An aerial view of the Bailong elevators in Zhangjiajie, China. AFP
China has opened three double-decker lifts that are truly are marvels of vertical velocity: they zip visitors up in 88 seconds, hugging a precipitous cliff face 300 metres above ground.
This avatar of China’s stunning high-altitude thrill, where magnificent state-of-the-art modernity meets spectacular natural tourism splendour, is bound to take your breath way.
The cliff face inspired the landscape for the blockbuster movie "Avatar.”
The man-made wonders come at a time when China’s domestic tourism is crawling back to normalcy after the coronavirus forced strict travel measures and lockdowns earlier this year.
The lifts in central China's Zhangjiajie Forest Park deliver tourists to the top of the sandstone rock face that inspired the fictional jungle moon of Pandora – home to the blue-hued Na'vi people – of the 2009 James Cameron smash hit.
"One of the main reasons we came is that the site inspired Avatar," said Qiao Ke, 45, who travelled to the lift with his family.
"The film really made an impression on us. And it really is beautiful here."
"Its geological structure is very suited to using elevators as a means of transport, so we made this Bailong Elevator,” explained Liu Jie, the director of the company managing the lift, whose name means "Hundred Dragons."
"Before, there was only a cable car with limited capacity, so tourists had to wait a long time," Liu added.
The alternative was to brave a three-hour climb on foot.
"It's super-fast," retiree Jin Shihao told reporters after completing the ride, which costs $19 (129 yuan) for a return ticket.
Around 8,000 tourists take the lift every day. However, numbers are still significantly down from an average of 14,000 before the pandemic.
Francois Prost has released the series in a photobook, which presents photographs of the Parisian originals side-by-side with the Tianducheng replicas.
China's annual ice festival in Harbin has kicked off with couples lining up for a snow-themed mass wedding, swimmers braving frigid waters and frozen palaces rising from the ground.
The slump is being felt sharply in Thailand, where tourism authorities say arrivals from China — usually close to one million a month — have plunged by 90 percent so far this February.
With Afghanistan's economy deep in crisis - billions of dollars in aid and reserves have been cut off and ordinary people have little money even for basics.
It sits in a rugged, inaccessible valley along the Harirud River, well off Afghanistan’s tourist track even in the 1960s, when the country was a magnet for hardy Western travellers.
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