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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


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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)

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