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China - Juizhaigou - the quiet side, hot food, local market

A quiet day into a beautiful valley, local bus to an even more local market, Tibetan/Qiang show


View Jiuzhaigou (China), Malaysia, Singapore Autumn 2012 & Netherlands beyond the typical tourist places & Wine Expeditions in France, Italy, Spain and Other Places on westwind57's travel map.

Attention: In August 2017 the magnificent Jiuzhaigou N.P. sustained heavy damage to the natural attractions, and has been closed. The park's official website does NOT mention anything about this. There is talk that it will be open in March or May 2018 again for tour groups only, and with a maximum of only 2,000 people per day. If I find updated info I will mention it in my forum topic ( link ).

The next day, we decided not to go to the National Park again but instead to venture around to some of the Tibetan villages and scenic spots around the area. We rented a taxi in the morning and had a talk with the driver to take us to some less touristic places.

From the village where our hotel and the Park entrance were (Zhangzhashen), we drove to the west, into the mountains to a quite elevated place, to a village called Zhongcha. It is an original Awa (sometimes written "Aba") Tibetan village of farmers that used to live from agriculture and forestry. Since the government has started to combat deforestation in the whole area, some accommodations for tourists are being built next to the original village.

Zhongcha village

Zhongcha village

Zhongcha village

Zhongcha village

Zhongcha village

Zhongcha village

Zhongcha village

Zhongcha village

The only thing missing are the tourists though. Tourists means Chinese tourists by the way, because in a little shop annex guest house the leaflets and booklets are in Chinese only. There is one place where you can rent a horse and go with the local people into the mountains. But not so many tourists will go here, because almost everybody is coming for a quick visit to the national park itself.

Zhongcha village - brushing a clean street, it reminded of Switzerland

Zhongcha village - brushing a clean street, it reminded of Switzerland

Zhongcha village - local people praying

Zhongcha village - local people praying

Zhongcha village - road work, the ladies with their brooms

Zhongcha village - road work, the ladies with their brooms

Zhong cha village, the mushroom sales lady

Zhong cha village, the mushroom sales lady

Many of the local people, especially the women, still wear traditional dress. People seem to live a calm and quiet life, and the contrast with the National Park is enormous. One of the first things that we saw was how clean this place is. We even saw women brushing the streets even though there was no litter at all. The road to Zhongcha is nice. It follows a little stream, higher and higher into the valley. When we got there, around 10 in the morning, the sun was out again, the air was crisp and the sky was getting blue.

We walked around, played table tennis against the locals and bought dried mushrooms from an old local lady. Mushrooms and peppers are dried in the open air, some of the houses had bowls of peppers on the roof, drying in the sun.

Zhongcha village - red chillies drying on a hot roof

Zhongcha village - red chillies drying on a hot roof


Zhongcha village - an international match

Zhongcha village - an international match


Zhongcha village - air dried local mushrooms

Zhongcha village - air dried local mushrooms

Bring sun screen when you go here. The sunlight is strong because of the altitude and the breeze makes that you would probably notice too late if you get sun burned. And especially for people like me, not blessed (anymore) with a full head of hair, bring a hat or a cap.

After an hour we drove off to a beautiful lake along the road to/from the airport, called Gan Hai. There is a parking place and you can walk from the road to the reed-filled lake, with a dramatic backdrop of the Minshan mountain range. Good place for some pictures. There are some traditionally dressed Tibetans selling local souvenirs and gem stones, but they are not too pushy. If you tell them something like "Xie xie, bu yao, bu mai", then they will not push and will giggle among themselves about the silly "lao wei" thinking that he can speak Chinese (I heard that, peepz...).

Near Zhancha, a scenic lake with reed with Min Shan mountains in the background

Near Zhancha, a scenic lake with reed with Min Shan mountains in the background

Near Zhancha, a scenic lake with reed with Min Shan mountains in the background

Near Zhancha, a scenic lake with reed with Min Shan mountains in the background


Near Zhongcha village

Near Zhongcha village

We got back in the car and drove back to the hotel, where we would have lunch. There were not many people in the village, most of them were in the National Park, and the atmosphere was very quiet now. Lunch was yak meat and other Sichuan food, quite hot actually.

