CHINA — China is increasingly giving America a run for its money as the land of the biggest and the best.
As the world’s most populous nation with the world’s second-biggest economy, the self-styled Middle Kingdom is finding new and increasingly nerve-racking ways to attract and entertain tourists.
Here are some of the scariest outdoor attractions the country has to offer when you travel here:
The world’s longest glass U-shaped bridge (maybe), at Fuxi Mountain, Henan
Guinness World Records receives 2,000 applications from China a year — more than any other country.
And the latest potential record-breaker is the 3,000-ton glass-and-steel skywalk at Fuxi Mountain in Henan province, central China.
Eight months in the making, the U-shaped bridge will open June 16, 2018.
Visitors who dare venture out on the cantilevered walkway can look straight through the glass to the canyon floor some 360 meters below.
The new bridge extends 30 meters beyond the cliff edge, trumping other U-shaped wonders such as Arizona’s Grand Canyon Skywalk, which juts out a mere 21 meters (70 feet) over the epic US gorge.
China Daily is already making claims for it as the “world’s longest glass circular bridge” — although that could be challenged by the viewing platform at Shilinxia (see below).
The many terrifying treats of Tianmen Mountain, Hunan
Not content with just one glass-bottomed walkway, Tianmen Mountain in Hunan province, southern China, has three, the most recent of which opened in the summer of 2016.
Known as Coiling Dragon Cliff Walk, the new addition consists of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) of 6.35 centimeter (2.5 inch) thick glass that crowns the mountain top like a halo of horror.
Those who dare can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the famous Tongtian Avenue — otherwise known as “Bending Road” thanks to its 99 hairpin turns — a dizzying 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) below.
Two other glass walkways lace the mountain range, one of which was formerly the world’s longest (see below for the new title holder) but is still currently the world’s highest at 300 meters (984 feet).
Also on hand for adrenalin junkies who just won’t quit is the world’s longest cable car ride, which spans seven kilometers (22,965 feet) and takes 30 minutes to complete.
The world’s longest glass bridge at Hongyagu, Hebei
All hail China’s newest heart-stopping attraction.
Having stolen the crown from Tianmen Mountain, the new draw to Hebei province’s Hongyagu Scenic Area is now the world’s longest glass-bottom bridge.
And what makes a 488 meter-long (1,600 feet) glass bridge above a drop of 218 meters (715 feet) even more scary? Its suspension cables make it sway.
The bridge, made up of 1,077 glass panels of four centimeters (around 1.6 inches) thickness, strings together two peaks in the mountainous northeastern region.
Although it can apparently accommodate 2,000 people, only 600 are allowed on at any one time, shuffling along in special “shoe gloves” to protect the glass.
Staff are strategically positioned along its length to help those with jelly legs find their feet.
The world’s biggest glass viewing platform at Shilinxia, Beijing
It’s perhaps fitting that the home of the Great Wall would now also have the longest glass-bottomed walkway in the world. Jutting 32.8 meters (107 feet) over the edge of a 396 meter (1,300 feet) valley, the Shilinxia Viewing Platform stretches a whole 11 meters farther than the Grand Canyon Skywalk and nearly three meters farther than the Fuxi Mountain Skywalk.
The vertigo-inducing attraction adorns the highest peak of Shinlin Gorge, an area of towering forest-like rock formations in the district of Pinggu, 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Beijing city center.
It’s a hefty 1.5-hour hike from the valley floor to the platform, or you can make your head spin twice in one day and take the cable car up.
Dubbed the “Flying Saucer,” the circular walkway is suspended from the mountain cantilever style.
It’s constructed with titanium alloy, the material used in airplanes and space shuttles, so it can apparently hold a maximum load of 150 tons and 2,000 people.
China’s top tourist attractions can get busy, but hopefully they’ll never have to put those calculations to the test.
Hiking horror at Mount Huashan, Shaanxi
Hikes don’t come much more hair-raising than on China’s Mount Huashan, said to be home to some of the most dangerous trails in the world.
The five separate peaks backing Huayin City in China’s central Shaanxi province are a test for even the most adventurous travelers.
East Peak leads the pack for the most fear-inducing trail names, with passes such as the Thousand-Foot Precipice, the Hundred-Foot Crevice and Black Dragon Ridge.
This isn’t just a scare tactic. The paths are genuinely terrifying, consisting of modest foot-grooves cut into a 2,090 meter-high (6,857 feet) sheer rock face and rusting metal bars serving as makeshift vertical staircases.
All that lies between hikers and vertiginous drops are thin chain banisters, adorned with the love locks of courageous couples.
The real fun starts on the 2,160-meter (7,087 foot) South Peak, home to the Changing Plank Road.
The so-called “road,” which does indeed have two-way traffic, comprises nothing more than a few rickety wooden planks bolted onto the mountainside.
Looking as though it could give way at any moment, the path is just 0.3 meters (1 foot) at its widest.
The cracking glass walkway in East Taihang, Hebei
Even non-sufferers of vertigo might be scared silly by this China attraction.
The glass walkway at the East Taihang Scenic Area in northern Hebei Province went viral late last year when video footage emerged showing a terrified tour guide falling to his hands and knees as the glass apparently started cracking under his weight.
While the East Taihang government promptly apologized for freaking out China’s online population, this was no accident of engineering.
Shattered glass fragments were placed underneath solid panels to make the walkway look and sound as though it’s splintering when trodden upon.
While the unique addition to the eastern face of Taihang Mountain is therefore safe to traverse, internet users were quick to point out that at 1,180 meters (3,871 feet) above sea level, the gimmick could still induce palpitations.
The rickety Sky Ladder at Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan
Here’s one for those who value time above all else.
When hiking through the stunning Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan province, southwest China, visitors will be faced with a choice of much importance. Brace the long and arduous climb back up to the road from the Jinsha River, or suffer a quick but perilous stint on the “Sky Ladder.”
The series of mostly vertical ladders is attached to planks of aging wood that may or may not be bolted onto the cliff face.
There’s no safety equipment whatsoever, and the 170-odd rungs are so narrow, a slick of rain (or a cold sweat) could easily dislodge a white-knuckle grip.
Sensible shoes and a cool head are needed while ascending from the abyss, which reaches 3,790 meters (12,434 feet) at the gorge’s highest point. Don’t look down.