Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Day 5: 8 March 2008
Itinerary: Jiuzhaigou-Mo Ni Gou-Maoxian

Last night we moved back to the original hotel that turned us away the night before. Imagine this hotel got no lift and having to climb to the 4th floor. The room was shabby and there was no toiletries at all and hot water was only available for a couple of hours in the night.

Today we left Jiuzhaigou in the morning to make the journey back to Chengdu. For the night we would be putting up in a small town called Maoxian and for the day we would be visiting Mo Ni Gou, a much smaller valley. Having seen Jiuzhaigou, any other will always be a step backwards. The aura is nowhere near that of Jiuzhaigou and in truth we could have been better off going back into Jiuzhaigou for re-visit, even though it would be only for half a day. I understand that from April 2008 onwards, 2nd day re-entry into Jiuzhaigou will no longer be free, currently you could have your picture taken and printed into a pass and you could enter the 2nd day without paying the entrance fee (you only need to pay for the eco-bus fee). Anyway I was given the option to do the 2nd entry on my own but I would have to catch another tour group's coach for the way back to Chengdu. My heart wanted to do the 2nd re-entry, this time to stay longer and take my time to take in all the beauty of each location, but I disliked the idea of being a total stranger joining another group hence I had to give it a pass because in any case I could only have at best another 3 hours to explore the place and then I had to find my way to join up with the new group. In truth, having known this group throughout the tour thus far it was more like missing your "family" that kind of feeling to break away from them, so I decided against the 2nd re-entry to Jiuhaigou fairyland. Anyway I had missed out on Huang Long for this trip as the place was closed due to the weather condition, I suppose if I were to make another trip next time to take in Huang Long, I would have to come back to Jiuzhaigou anyway.

There were three shopping stops during the journey to Mo Ni Gou and Maoxian, the first was a precious stones & jewellery shop. Some photos taken from its exhibition areas:

Qiang traditional costume.

The hotel where we had our lunch:

Was Huang Long nearby? I do wonder! So near and yet so far!

Here are some pictures from Mo Ni Gou:
Strong currents.

Frozen icebergs on trees.
The highlight of the place.

Next stop a Jade and jewellery factory opened by a Guangzhou businessman. Luckily we had quite a sizable group of people from Guangzhou hence instead of going through the regular introduction and shopping, the owner actually came to greet us in person and to cut the tour short, he took us straight to the exclusive area reserved for Western tourists where the best stuff were on display. He even offered a flat rate for items within each showcase exclusively to our group!

Thereafter was a short drive to Yak meat factory where we got to sample Yak meat in several varieties of flavour, most of them very spicy! It was fun sampling all the different flavours freshly prepared. They will vacuum-sealed for you on the spot as well. They also have those dried Yak meat in factory pre-sealed packs.

Next was the long drive to Maoxian where we would stay for the night before continuing on the way back to Chengdu the next morning.
We stopped by at 沙湾村 again on the way, this time I finally got to ride on a Yak and took several photos with it!
Maoxian is really a very tiny town and basically nothing to do at night. We packed it in early after dinner. Incidentally, the hotel which we were staying was the same one which we had our very first lunch driving out from Chengdu, also the same place where I vomitted from the swaying coach ride sitting sandwiched at the last row of the coach!

View from the hotel room in Maoxian.

7 MARCH 2008: JIUZHAIGOU (Evening)

The evening event of the day was a Tibetan/Qiang Cultural Show in a theatre of a hotel, a packaged deal together with the previous evening 's Tibetan Hospitality Programme.

It was a colorful show full of Tibetan and Qiang traditional costumes, songs (both traditional and current pop and folk music) & dancing and acrobatic shows.
One of the singers, she was designated as the "bride" for the audience event.
What colourful costumes!
There was an event where audience was selected to take part in a one-to-one tug of war. One of the American from our group was selected to take part and by sheer size and strength, he won the contest with the other 3 participants all Chinese nationals. He was over 60 years old and it was quite a demanding task trying to outdo much younger persons. He was also picked to perform during the 1st night's event where he told a "dirty" joke in English, translated by his lady friend, about an old lady having a Marilyn Monroe-moment when the wind blew whereby the old lady chose to hang on to her hat instead of her skirt! I had heard this one somewhere before but it was still as funny.
The eventual winner - a.k.a. the bridegroom.
The lovely "Bride" and her "Man".
For this tug-of-war event, his "prize" was much bigger! He was to "go through" a Tibetan wedding ceremony being the bridegroom and his bride was a lovely lady chosen from the performers of the show. He was dragged backstage to be dressed in traditional Tibetan clothing and head wear. Eventually he had to bring home his "bride" by piggybacking her. Everyone had a good laugh! He was such a sport, really!
"Bridegroom" and his "Prize".
During the wedding ceremony.
The finale!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Day 4: 7 March 2008
Itinerary: Jiuzhaigou

It was snowing in the early hours of the morning, I caught it from the hotel windows.
I thought it would be one of those days but it sure did not turn out that way. It was a day of climatic transitions from snow, drizzle, then sunshine and clear beautiful skies! All in one day! You could not have wished for a day like this even if you wanted to! There were some areas that were closed off due to the snow but most of the key attractions were all there.

The pictures speak for themselves.
Breathtaking beauty truly beyond words!