Sichuan food - duck feet soles with chillies

Sichuan food - duck feet soles with chillies

Sichuan food - yak meat, veggies

Sichuan food - yak meat, veggies

After lunch we decided to take a local bus to the main town of Jiuzhaigou Prefecture, nowadays actually on the map as Jiuzhaigou town, but originally called Nanping (about one hour drive east of the park entrance). The local people still use that name for the main town. The route to there follows the Baihe river, the same one that runs at the back of our hotel. Some parts of the route are like driving in a canyon, at other places the valley widens up more.

Just before arriving at Nanping town, there is another valley ending into Baihe valley. I was in the wrong side of the bus to take a picture, but for the ones among us interested in geo-sciences, this side valley is the typical U-shaped valley, formed by glaciers rather than by a river. In fact, the whole drive to Nanping is like going through a geology teaching book. It is very visible (and amazing) how some mountains have literally cracked and split by geolocical events by the millions of years that this has been an earthquake-prone geological hotspot. From the bus you can see some dramatic examples.

Nanping town is a local central little town, inhabited by mostly Han people and people from a different minority (Qiang), which can be seen as they look and dress differently from the area of Zhangzhashen. We were lucky, it was market day in the streets, so we strolled around for a few hours.
The people were very friendly and clearly not used to foreign visitors. When we walked through the streets you could see them wonder something like: how did they end up here? The market was clearly not for tourists, and also not like a flee-market, focusing on souvenirs or nostalgia. It was a market for the local people.

Nanping Town market - healthy stuff

Nanping Town market - healthy stuff

Nanping town

Nanping town

Nanping town - be careful...

Nanping town - be careful...

Nanping Town market - very expensive medical roots

Nanping Town market - very expensive medical roots

Nanping Town, very expensive rare kind of medicine roots - remotely related to ginger

Nanping Town, very expensive rare kind of medicine roots - remotely related to ginger

Nanping Town - cow stomach

Nanping Town - cow stomach

We found some interesting things like local bread resembling naan bread being made along the street and a lady making shoes to order. And much fruit, local gingers and in one side street we found the meat market selling many different parts of animals, with a specially wide range of cow stomach varieties.

Nanping Town market - a street bakery

Nanping Town market - a street bakery

Nanping town - interesting stuff at the market

Nanping town - interesting stuff at the market

Nanping Town - the friendly shoemaker lady

Nanping Town - the friendly shoemaker lady

By 4 p.m. we made sure to get on the bus back, because that evening we would visit a Tibetan dance performance and we didn't want to be late. At the bus stop, there was a very energetic young lady (it turned out she was the "conductor") who made sure everybody got on the bus, paid the tickets and got passengers' bags stored between the seats or next to the bus door. We could not believe how many people and how much stuff were loaded before we were ready to go.

Then there was some drama. Next to the bus there was a young girl, maybe 15 years old, apparently saying goodbye to her parents who were going back to a village, while the girl was probably there to work. That's what my friends gathered from the conversation. She was in very upset and in tears and we felt really sorry for her. Later we saw that the father and mother got off the bus only two villages further away, maybe at half an hour's drive. But it confronted us with the fact that what we looks like a short distance in our way of travelling, seems to feel like far away for some of the local people.

Shortly after we drove off we noticed that a military guy in the front seat suffered badly from motion sickness. The lady conductor took initiative, telling the driver at each bus stop to wait, so that the soldier could get out of the bus and throw up along the road. We felt sorry for the Red Army guy but we admired this very vocal young lady; being in control over the whole situation and still being quite considerate, by allowing the soldier to stand in the front of the bus with a plastic bag, keeping the door half open so that fresh air would blow in while we were driving.

My friends told me that consideration like this would be hard to find in more "civilized"(?) places of China, where they probably would simply kick him out of the bus, and drive on without him.

Back to Zhangzhashen we dropped our things at the hotel, picked up the tickets for the show from the bell boy, and walked to the Shangri-La performance hall, some 10 minutes down the street. At this time it started raining and we realized how lucky we had been with the weather during the last two days!

The show was not much to talk about for the quality of the sound and the originality of the performance. On the other hand the enthusiasm of the people made good for that. One funny situation happened, when people were asked on stage to participate in a ritual that originally was designed to win the heart of a lady and the right to marry her. It was some sort of a funny rope-pulling contest. Four young men from the audience participated, and of course the presenter asked the name of the one who eventually won. His name caused confusion, and hilarity as well, because his name translated as Stay-One-Night. Interesting to see how parents give a name to their children; and in this case maybe even more interesting to know why...?

