After lunch we’re off to the Zhangjiajie National Forest. The entrance is impressive, flanked by a gigantic bus parking lot (mercifully relatively empty) and faced by a bustling row of souvenir shops. You have to buy tickets to go into the area, or have a permit to live or work there, which is one of the ways they control tourism.
Today the weather is fine. Louis is very very happy it isn’t raining for his one-day tour. We spent the heavily overcast morning in the cave, and by afternoon a lot of it has burned off. Though it isn’t exactly clear, the sky is a lot bluer than it was in Guangzhou.
It’s too bad Sam doesn’t give us more time to walk the trails. Right at the centers where the tour buses stop there’s a great density of tourists and an array of souvenir shops, but we see signs for trails that go 1 to 5 km. Probably down the longer trails you could get a moment or two with no other people in sight, but we don’t have time for this luxury if we’re going to finish the programmed sights by sundown. And Sam promises that the next sight is even better, so off we go.
At one stop he gives us 25 minutes to wander as we please, and after rushing from one viewpoint to the next for photos I find myself with 5 minutes to haggle over souvenirs. I’ll discover later that I should have done all my souvenir shopping out here in the sticks where things are much cheaper (especially jade - this is one of the main areas where jade items are made), but for now I pick up just two bracelets, and a metal statue of a horse that I can’t resist. Before leaving Guangzhou, Laisheng told me I should start bargaining by offering about 20% of the asking price, but the vendor’s first price is to me so ridiculously cheap that it’s all I can do to not jump at the deal right off. I offer half, and we end up at about 2/3 of the initial price. I’m happy. The vendor has made a handsome profit. Everything is good.
In fact, I quite like one of his paintings. It’s a serene scene of bamboo, with a couple of small birds. The colors are just perfect; mostly black and grey or green-grey, on an ivory background with just a splash of red on the birds. Subdued but not excessively. Exactly the sort of zen thing I need in my office.
Hmm, that’s, er.... (about 40€) Hey, that’s a deal for a beautiful painting about 18 inches by 40 on a silk scroll with its own beautiful pattern and all. But I will bargain! 350 is much more than it’s worth in China. Though with Sam being more on the vendor’s side than mine, we end up at 300, but ok.
For the evening’s entertainment I’m invited to attend a show of traditional ethnic minority music and dancing. Really spectacular! Ah, no thanks. It’s been a long day, and I’m looking forward to a long, hot, bubbly soak in my luxury bathtub. Besides, Louis is off to the airport so I’d not have anyone to commiserate with at the show.