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A Travel Log of having my son as my travel companion to ZhangJiaJie, Changsha, China

Before you continue to read, I would like to remind you that this is just a travel log of a father and son to a foreign country. There will be no detail description and information about the tourist spots, sightings, prices and schedule. The reason is we went to a wrong season and a lot of things we have missed due to bad weather. I will definitely be back again to provide a full detail about this amazing place. So for the time being, I will just give suggestion to anyone who wants to do the same thing that I did by having only your kids as your travel companion and dumping your wife at home.
I did not hesitate to book my flight to Changsha when I saw a Facebook ads was announcing AirAsia’s this new route in 2015. That’s where I began my most challenging trip in my life when I decided to bring along my son, Lucas on his 2nd birthday where he gets to enjoy an infant price of RM50.00 for the last time. I was influenced by a Chinese TV Series, “Where are we going, Dad?” which featuring five fathers and their children as they travel to rural places without their mothers. The reason why I chose Changsha is because I always wanted to witness the amazing scenery of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park which is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. For your information, Changsha is a capital of Hunan province and Zhangjiajie is one of the cities in the Hunan province.

Our AirAsia flight, AK174 from Kuala Lumpur to Changsha took about 4 ½ hours to reach and luckily Lucas slept for the first 2 hours. While the remaining hours, he spent his happiest flight experience ever with onboard meal and interacting with friendly steward and stewardess. They were really nice and being proactive enough to assist with my needs especially when I have to handle a kid all by myself.

The tips of getting your toddlers to behave on the flight are:
  1. First of all, book a flight time which is his/her sleeping hours. Make sure he does not get his/her sleep for the past 4 hours and make him/her walk around the waiting hall to squeeze the very last bit of his/her energy before boarding the plane. He/she will be obediently sleeping in your arms to the maximum possible time he/she ever could.
  2. Get a window seat to distract his attention while waiting for the plane to take off
  3. Get a seat with larger legroom. Your toddler does not have his/her own seat so you would need that space.
  4. Have his/her favorite snacks standing by in case he/she woke up before the plane reaches your destination. If snacks doesn't work, bring his/her favorite toy or book too.

The moment we landed we took a cab to Changsha Railway station for our next transfer to Zhangjiajie city which took us another 5 hours train ride. I already pre-booked the train ticket online so I am sure I have a cabin with a bed to sleep on. I reached around midnight where there were no buses available to take us to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Luckily there are hotels nearby the station which allowed me to stay for a minimum of 3 hours. It was a decent and clean hotel where we can get a proper rest and clean ourselves up before travelling to the top. To my surprise, Lucas has been very cooperative enough with all the plans I made.
What I could have done better is:
  • I didn't expect the train is a 4-bed in a room. It was pretty crowded with our bags and luggage in it, The bed is half the size of a normal single bed which make it difficult for me to sleep together with my son. I hardly get to sleep but he got no problem with it because I sacrifice all the space for him.
  • So I suggest to take a flight from Changsha to ZhangJiaJie. Yes, your cost of travel will be higher but never expect you can save any cost when you are travelling with your kids. You should have known already by now that they cost more than your wife's expenditure ever since they are born.
Once we reached our destination in the next morning, I purchased a 4-day entrance ticket to the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. The ticket is inclusive of free shuttle bus service around the park but not inclusive of cable car and other park entrance inside it. We made our first stop at one of the must visit park which is known as Huangshi Zhai at 1,092m above sea level by cable car. When we were at the largest natural viewing deck, we were supposed to see countless of stone peaks and pillars from a higher ground but unfortunately for us because we were there at the wrong season.

Our view is covered by thick cloud, the air was thin and the temperature dropped to 14 degree Celsius. We were told that the best season to visit this place is on June to August. However, that doesn’t distraught us especially Lucas. He had his best ever time on the peak by running, jumping and climbing the stairs as if the low temperature doesn't affect him at all.
Besides shuttle bus, cable car is very important for us to travel between each spots. However, it is not free. It comes with the price. The prices are vary depending on the spot you are going which starts from CNY70/pax/way up to CNY118/pax/way. Good news is for kids under 1.2m height will get the ride for free. FYI, the cable car that cost CNY118 has a glass floor on it but only limited to 10 cable cars only. If you would want to ride on that, you have to wait patiently.
You have to take the cable car or otherwise you have to climb up and down the challenging mountainous route. You wouldn't want to carry your kids using such a road.
There are a few home stays at the national park which is located at Yuanshi Zhai. The room price is quite reasonable during the low season which is at CNY200/night. During the peak season, the price would be double or triple. They have home cook food provided which is not included in the stay. The price is not cheap but it is reasonable especially you are at the mountain peak where you do not have any other options. For your information, you can specially request the food you want them to cook for your kids especially when the food here is mostly spicy.

We had a good 3 nights stay while we were travelling to other places in the park which had a better visibility such as Shi Li Hua Lang where we traveled on a mini train for 15 minutes to take a view from the bottom of the quartz sandstone. Golden Whip Stream was another exciting place for Lucas as he was delighted to see the crystal clear water flows. Lastly, we took the world’s tallest full-exposure outdoor lift,tallest double-deck sightseeing elevator (335m) and the fastest passenger elevator (3m/s) with the biggest capacity (48 adults) which is known as Bailong Elevator. It just took us almost 3 minutes to reach to the top.
The water was so clear and clean. I never see such an unpolluted water in China until today.
FYI, the ticket entrance for the ZhangJiaJie National Park is cost CNY248/pax and it is free for kids below 1.2m height. You will get to go in and out the park here for four days.
After 3 nights stay, we were back to Zhangjiajie city and traveled by bus to visit Yellow Dragon Cave.This cave is known as China’s best tourist cave because it is so huge where we can have a boat ride inside it. The whole journey in the cave took us 2 hours.
 Lucas was not afraid of the dark because those colourful lights are brightly shining around the cave especially on the stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and columns. The place was really big enough to make him tired and I had to carry him on my back with a baby carrier for the remainder of the journey.
After two nights stay at Zhangjiajie city, we went back to Changsha to take a stroll on the Tangerine Cultural Park. This park is located at Orange Island/Tangerine Island. It is named that way because there are a lot of Tangerine trees on this island. 
We did not miss the chance to witness the young Chairman Mao Ze Dong giant head sculpture too. During at night, we watched a firework showwhich is only available on every Saturday from May to October. I didn’t manage to get any picture ofit because Lucas was too afraid but he didn’t drop a tear. He just wanted me to hug him tightly for the whole 20 minutes of the firework display.

On our very last day of the 8 days 7 nights trip, I had Lucas on my shoulder and we walked in the cool weather at the Huangxing Lu Walking Street where we got ourselves a pair of shoes each. We did stop by at the Fire Palace and Wulipai Street for a variety street food before we took the late night flight back to Kuala Lumpur.
The whole trip was awesome especially I got the chance to spend some quality time with the little one especially when he really did performed beyond my expectation. I vow that I will do this father and son adventure trip again for every 2 years. I highly encourage all fathers to fork out a little timeout from your busy schedule to make a trip with your kids so that you can know more about them than you thought you do.

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