ZhangJiaJie National Forest Park in China’s Hunan Province has become internationally renown since the release of the 2009 movie Avatar. The movie was filmed in these mountains, more specifically, the Hallelujah Mountain (of Avatar) was filmed there and the movie’s editing team simply added the mountains in post-production to make them look like they are floating in the air.
I have a personal connection to ZhangJiaJie because my grandfather, a structural engineer by trade, was responsible for the construction of many water dams in China, including the one in ZhangJiaJie. I lived in Beijing for a decade, and the China I’m used to is covered in dust and smog, hiding all signs of nature and greenery. But I was blown away by ZhangJiaJie’s natural beauty and the picturesque scenery – there is truly no place like ZhangJiaJie, anywhere in the world.
Beyond the mountains, the area is also home to a beautiful lake (which flows into the dam) and an underground cave. And if the natural beauty wasn’t enough, the region is also home to an ethnic Chinese tribe with unique cultural traditions. For example, the brides from this tribe have to cry for at least 3 days prior to their wedding. In fact, it is believed that the longer she can cry, the more desirable of a wife she is.
At the dam by the park’s entrance, I also felt particularly close to my family, to my grandfather and the work he had done there. The trip reminded me of one of the treasures of traveling. Sometimes a journey can bring you to places miles away from home, to the rural communities of Cuba, to the birthplace of mankind, and to the hidden corners of the earth. But sometimes traveling also bring you full circle – all the way back home.