Door To The Sky (Tian Men Shan)

I’m now 2 weeks into China, and have started to move south to a town called “Zhangjiajie” <張家界> in the province of Hunan <湖南>. We were promised wonderful landscapes, and unique cultures different to any other parts of China. After all, this town is 70% ethnic minority, and the rest of town (only 30%) are native Han Chinese. My conclusion is that it’s partially true, with some disclaimers. Let me explain..

My first impression to “Zhangjiajie” town centre wasn’t that great at all. First, we were mucked around by the taxi driver who picked us up from the airport. After failing to convince us to stay at one of the hotel he recommended, he dropped us off 500m from our pre-booked hotel and convinced us that he couldn’t reach the hotel directly. We ended up dragging our luggage 500m in the rain to our hotel, only to find out later he lied. He did that on purpose because we did not want to use his hotel that he earns commission for. We were left with a bitter feeling in our hearts towards all taxi drivers in this town later. Not a great start…

Then, when we walked around town, I have to say I have never seen a town with all its footpath in such a bad condition, nor have I have seen so many pot holes on the roads either anywhere else!


People seem to get around all the potholes like it is second nature like it doesn’t bother them. Keep in mind this is the town centre I am talking about, not the national park nearby, which they are famous for.

Fortunately, the scene is far better out of town. On our first day, we visited so called “Tian Men Mountain” <天門山>, which roughly translates to “Door To The Sky”. In fact, most brochures, you will see a mountain with a massive hole with a couple of military jet fighters flying through it, like this:


Pretty impressive right?

Comparing this to “Huang Shan” (Yellow Mountain) that I visited a week later, I would say it is every bit as good, if not better than the overrated mountain in China! It has the dreamy heavenly clouds:


It has the ‘walk-on-the-edge’ experience as well:


In fact, it offers a lot more! For one, it is not crowded at all. Second, it offers the good-old lift experience as long as you have full trust that the Chinese maintain their lifts properly 🙂


Third, you get transported around in a bus, on probably one of windiest roads in the world, which was pretty cool:


You get direct cable-car ride straight to the top of the mountain, from edge of town! It’s a good 15 minutes ride:


And finally you get to take 999 steep steps that takes you to ‘heaven’ (The hole in the mountain):


This is certainly the mountain for the more adventurous, which suited me perfectly. It’s by no means ‘extreme’, but certainly more fun than Yellow Moutain, in my opinion. Some level of fitness and no fear of height helps. Regardless, we were not able to influence the weather. We weren’t lucky enough that day, and given the unpredictable weather, we got cloud cover instead of the magnificent view of the ‘Door To Heaven’ by the time we got there. This is all I got after the tiring 999-steps climb:


I can sort of see how a couple of jet fighters could fly through that. But I guess it would have helped me picture it better, if there weren’t so much cloud!!

Regardless, this mountain is a preview to a lot more that Zhangjiajie has to offer, in the coming days. If you can forget the dodgy taxi drivers, and treacherous condition of the town, you will like Zhangjiajie very very much indeed.

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One Thought to “Door To The Sky (Tian Men Shan)”

  1. Elizabeth

    Thanks for your informative posts – am planning a trip to China – really helpful.

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