Zhangzhazhen - the Tibetan/Qiang show

Zhangzhazhen - the Tibetan/Qiang show

Zhangzhazhen - the Tibetan/Qiang show

Zhangzhazhen - the Tibetan/Qiang show

On the way back from the show, we strolled at the night market next to the hotel, admiring in particular the food stall where they sold rabbit heads, duck heads and other interesting stuff, before we went back to the hotel after another interesting day.

Zhangzhazhen - it's just chicken

Zhangzhazhen - it's just chicken

Zhangzhazhen - rabbit heads

Zhangzhazhen - rabbit heads

Zhangzhazhen - it's duck heads

Zhangzhazhen - it's duck heads

Posted by westwind57 13:36 Archived in China Tagged mountains snow local nature bus river china valley countryside show quiet sichuan tibetan jiuzhaigou nanping qiang zhongcha dance_performance Comments (0)

China - Jiuzhaigou N.P. in Sichuan - a multicolored jewel

Treasures for the eyes and the camera, once you have left the crowd and chaos at the entrance behind you


View Jiuzhaigou (China), Malaysia, Singapore Autumn 2012 & Netherlands beyond the typical tourist places & Wine Expeditions in France, Italy, Spain and Other Places on westwind57's travel map.

Attention: In August 2017 the magnificent Jiuzhaigou N.P. sustained heavy damage to the natural attractions, and has been closed. The park's official website does NOT mention anything about this. There is talk that it will be open in March or May 2018 again for tour groups only, and with a maximum of only 2,000 people per day. If I find updated info I will mention it in my forum topic ( link ).

Today was going to be the day that I had been looking forward to, and the reason was Jiuzhaigou National Park. I am going to keep the text short, the pictures should speak for themselves.
• Located in the very north of Sichuan province.
• UNESCO World Heritage status since 1992, and the status of World Biosphere Reserve since 1997
• The park spreads over a total area of 720 square kilometers around valleys, which on the map look like an upside down "Y". In the middle of the park, near Nuo Ri Lang waterfalls, the Rize river and the Zechawa river come together to form the Shuzeng river. The Shuzeng river forms the joint part of the "Y" and streams into Baihe River.
• Elevation between 2,000 and 4,500 meters. The entrance is at the lower end of the valley, where the.
• The rivers find their sources in the Min mountain range (Minshan), and both flow through their respective valleys forming many very colorful lakes (due to the minerals, different algae and the vegetation in the lakes), waterfalls and rapids.
• The slopes of the valleys are forested and often very steep.
• Jiuzhaigou means Nine Villages Valley, referring to the nine Tibetan villages in the valley.
• Seven of them are still inhabited by the original people (Awa-tibetans and Qiang people).
• The entrance gets very crowded before opening and it’s a chaos. Once inside, it is fantastic hiking. Yes, there are people, but real crowds only on a few places.
• High frequency shuttle bus system with many stops. Comparable to Grand Canyon N.P.
• For visitors it is not allowed to stay overnight in the park, due to environmental concerns and to reduce the risk of forest fire.
More details after the pictures.

Juizhaiguo - the chaos at the entrance, but there will be a reward

Juizhaiguo - the chaos at the entrance, but there will be a reward

Juizhaiguo National Park - the Tibetan village inside the park

Juizhaiguo National Park - the Tibetan village inside the park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

The park has become a very popular tourist attraction for the Chinese, and the tourism industry focuses on Chinese speaking tourists mostly. There are a few western hotels, including Sheraton resort, and (further away) an Intercontinental resort and a Holiday Inn.

Relatively few tourists from western countries have found their way to this remote area, partly due to the long road drive from Chengdu. The only alternative is a flight to Jiuzhai Huanglong airport. Very few people in the hotels, shops etc. speak English, and if you travel on your own not speaking a word of Mandarin, you may have a hard time getting around in the area. A few words of Mandarin (or just an honest try) will do wonders with the people in the hotel, the village and the park. Most of them are patient, very friendly and smiley and will try to help you. However, the National Park has an excellent website with good English translations and information, and also plenty of documentation available in the visitors’ center.

We got up really early for breakfast in the dining room of the hotel, a huge round room, with a fully Chinese style breakfast buffet. There is coffee (sometimes, and not bad), and the usual "orange juice", which is not juice at all, but luke warm tea with orange flavor. And except for boiled and fried eggs, the food is almost only Chinese food, quite decent though. I was getting used to it, although still craving for the fresh pressed real orange juice that I hoped to find some time later on the trip.

