The image is of a picturesque series of villages scattered around the National Park with hotels and guest houses dotted around the mountainside, a little like Luang Prabang or an Indian hill resort. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are grim townships lined with concrete buildings; wasteland in between the buildings and everything half finished or half demolished. What's going up is as depressing as what is coming down. This semi-urban China is hard to avoid these days, and experienced China travellers know to look beyond it. If you want pretty towns and villages, China is probably not your destination and Zhangjiajie isn't until you get way off the beaten track. And that far off the beaten track you can forget about hotels or hostels of any kind, and running water is probably in the *next* Five Year Plan.
Picking your hotel wisely is axiomatic for all travel, but in Zhangjiajie, you are saved the challenge of discovery of good hotels by the fact that there aren't any. I have now stayed in three hotels in the area and eaten at a fourth. They are all almost identical. The four-star hotels have generally acceptable rooms with TV, kettle, free teabags, generally OK bathroom and very little else of note. They have all been sterilised: all are perfectly acceptable if all you want is a bed and a shower but nothing else. The three-star hotels are generally of a lower quality in Zhangjiajie than anywhere else I have stayed in China. The main difference between three-star and four-star hotels is that the three-star hotel bathroom is generally in a more woeful state. Despite the hype of a 'Western restaurant' at all four-star hotels, this is not really reason to pay extra: few people in their right mind would want to eat a Chinese four-star hotel's perception of what constitutes Western food, to be quite honest.
I cannot imagine that even in the height of the peak season that anyone would ever need to panic about not having a room booked. The city and surrounding townships is simply overflowing with hotels, and many of them aren't even listed in the local phone book. I counted thirty hotels on the 400m approach road to the Baofeng Lake entrance, like the equivalent of terraced houses in England or a horizontal Nathan Gardens in Kowloon.
For nightlife or at least the bustle of a city at night, stay in Zhangjiajie City (what used to be called Dayong) itself; the park townships are simply dead after 8pm, although there are several performance halls that out on recreations of local folk culture each evening. For quick and easy access to the park at the crack of dawn, stay in one of the villages nearby. However, do remember that the Tianmenshan Park cable-car starts in the middle of Zhangjiajie City.
This is reputed to be the top hotel in Zhangjiajie, mainly by virtue of it being a foreign joint-venture hotel with partial ownership by a Hong Kong investor. However, the crunch is that the majority shareholding is by the local government. As elsewhere in the world, the last people you would look to for professional hotel management are the local council, the people who are supposed to empty the bins, pave the roads and keep the street lights working. But then this is China and local government is keen to run everything it can.
The Dragon, halfway along Jiefang Lu, is handy as this is the main shopping street - useful if you have come to Hunan without any sneakers, because every shop seems to sell them. The Puguang Chan Temple - one of the real artistic and spiritual treasures of Zhangjiajie - is just 100 metres away, as is the city's main decrepit plaza.
The standard rooms at the Dragon are actually quite nice although the air-conditioning strains with the Hunan humidity and heat. Even on the upper floors, the heavy beat of the band performing in the ground floor bar can be tiresome by 1am.
There is a coffee shop off the lobby, but despite having coffee and milk, were unable to produce the latte listed on the menu. "Mei you", the waitress said without the faintest flicker of irony. Quite what else one would need to make a latte beats me.
The bar is actually good fun and appears to be one of the city's top nightspots unlike most hotel discotheques in China where the number of staff inevitably outnumber the number of punters by about five to one. There is decent live music most nights and it seemed a wholesome place to get plastered without having to fend off unwelcome attention.
You won't go far wrong at the Dragon International Hotel, although my brief stay didn't give anyone the chance to have to solve any problems: Chinese hotels are far better at crisis creation than crisis resolution. I would stay here in preference to the Airport Hotel (also reviewed....and not at the airport) although the Dragon is a bit more expensive at RMB450 per night.
The Airport Hotel is not at the airport, but downtown. The name comes from the fact that it is owned by the Civil Aviation Authority. Hmmm. Good thing it's not owned by the Municipal Sewage Plant then, eh?
This 4 star hotel (actually this is an unofficial rating) is very modern, but is already showing its age, with fittings and furnishings taking on that grubby, finger-smeared, chipped, warped, scuffed look that Chinese 4 star hotels do so well and so quickly.
The rooms are small - very small - and have bizarre numbering, where every room ends in 8, making it difficult to find your room in the dark corridors.
The Western restaurant is no more, and despite the view over the litter-strewn banks of the Li river, the hotel prefers to use the pokey downstairs restaurant for the Chinese restaurant. There is no menu here; they just cater for the coachloads of people on the way to and from the mountains (so plenty of high-heeled shoes and loafers... de rigeur mountaineering gear for today's coachloads).
The hostel I stayed in is called "Ke da Hostle", plus "University of National Defense Health Resort." I guess, it is affiliated to this University and the later earns money from it.
Generally, it is good, unadorned, price is ok(single bed 180rmb=23usd). Most important of all, I like it's clean. Hot water is only on from 6pm to 11pm everyday, which seems to be very common here in hotels. And, they only provide one small roll of toilet paper each day. But you can ask for more if you feel like it..
Unluckily, the shower booth in my room seems to be leaking a bit.. (Anyway, it did not destroy my travel spirit at all.) And .. it bugs me a bit that in the early morning, the vehicle horning sounds from the nearby roads are so sharp. What I intend to grip about is that how come the drivers here all feel so free and so fond to blow their horns. ..I found they even blow and blow .. their horns
in not so neccesary situation.
Peak travel season in China are in early May, early October and summer holiday. Make sure you book your hotel in advance if you really feel wanting to challenge the great Chinese tourism population. For my trip this time, it is in March, hotel rooms are quite available.
This is not fancy at all! So .. sorry , there is not a pool here in hotel if that's what you are looking for, But good mountain views, that is for sure. .
I don't think I would strongly recommend any specific hotel. There are many other choices here that satisfy different needs.
This is a modest hotel located on the edge of town. However there are many problems associated with this hotel that creates a lot of inconveniences. First, they turn off the hot water at 11pm every night. Second, there's no key to your hotel room. You need to page the hotel staff to open the door for you. Third, there's no remote control for the ventilation in the room. You need to get the staff to use their remote control to adjust the settings. Fourth, the toilet paper is minimal. The toilet roll is huge, but there's not much paper wrapped around it.
Location is good to Tianmenshan, we just walk about 10 minutes to the cable car station and also about 15 minutes to bus station. The owner Mr. Shi is very nice guy, friendly then would like to help to send us to the station. If you arrived Zhangjiajie by air then us him to pick you up in the airport just pay for the transportation Rmb 35. Hotel is clean and easy to find breakfast or dinner but mostly is more Chinese food expecially Hunan taste. This hotel is a budget hotel and it is running by Mr. Shi and family, not so big and no elevator but he is helpful and speak a little bit english then give map and explain about the way to Tianmenshan and Tianzishan.
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