By Anthony Dylan Anak Frankie Jurem 

Our first trip overseas this year was made easier with the provision of a 15-day visa free program by China to visiting Malaysians. Today, we just found out that this 15 days visa free program has now been extended to 30 days. This would go on until the end of 2025. This made traveling arrangements to China easier. You do not need to go through the hassle to obtain a visa. I think the United States of America should somehow take notice of this and perhaps also do a visa free program. 

After having been to Beijing, Qingdao and Shanghai / Hangzhou before this, we decided to head to Chongqing and Zhangjiajie. This would be our 2nd group tour after Qingdao. Unlike Hong Kong and Macau, mainland China seemed more attractive. 

We left Kuala Lumpur on a Sunday and returned the following Sunday. This was also the first time that we had been to the KLIA 1 Satellite building since 2019. The last being our trip to Shanghai. The satellite building has many shops closed for renovation works and we also had to take the bus transfer from the G / H gates to the satellite terminal housing the C gates. The transfer was necessary as the aero train is still being upgraded but there were no complaints about the service. 

There were 24 people including us in the tour and we flew into Chongqing, China with Xiamen Air. The flight was amazingly smooth for a B737-800 without In Flight Entertainment (IFE). This is compensated for by good service from the crew who were ever helpful. The landing was so smooth that it was not noticeable. The same occurred when we reached KLIA on our return. Honestly, a good airline option. 

As we arrived in the evening, the tour proper started the next day. We were as usual informed of the morning call and the check out time. Our first stop was the Jinfo Mountain. Apparently, this is also referred to in Chinese as the “Golden Buddha Mountain” The cable car ride was truly breath taking. We also had the chance to walk on the pedestrian walkway hung beside the cliffs of the “Golden Turtle” 

The walks were rather like hikes so you do need a good pair of shoes and a cap. We continued with the Ancient Buddha Cave where we had to walk through rather tight pathways before reaching a huge expanse showing 1,250 arhats and towering statues. The sight was nothing you would have expected and never short of breathtaking. The air inside was chilly. We ended our first day with a night at a hotel by the foot of Chiyou Jiulicheng. This has remarkable traditional Miao building. The buildings were connected with vertical steps which hug the terrain of the mountain side. 

The 3rd day saw us driving into the mountainous topography via many tunnels. Some of which were nearly 10 km long. Our next destination was the ancient town of Fenghuang. We had the opportunity to partake in the afternoon scenes after lunch and go through a short paddle boat ride around. The night scene was the one which amazed us. This town is located in the Hunan province. 

The 4th day got us excited as we were brought to the famous Tianmen Mountain. We went up using the cable car and it was there that we realized that the crowd had built up. We waited in line for nearly 2 hours. Once we reached the top, we walked through well-planned walkways which would include steps and to the cliff hung glass walkways. We had to put on protective shoe coverings and made our way to the highest escalator point on the mountain. We made our way down using 16 sets of escalators and reached the “Stairway to Heaven”. A natural formation framing the view in a window of stone and accessible from a long set of stairs. 

The mountainous region of Yuanjiajie which inspired the movie Avatar was next on Day 5. But first, we went up to the top to take the “Bailong Elevator” which is also the world’s tallest outdoor elevator. The elevator is placed on the cliff face and ascends or descends 326m. The view of the rock formations was just a teaser of the next ones you get to see and view from the next hike in Yuanjiajie. The trail takes about 2 hours, and you can really enjoy the beauty of the formation in different light as the sun goes down to sunset. 

Day 6 was the highlight of Zhangjiajie as we crossed the world’s longest and tallest glass bridge. It is suspended over 300 m from below and you could really marvel at the surrounding views. Of course, the view below was even captivating. Some did not even want to look down as they sashayed slowly with their footwear in protective cover. The downside is that they do not allow any DSLR cameras on the bridge and these must be left on the bus along with any hard objects. There are security screen machines in most places. We ended Day 6 at the Zhuoshui Ancient Town which is a place of the Tujia people. 

On our last tour day, we headed back to Chongqing via a series of tunnels again. In the past few days, we were also brought to Tujia Village and the Junsheng Sandstone Gallery. The city sights of Chongqing were focused on Ciqikou Ancient Town in the morning. This is Chongqing’s oldest shopping streets. The new one is in Jifangbei Central Business District. We ended the night at the Hong Ya Cave area. This was the most visited location for all the domestic tourists in China. 

We left Chongqing early the next morning truly satisfied with the tour we took. The meals were well prepared and all that was needed to improve was the attention to vegetarians. It is easy to use your Touch n Go as they are linked with Alipay. Alipay is easiest to use as many QR payments used them. It does not matter if you scan them or vice versa. All you need is a roaming pass. I used my Maxis pass at RM50 for 7 days. I had no issues. 

China has fascinated me. They have continually improved, and their speed has allowed them to surpass many. Oh yes, their toilets on their highways are cleaner than ours!