Glass

Following on from the 999 steps adventure, the next couple of days saw our group on more cable cars that took us up mountains, buses that we would queue for then when they arrived, we would rush on them to get a seat – using elbows where necessary, we walked along, sat and lay on a glass bottom bridge and then slid down a slide to the bottom and walked out of the valley, we also took a Great Glass Elevator – well it had a glass roof and sides and unlike in Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”, the lift stopped at the top.

The buses wound their way across the mountains, Martin and I felt that if we had not been with a guide we probably would have been on a bus somewhere not knowing where we were going. The Chinese tourist industry for the Chinese is still a relatively new thing, and when a country holidays together (for instance Chinese New Year, National Day in October, Qing Ming in April and Dragon Boat festival in June) then there needs to be the mechanisms put in place for the mass movement of people swiftly and easily. Buses are an easy way to do this it gets people from sightseeing spot A to sightseeing spot B without family arguments of “is this the right way”. Of course if you can speak and read Chinese the next questions of “are we on the right bus or where does the bus go” disappear. The guide however moved us from bus to bus effortlessly. And in 24/25°C heat, it was cooler than Suzhou’s 35-38°C plus, but it was nice to be on air conditioned buses. Though some of the queues especially at the end of the day tested patience.

waiting for the bus, with air conditioning aka fans

On one mountain we got to the top rounded a corner and saw on one side massive stacks and jaw-dropping scenery, and on the other side a McDonalds. There were other restaurants, but we all agreed to eat in the McDonalds – at least this way we knew that the boy in our group would eat it.

You can see the Golden Arches sign to the left of this picture

The “great glass elevator” or Bailong Elevators (Hundred Dragons Elevator) are three double decker lifts and are believed to be the world’s tallest outdoor lifts at 1070ft (326m). It takes 90 seconds and again thanks to our guide we took the lift down, not up. We saw more of the sandstone pillars that rise way above the forest canopy, but as I was buried somewhere deep in the lift, my view was obscured. All I had to do though was look up and I could still see the pillars. It is an amazing engineering feat. However you do wonder, well I did anyway, as it is a zone of natural beauty and is UNESCO protected how did did they get permission to build it?

This was nature at its best. Busy but by no means busy for China. That was to come. We were doing this all during the working week.

Having seen some phenomenal natural towers twinned with an elevator on the side of a cliff we next went to another controversial site. The glass bottomed bridge, of which the lonely planet guide and BBC tell me that there is approximately 2300 glass bridges, slides and glass walkways in China. I think we were all disappointed to find that the bridge was not all glass. It was only sections of it, and for those people petrified, there were concrete walkways on either side of the glass panels. The promotional video shows something quite different.

We all were given coverings for our shoes and off we went. They are still constructing the visitors centre on the other side of the bridge which includes another lift, but with stairs and a slide *not glass* we were soon in the valley walking along the shaded riverbank which brought us to a dock where we got on a boat to get back to our bus. I don’t know what the other bridges are like in terms of their construction material of glass v concrete or similar but we were all quite happy to walk on it, have photos on it etc, but I would not have bungy jumped of it.

We got out of the valley and went to a local restaurant for dinner then we checked into our hotel, right by the venue we would see the next day – caves. We went to a show in the evening. A show that was worse than the stunt bikes/cars (see previous blog). The 7 of us left early. It was a local show with dancing and singing and possibly matchmaking all in Chinese, or some dialect – because even the Chinese speakers in our group couldn’t understand it.

The last day was also a Saturday and we had an evening flight. In the morning we went to the nearby caves then had lunch and then we went to an outdoor museum. What is actually was I have no idea, but we were there for about 15 minutes.

This queue was just to get in, and once in it was still packed. We were hot, tired and frankly not interested. Thankfully all of us felt this way and politely we told the guide this was not for us and to just get us out. She did. We were all in the airport 4 hours before the flight. No one could accuse us of cutting it fine this time!

Heaven’s Gate from the airport.

During this trip, Martin and I celebrated our 15th Wedding Anniversary – typically the gift associated with the anniversary is crystal, but modern day gifts include glass(!). We certainly saw enough glass this trip.