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel

What we found there, was a huge mass of people already waiting in front of the office. And when the military men, who assist in controlling the crowds, opened the glass doors of the ticket office, total mayhem broke loose. A collapsing fence in a soccer stadium full of hooligans looked like children's play, compared to the troup of hungry wolves that tried to be first at the ticket counters. The soldiers needed to use force to control the situation and closed the glass doors again, leaving hundreds inside the office like sardines in a can, and many more people outside, ready to raid the next time the doors would open.

Somehow my friend bravely managed to get inside, and after quite some time came out with the tickets. The entrance fee in the season is quite steep: RMB 220 per adult person per day for entrance, and another RMB 90 for using the hop-on-hop-off bus system (which is highly recommended). In the low season (winter, starting in November) the prices are considerably lower. In the low season is possible to buy two days' tickets, which require a passport size photo.

It is possible to visit the three valleys and the main attractions in the park in one (full) day. But if you want to really take your time for hiking, or if you are a nature lover or an avid photographer, you may want to allow yourself two days (or even more). However, the hop-on-hop-off bus system is very adequate and practical, and enables you to really visit a lot of different highlights of the park in one full day.

There are roads (for the buses) and a big system of paths and boardwalks along all the three rivers and all the lakes, waterfalls and rapids.
The place in the park where the two rivers flow together to form Shuzheng river, is a hub with change points for the buses into Rize and Zechawa valley, restaurants, shops and other facilities. There are toilet buildings along many of the boardwalks and the signage is quite good (also the English translations). Maps are available in the visitor centre near the entrance.

Once we were in the park and on our first hop-on-hop off bus, there were still loads of people but it was not chaotic anymore. We would see crowds of people throughout the day at the most scenic places, but on the other hand, there were long stretches of the boardwalks that were quiet.

With so many people around you won't see much wildlife along the main paths. For that you would have to follow the few hiking paths that divert up into the mountains. However, the main attractions of the park are the rivers and the lakes and waterfalls, and in autumn (like now) the color of the foliage often reflected into the lakes.

The famous colors of the lakes have everything to do with the vegetation (algae and water plants) in the lakes, the minerals that are feeding them and the reflection of sky colors. Lakes and other scenic spots have interesting names like Rhinoceros Lake, Five Coloured Pond, Swan Lake, Tiger Lake, Arrow Bamboo Lake and Waterfall, Pearl Shoals and Pearl Shoal Waterfall, Panda Lake, and others, and at the top of Rize Valley there is a primeval forest called Virgin Forest.

Along the valleys there are several Tibetan villages that you can visit, but some are quite commercialized. It is adviseable to bring drinking water, snacks etc. especially if you intend to hike a lot along the paths and boardwalks. These boardwalks are well maintained and sometimes go up by long series of stairs, so a reasonable level of fitness is required.

Posted by westwind57 11:35 Archived in China Tagged mountains lakes snow rivers nature bus china autumn sichuan national_park colors crowd foliage tibetan jiuzhaigou tibetans awa aba qiang Comments (0)

China - Juizhaigou - Flight to a very, very elevated airport

Breathtaking views, and thin air after landing


View Jiuzhaigou (China), Malaysia, Singapore Autumn 2012 & Netherlands beyond the typical tourist places & Wine Expeditions in France, Italy, Spain and Other Places on westwind57's travel map.

Attention: In August 2017 the magnificent Jiuzhaigou N.P. sustained heavy damage to the natural attractions, and has been closed. The park's official website does NOT mention anything about this. There is talk that it will be open in March or May 2018 again for tour groups only, and with a maximum of only 2,000 people per day. If I find updated info I will mention it in my forum topic ( link ).

I never heard of Jiuzhaigou until shortly before this trip. But it is one of the most scenic areas in China, in the very north of Sichuan province. By road it is about 450 kilometers north of Chengdu in a sparsely populated area, where originally the Awa people (sometimes written as Aba) are living, who are very closely related to Tibetans. Actually, it is not very far from the eastern border of Tibet.

It is possible to travel from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou by bus or car, but it will take 8 to 12 hours. There are a few different routes. Some of the roads may be in repair, because of landslides. caused by heavy weather and sometimes by earthquakes. It makes a lot of sense to inquire about the road conditions before deciding which route to take.

