Heaven on Earth

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Alternative route up Tianmen Mountain

It was 8 degrees Celsius when we set off on a chilly April morning for Tianmen Shan. This mountain is located within Tianmen Mountain National Park, Zhangjiajie in Hunan province, China. I did not know what to expect but I prayed for fine weather so that we could enjoy the view and our time up there. Tianmen Mountain Cableway built by the French company Poma, took us some 7.5km and upwards about 1.279km to the top in about 25 mins. Another way up would be to drive up the 11km road with 99 bends.

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Cableway that took us from Zhangjiajie Railway station to Tianmen Mountain

This is probably the longest and most scary cable car ride I have ever experienced. As we were approaching the steepest gradient at about 37 degrees, it was as if we were in heaven itself. The view outside was completely obliterated and there was this pervasive calm and silence that startled this couple who was also ascending in the same cabin. The wife said in hushed tones….” I think it has stopped moving! What should we do?” Her exasperated husband said “Just keep quiet and we will be there soon!” My word, she was not exaggerating one bit…. it really felt like time stood still and we were suspended midways. What a horrible thought for acrophobic me!!! It would be a double whammy for someone who was both acrophobic and claustrophobic.

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We brought the sunshine and the icicles are beginning to thaw

For the more daring amongst us it would be a thrill to climb the kilometres of pathways built onto the cliff face including the glass floor section of Tianmen Mountain to the top and get to appreciate both the elevation and sheer engineering feat.

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Iced branches

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Windswept leaves

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Frosty firs

Coming from sunny tropical Singapore, this is such an exciting experience. I have never seen anything like this before. Was lucky to have witnessed floating snowflakes at Lake Louise in Banff, Canada one morning and it too was exhilarating! It just makes you want to dance and belt out some Christmas carols.

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Stairway to Heaven

There are 999 challenging steps leading up to Tianmen Dong, a natural arch which is 131.5m in height in the middle of Tianmen Mountain. I was all ready to trek up but was unfortunately denied the opportunity when it was closed off to the public due to foggy conditions.

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Beautiful Chinese calligraphy that translates as ‘Stairs going to the sky.’

On September 25th, 2011 Jeb Corliss glided through this 30m (100ft) wide archway using a wingsuit after jumping off a helicopter from 1,800m (6000ft) and landed safely on a nearby bridge.

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Clouds are surging through this mountain crevice

Tianmen Mountain stands at an elevation of 1,518.6m and is famous not only because of its unique geology and unparalleled landscape but also revered as a sacred mountain in Western Hunan that embodies the soul of the culture and spirit of Zhangjiajie.

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My Winter Wonderland

It was a pleasant surprise to see the mountain all covered with frost as it rained the night before and the cold temperature created this visual delight in mid Spring.

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View from the ‘Heaven Approaching Platform’

The Buddhist Tianmen Mountain Temple right at the top, covers an area of 10000 square metres and has been a pilgrimage site since the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

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Walking on air

The view at the top of Tianmen Mountain is matchless, it really gives one such a heavenly feeling. I was half expecting some celestial beings and fairies to float by, to complete this surreal landscape. On top of the world here, the air is pristine and everything is pure tranquillity. This must be heaven on earth!

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