors on the rocks are not natural (they are just lights) they're still beautiful.

Walking around we heard water so we went to locate the source. Eventually we found a heavy stream of water coming through an opening in a rock in the ceiling of the cave. The water poured down heavily in one single spot on the trail, but fortunately we had an umbrella so we were able to hold it out and run through one by one. After reaching the “end” of the path, there was a waterway running through the cave where we took a boat ride to the exit trail.

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Next we hopped on a public bus to take us to the area where Bao Feng Lake is located. Once we got our tickets to the lake, we hopped on another bus to take us to the lake for the boat ride. The views on the boat ride were incredible. Everything was lush and green – very different from Shanghai. Along the lake there were boats idling on the sides and each time a boat would pass they would sing their part. The boat ride was a good way to get an overview of the area.

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The next few days we visited more of the park. We took cable cars, a glass elevator, a glass walkway, and paths to get various views of the scenic area. The cable cars were probably my favorite mode of transportation. The views were incredible and Ie got to see all three hundred and sixty degrees around  the park. While we were at Zhangjiajie it was very foggy so we could not see much at high elevation. The best views we got were in the lower altitude.

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A highlight of the trip was getting to see wild monkeys. Our tour guide warned us beforehand not to look the monkeys in the eye or tease them in any sort of way. The closest I have ever gotten to a monkey was at a zoo and there would be bars between us. The monkeys were running and jumping everywhere – free in their habitat. At times I would panic at how close the monkeys were getting. People were feeding the monkeys so it was fascinating to see them break peanuts out of their shells or to see how well they could catch items.

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Pictures do not do this place any justice. Every time I saw these views it felt surreal. Even though the weather was not ideal, I had the best time. If you ever find yourself anywhere near Zhangjiajie go visit – even if it is only for a day!

Until next time,

Thanks Danielle!

Danielle's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned!

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Topics: Travel, Shanghai, China