The more expensive alternative is flying to Jiuzhai Huanglong airport, the third highest airport in China at an elevation of almost 3,500 meters. Many flights go there from Chengdu (and some from other cities) on a daily basis, but due to its position, the risk of flights not going on time or being cancelled is quite high. Also, the flights are not cheap, unlike many other flights in this part of the world. Due to limited time we decided to fly. We were lucky with a delay of 55 minutes only.

The airport is close to the village of Songpan, and is served by China Southern, Air China, Sichuan Airlines and other regional and local companies. It has been built and expanded to serve both the scenic areas of Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong. The flight from Chengdu takes about one hour. Unless the sky is completely clouded, the view from the plane on approaching Juizhai Huanglong airport is totally spectacular. I can use many words to describe it, but let the attached pictures speak for themselves.

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport


From the airport, many buses and minibus companies are available for transport to Juizhaigou national park (about two hours driving) and to Huanglong National Scenic area (about one hour). This kind of transportation is cheap, we paid RMB 45 per person (about Euro 4.50), but beware: the minibuses only will leave until they have passengers filling up the last seat. So it may happen that you have to wait for a while before the minibus leaves. There are dispatchers who try to recruit passengers and make sure the buses get filled up.
The road to Jiuzhaigou National park and the villages around it, is very well maintained and runs through a beautiful area. From the airport on the top of a rim of mountains, it goes down into the valleys, where you will see yaks, Tibetan horses, people in traditional Tibetan dress, remote villages and a spectacular mountain and forest scenery.

Song Pan - hotel complex built as an ancient village

Song Pan - hotel complex built as an ancient village

Juizhaiguo - yaks along the road

Juizhaiguo - yaks along the road


On the way to Zhangzhazhen - Tibetan horsemen

On the way to Zhangzhazhen - Tibetan horsemen


Juizhaiguo, arriving at Zhangzhazhen village

Juizhaiguo, arriving at Zhangzhazhen village


After 2 hours we arrived at our hotel, Qian He International Hotel, almost next to the Sheraton Resort, and about 1.5 kilometer from the entrance of Jiuzhaigou national park, another UN World Heritage, and rightfully so.

Juizhaiguo - the river flowing through Zhangzhazhen

Juizhaiguo - the river flowing through Zhangzhazhen


The village is lively, and clean. Even though many young people from other parts of China work here, the local people seem to be in charge, and they are all proud of their scenic area. Things are well maintained generally, there are shops catering to locals, tourists and even some bar areas along the river. Traffic in the village is busy with many buses, taxis and private car offering taxi services as well. Outside of the village, roads are quiet and almost always very scenic.

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel


That evening we had dinner in the hotel, about which I will write a review, and ventured to buy tickets for visiting the National Park the next day.
However, they don't sell tickets ahead, so you will have to get there in the morning (open from 7 a.m.) to get tickets. Be prepared to deal with crowds when buying the tickets. Especially around 7 a.m. it may be a total mayhem. There seems to be a way to order them online and pick them up at the second floor of the ticket office on your visiting day. I could not find confirmation of this on the internet, but if you can, then this seems to be a better idea than struggling yourself in the chaos to buy tickets. After dinner we called it a day and went to sleep early, waiting for our visit to the national park, the next morning.

Posted by westwind57 11:10 Archived in China Tagged mountains snow road_trip flight airport river china sichuan songpan altitude tibetan jiuzhaigou tibetans awa aba jiuzhai_huanglong Comments (0)

China - Leshan - The Big Buddha in the Haze

Leshan Big Buddha, Sichuan Province, China


View Jiuzhaigou (China), Malaysia, Singapore Autumn 2012 & Netherlands beyond the typical tourist places & Wine Expeditions in France, Italy, Spain and Other Places on westwind57's travel map.

After the failed attempt to see Emei Shan due to the fog, the weather started to clear up by the time we got closer to the giant Buddha in Leshan. It is located in a park full of temples, sanctuaries and nice landscaping, where the paths lead to a high point at the river cliff from where you can see the world's biggest stone Buddha (traditional Chinese: 樂山大佛; pinyin: Lèshān Dàfó) from above.
Leshan Giant Buddha, overlooking the confluence of rivers and facing Emei Shan

