Sitting huddled around steaming bowls of noodles, we nervously searched on our phones for some directions. Minutes ago we had stepped off our train from Chongqing and had casually walked out the exit looking for the bus to Fairy Mountain Town(仙女山), home to the visitor’s center for the Wulong Karst Geological Park. Instead we ended up surrounded by locals, some in the group interested in getting us into their taxi, some genuinely trying to help, and still others just curious as to what the foreigners were doing.
This was our first real trip in China and we were severely unprepared for the lack of assistance a non-Chinese speaking tourist encountered. To escape the crowd we were gathering, we ducked into a small noodle shop for a bite to eat. When we were planning this trip we struggled to find any information on traveling to Wulong as it’s outside the main tourist paths and now we were caught off guard by no transportation or information at the train station. Finally, as we were finishing our noodles I came across an English website that said that to get up to Fairy Mountain you needed to catch a bus at the main bus station, not the train station. We shouldered our packs and walked across town to the bus station, safely negotiated buying tickets, and crammed into the small shuttle.
Wulong is an area of remarkable natural karst formations including gargantuan caves, mountains, and deep gorges. What’s crazy is that millions of people around the world have actually seen a fleeting glimpse of Wulong. In Transformers: Age of Extinction Optimus Prime travels to Wulong to talk with the Dinobots and boy-howdy does Wulong not let you forget that this movie was filmed there. Outside of our hotel there is a giant Optimus Prime, outside the entrance to the natural area there is a giant Bumblebee, and finally, incredibly right smack in the middle of of the valley there’s a giant Dinobot in all it’s glory. Wulong was in the movie making business a few years before Optimus rode into town though. Zhang Yimou, used the area for scenes in his film Curse of the Golden Flower. They still have building that were part of the set in the area and you can watch clips of the film showing on the set.
Walking through the valley you can see what attracted these filmmakers to the area. The Three Natural Bridges (天生三桥) in an incredible valley landscape with towering cliffs surrounding you as you pass under massive land bridges. As we meandered along the path we encountered lots of looks, quite a few “Hellos”, and probably about three requests for pictures, which we happily obliged. If you ever want to feel like a celebrity visit China, especially rural areas.
One of the stranger things we witnessed during our visit were people being carried in litters through the valley. Apparently if you don’t feel like walking or if you wish to feel like royalty, you can hire a litter, where two incredibly strong men will carry you the entire length of the canyon. We saw more than a few families traversing the path in this way. It was quite an absurd sight to see grown men and women actually being physically carried in this way. Regrettably, we were still new in our travel and timid about taking pictures of people, so we don’t have anyone actually being carried in one of these contraptions, but you can see the litter in my picture below.
After our visit to the Natural Bridges we took the tour bus to Longshui Gorge (龙水峡地缝). Here you follow a winding path along the side of the cliffs into the largest cave I’ve ever set foot in. The darkness envelops you until there’s only a sliver a light shining in. You can almost feel all of the weight of the stone and darkness weighing on you. As you walk back out you’re greeted with a grand view of the gorge and water flowing out of the cave. This gorge may actually be more picturesque than the natural bridges, but both are definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.