Leshan Giant Buddha, overlooking the confluence of rivers and facing Emei Shan

Leshan, a much smaller happy looking Buddha, comfortably seated

Leshan, a much smaller happy looking Buddha, comfortably seated


It is by far the world's biggest ancient statue, created in the early Tang Dynasty period. Building started in the year 713 led by a Chinese monk and it was completed in 803 A.D. At its feet, the Minjiang, Qingyi and Dadu rivers flow together, and the reason why it was built was apparently the hope that it would calm down the sometimes wild currents of the rivers, that threatened the ships. The sitting Buddha statue faces the holy Emei Shan (Mount Emei), together with which it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage. Its height is 71 meters and the width of its shoulders is 28 meters.
Leshan Giant Buddha, overlooking the confluence of rivers and facing Emei Shan

Leshan Giant Buddha, overlooking the confluence of rivers and facing Emei Shan


The best point to see it is either from above, or from tourist boats that sail the three rivers. There is also a path down along the cliff where you can see the enormous sitting statue from its toenails, but given the enormous crowds lining up to walk that path, we decided not to do that.

At the viewing point up there, it is quite crowded, and there are also some people with less noble intentions. If you read about Chinese scams with men offering to make pictures of you in crowded areas, the high viewpoints of Leshan are definitely a place where scammers operate. There are some that offer to take a photo, but then they will charge you a fee after they have done so and make a big fuzz if you refuse. Or their "comrades" may try to pickpocket you in the meantime. We saw a team like that at work, and they also tried this on us, without success. They pretended to be Chinese, but they were clearly not the typical local folk.

One of them was wearing a Buddhist monk's dress and had a praying chain in his hand. He was chanting some verses while carefully picking out his targets. I found the combination of his Arab sunglasses and hair dress a bit odd and had been observing him for a while. His whole composure looked more like a Mediterranean mafioso. When he tried to trick one of us, we managed to refuse his "services" by standing around him and pushing him off, and we walked away. Just be warned, because there are several of them up there.

Even though we saw a handful of western visitors here, the vast majority are Chinese tourists. They are clearly from all over the country and from city and countryside. Not everybody is dressed for the hike. There was one young lady whose shoe ware (and not only that) looked a little bit out of place here though, although she seemed to enjoy attracting the looks from other people more than looking at the Buddha statue.
Leshan Giant Buddha park, solid walking shoes recommended <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Leshan Giant Buddha park, solid walking shoes recommended ;)

Leshan Giant Buddha, astrology steles

Leshan Giant Buddha, astrology steles


From here, the view on the Buddha and the river is amazing. The remains of the fog, while the sun tried to shine through, definitely added to the mysterious atmosphere.

After having visited this site, we drove back to Chengdu, where we stayed at the Hejiangting Hanwen Hotel, situated along the river and a modern, convenient but very Chinese hotel. It is located at the busy Binjiang Road.

One of the things that catch the eye when arriving in Chengdu is the frequently heavy smog that colors the sky yellowish. It is not only the traffic and industry, but rather a mix of the inevitable air pollution of a city of 20 million people, its location in a valley and the dust and sand carried in by the winds from the dessert and steppes around the city.

However, when we arrived in Chengdu there had been some rain and there was a little breeze, so the smog was much less than usual. The city looks remarkably clean, with quite some green (parks and trees along the boulevards). It also it looks well maintained, compared to many other Chinese cities.
Chengdu, night scene along the river

Chengdu, night scene along the river


Very close by the hotel is a place where two rivers flow together, and that symbolism makes it a very popular spot for wedding photography. There is a little park at the confluence of the rivers, and next to it is a popular restaurant and bar area aptly called Chengdu Lan Kwai Fong, after the famous bar area in Hong Kong. It is a place where the rich and fashionable young Chinese like to hang out and in fact a very hip, trendy area, with prices matching those of European cities. Even though we were late, we did find a restaurant there for some late dinner. The next days however, would become the highlight of our trip to Sichuan: Juizhaiguo National Park.
Chengdu's version of Lang Kwai Fong

Chengdu's version of Lang Kwai Fong

Near Chengdu's Lang Kwai Fong bar area

Near Chengdu's Lang Kwai Fong bar area

Interesting Chengdu interpretation of Lan Kwai Fong bar area

Interesting Chengdu interpretation of Lan Kwai Fong bar area

Posted by westwind57 09:52 Archived in China Tagged rivers road_trip river china sichuan leshan big_buddha giant_buddha Comments (0)

China - Emeishan - The invisible holy mountain

An unfriendly village and ending up in the cloud - The holy mountain remained invisible. Should we believe it exists?


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Chengdu is one of the biggest cities of China and is the capital of Sichuan province. It is blessed with some particularly interesting places close by. I was going to meet my travel companions in Chengdu, and from there we would visit Emeishan, Leshan and Juizhaigou. I had read something about the places, and was very curious how these places would be in real.

The flight from Singapore to Chengdu in China took about 4.5 hours but in this case time went fast, because I ended up in a conversation with a young lady from Singapore, who was going for a two weeks' hiking adventure to some mountains on the border of Sichuan and Tibet. She was vague about the exact place but between the lines I think I could understand that she was trying to go to Larung Gar/Sertar. It is the largest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world, reportedly with over 40,000 monks, in the very far west part of Sichuan province. My itinerary was much easier.

Immigration in Chengdu was very quick, but baggage pick up very slow. At last I met my partner and other travel companions from Hong Kong, who were in Chengdu already. The plan was to drive to Emeishan for the next two days. The biggest surprise was our "car". The brand new van that we would originally be driven around in had broken down. In order to still have a car for us, they had quickly emptied a very old rusty little delivery bus into something that could carry six people. Could this thing really get us up the mountains? I had my doubt when I saw it. My friend was laughing her butt off when she saw the look in my eyes, when seeing our vehicle...

"Hahaha, I know you would love this... " my partner said.

With much noise of loosely fitting parts of the car, and one door which we never knew if it was locked or not, we started our trip over the highway to Emeishan City. It was getting dark soon, and because the driver did not know if there would be any restaurant open in Emeishan, we stopped at a very local small restaurant along the road.

Like all other restaurants along that same road, this one also had a sticker of a huge blue catfish posted on the window. You can't believe how many little restaurants there were that all seem to serve just the same thing: cat fish!
catfish restaurant

catfish restaurant


We went in and yes, we could eat there already. In the kitchen they had two buckets, one bucket with just one big and the other with three small cat fish. The decision was made that we would eat the big one. The guy in charge of the place took it out of the water, knocked it on the head first and started to cut it into chunks with a lot of flair, ready to expose his skills before the camera.
catfish preparation

catfish preparation

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1829587_13512895859758


As everywhere in that area, the restaurant people seemed to get their status from being as loud as possible, so our stay there was great fun and not boring ;) These people have no volume switch...

We got our very oily fish and peppers dish served, with local vegetables and a big wooden bucket with steamed rice. We all had been hungry, so this spicy and hearty meal was very welcome.
we must have looked hungry... rice in a bucket

we must have looked hungry... rice in a bucket

hearty meal...

hearty meal...


In the meantime the people of the restaurant were all very willing to help us plan for the further trip to Emeishan that night and the next morning.
There was a huge map hanging on the wall, showing the roads and sights and pathways up the mountain. So our driver, my partner's cousin and the other local people started to discuss what was best for us. Let's use an understatement: they did so in an upbeat and up volume way. All locals disagreed with each other on which road it was allowed to drive and how far up we could go. So, did it give us useful information? Not so sure, but really, these people tried to be extremely helpful (be it with ten different opinions) and they were really very kind and friendly.... totally unlike the local people we would meet later in Emeishan City...
loud discussion about how to reach the top

loud discussion about how to reach the top


From the little restaurant to the city took us about 45 minutes. When we drove into there, it took some time to find the hotel, because so many hotels have almost the same name. Our hotel was Emeishan Grand Hotel; located at the end of town, just close to the bell tower at the foot of Emeishan mountain, next to Bao Guo temple.
Quirky illuminated Emei Shan Grand Hotel

Quirky illuminated Emei Shan Grand Hotel

Gate out of Emei Shan City to get to the mountain

Gate out of Emei Shan City to get to the mountain


The entrance of the hotel was hidden in a kitchy imitation of the mountains (Emeishan means "eyebrows mountain") formed by blue christmas tree illumination. The check-in people were a bit grumpy and rude. The doormen, same thing. The hotel itself was better than expected though, and better than the reviews that I read later on some sites like Tripadvisor. It is a hotel built in the form of several separate pavillions in a park. I think we were in building #3. The air is fresh, you hear the sound of crickets, the hot water works, and yes, the beds are hard but this is China. Most important: everything was quite clean.
Rock carved Buddha Emei Shan City

Rock carved Buddha Emei Shan City

Illuminated Bell Tower in Emei Shan City

Illuminated Bell Tower in Emei Shan City


After installing ourselves we decided to walk around. We saw the illuminated bell tower and the Buddha rock carvings around there which were quit impressive, and suddenly we saw a huge night butterfly that was quite impressive too. When walking through the streets we found that food was actually still available there until late. But the people in the market, and especially the women in a nearby fancy shop that sold dried mushrooms and herbs and tea, quite unhelpful and at straight out rude... as in: who are you to think that you can just walk into my shop and ask questions!
night butterfly on the bell tower

night butterfly on the bell tower


Emei Shan City night market product nicer than sales people

Emei Shan City night market product nicer than sales people


Well, maybe they were like this because business seemed slow or non-existent here. Except for ourselves, we had seen no visitors or buyers in the market, only the people populating the stalls... quite weird! Maybe the local market people had already managed to chase away everybody else...
But please don't misunderstand. In terms of the beauty of the temples and the beautiful nature, I still would say that Emeishan City is worth a visit...
Well at least I think so... because the next day would not really give us a fair chance to find out...
breakfast hall in Emei Shan Grand Hotel

breakfast hall in Emei Shan Grand Hotel


After a good sleep and breakfast in the impressive (Chinese style of grand) dining room of the hotel, we got in our rusty but so far reliable little van for the trip all the way up to the top of Emei Shan. At the edge of the city, we noticed that there were more tourists now around the bell tower and the rock carvings, but only Chinese tourists. We did not see a single westerner anywhere on the mountain.
Emei Shan city bell tower

Emei Shan city bell tower

Emei Shan city park waterfall

Emei Shan city park waterfall


Many tourists come to rub the enormous bell which shows its shiny brass at the point where so many people touched it. There are also people carriers, who carry tourists around on a seat, mounted on two bamboo sticks. Two of them walked by and measured my size critically. I heard them talk about me (Lao Wei) and then they walked quickly on, clearly looking for lighter weight passengers. I am sure non of them would find it worth the few RMB, getting a hernia by carrying me around, because none of them offered their services. There is also a nice little park, actually opposite of the bell tower and the hotel where we stayed, with a waterfall. This waterfall seems one of the landmarks of the town.

And from here on, the poor little rusty van was bound to suffer its worst test of the trip: to carry all six of us up the mountain, a long and windy steep road with many hairpins that takes about 90 minutes from town to the highest point for cars.

But first we took a side road to visit some of the temples on the slopes. Already immediately after leaving the village, there are the first temples. You enter through a main gate, and then there is an inner court and one temple, then a next gate and a next temple building and so on. The atmosphere in the first one was solemn and quiet, but it was still early morning. By the time we got to the second temple, it was a different story: there local tour groups with very loud people, who seemed to think they were in Disneyland instead of in a temple. Their main purpose for them seemed to be the souvenir shop which is invariably part of the temples.
Emei Shan temple on the slope of the mountain

Emei Shan temple on the slope of the mountain

Emei Shan temple detail

Emei Shan temple detail

Emei Shan temple decorations

Emei Shan temple decorations


We arrived at the end of the road, basically a parking lot with many, very loud people. From there it is supposed to be another hour walking up to the top. However, it got foggier and foggier. It was a very dangerous road too, because of the many landslides that happen, as a result of which there are many road works, sometimes just behind the next turn, without warning ahead. Only one thing was very clear: if we would take the walk further up to the top, it would be useless. There would be nothing to see except the cloud that we were in. That is why we decided to give it a miss and not venture the path, which would be wet, slippery and dangerous anyway. Also the cable car (the alternative for the ones like me) was not running due to the fog.

Well, it was not a lost day: driving the road up had been an experience, as well as the toll station (again with unfriendly people there). And the view of thousands of clueless people not knowing whether to wait or not for a better visibility later in the afternoon.
Emei Shan end of the road - our old rusty van

Emei Shan end of the road - our old rusty van


We were not going to wait. We got back into the car, on our way to Leshan, a place where the world's biggest Buddha statue has been carved out of the rock in a cliff along the river. On our way we took a quick lunch in a very local restaurant which was obviously having the local factory workers as their only clientele. A visit by a bunch of tourists including a white one was definitely not a daily event for them, and we became sort of the tourist attraction there ourselves.

Posted by westwind57 03:50 Archived in China Tagged temples road_trip temple china waterfall sichuan emeishan bell_tower catfish holy_mountain Comments (0)

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