The Entrance

Arrow Bamboo Lake 箭竹海

Panda Lake 熊猫海

Five Flower Lake 五花池

Five Flower Lake 五花池

Pearl Shoals 珍珠滩

Colourful Pool 五彩池

Streams of peaceful water flows

Pearl Shoals Waterfalls 珍珠滩瀑布

Shuzheng Waterfalls 树正瀑布

Turquoise lake

Tiger Lake 老虎海

Norilang Waterfalls 诺日朗瀑布

Rhinocerous Lake 犀牛海


Baby Chow-Chow

Having breathe the freshest of air, seen the most pristine of waters, lakes and waterfalls, there is probably nowhere else on earth you need to go to see the purest crystal clear waters, lakes or seas. This is THE PLACE to be - period!
They say October-November is the best period to see this place, I think this place radiates with each season. You will see it in a different light in different seasons, that is the underlying allure of this heaven on earth. I began to wonder if Heaven can beat this!

Not sure how long this place could be preserved in its pristine conditions, what with the growing numbers of tourists attracted to this place. But I think this message in the underpass near the Norilang area serves as a timely reminder of the relationship between Man and Mother Earth:

Can Man understand in time to save the Earth and other co-habitants? I wonder?


Day 3: 6 March 2008

Iterinary: Very Early Departure for the 4-Day coach trip to Jiuzhaigou.

Checked in late night into the hotel in Chengdu on 5 March 2008, settled all the payments for the rest of the trip with the travel agent and then off to a good night's rest to be ready for the exciting trip to the highlight of this trip - JIUZHAIGOU!

Left very early on 6 March morning, well before the break of dawn, to get to the assembly area for the coach to Jiuzhaigou. No time for breakfast due to the early hours. Luckily managed to grab a four 肉包子 near the hotel where the coach was departing. It was steaming hot as the shop was just opening for business. Added a cup of 豆浆 to make a reasonable breakfast combo! The 肉包子 was delicious but a tad too oily and salty but I guess that is the TASTE here.

The coach was full! I was not the only foreigner on this trip, there were 2 Americans with their Chinese companions.

The driver who sent me to the boarding point was very helpful and advised me to take the front 3 rows of seat saying it would be better. I did not understand at that point in time but was to find out exactly why later in the day. I really really had to thanked him for his friendly advice!

Perhaps it was the early hours, the driver hit and damaged a traffic light post leaving the hotel!
The tour guide (小刘)started a long introduction in Chinese that I nearly wanted to doze off! So off we go on the journey to probably the closest thing to heaven on earth. Although it was to be quite a long coach ride, the air of expectation seemed to make the journey much more bearable and psychologically, shorter!

It was interesting seeing the countryside on the way and the twisting and turning roads ascending to higher and higher above sea level. We made a couple of stops for toilet breaks and a stop at 沙湾村 for some photo-taking and local tidits.

We would make the same stop on the return journey.

The first time I came face to face with a YAK (牦牛)!

Lovely Yak!

Local dried delicacies, tidits and other bites.

The next stop would be a Tibetan village. I came to know that there are quite a few different tribes within 藏族, those in this part of Sichuan belongs to 桑巴族 and I came to know much later that certain phrases in their language can be totally different to the other 藏族 in Tibet itself.

Tibetan Village
Tibetan temple

Condors joined at the body (Siamese Twins?) at the entrance to the Tibetan temple

Butter Tibetan tea served here (supposedly good for altitude sickness!)

Mountain ridge with the outline of the sleeping Buddha!
(Possibly depending on the depth of faith if you could or could not visualise it.)

Tibetan holy totem poles!

The interesting exit from the temple, where you could choose which channel best suit your body size. Hey! I got though using the 3rd gap from the left. The 4th gap suggests you should consider going for slimming regime.

Next we would be heading to the hotel close to the main entrance of Jiuzhaigou and the night programme would be a visit to a Tibetan home (well I wouldn't call it a home as it was more touristy than I imagined.) for a night of sampling Tibetan culture and food first hand.

There was a police check prior to entering the Jiuzhaigou area and all vehicles were screened! A lady from our group vomitted during this stop due to altitude sickness. It was quite bad actually.

I was lucky to take a seat in the second row of the coach (or tour bus if you prefer) because the drive was one hell of a ride what with the long distance coupled with the winding roads up the steppes. Imagine turning a corner without having to slow down at all?

About a quarter way of the journey, I agreed to swop seats with the husband of the lady in the seat next to me. You know - them being a pair and me being a solo traveller, I thought what the heck and try to be a good sport! But little did I know the effects of sitting at the rear end of this coach ride! It was right at the back row of the coach and I was basically sandwitched in between two guys - one a Chinese, the other a Korean working in China, both of whom did not even moved a single inch when I took that limited space (for my frame) in between! How inconsiderate! As the trip progressed I realised how both were such chauvinists that I could never ever imagine!

The Chinese seemed to make all the decisions for his wife and when he spoke, you could see he put on his airs - likely a civil servant of a certain stature. He even brought along his own pair of stainless steel, foldable chopsticks for all the meals on this trip. As for the Korean, he refused to even let his lady friend take the window seat even when she pleaded for it!

I had to swop the seats back with that guy during lunch because I was having nausea and vomitted during the lunch stop. It was not because of altitude sickness but the swerving of the coach. Luckily he understood my predicament and readily agreed. I apologised to his wife when I returned to the original seat. They were really nice folks that I felt bad having to separate them again.

All the meals on this trip were fairly plain stuff with lots of veggies and little meat but at least there were always soups (sometimes 2 soups in a single meal too!). Even though it was not tasty most of the time, it was still OK. It was a departure from all those oily good food in Singapore and I could not have imagined the effect it would have on me after this trip! I came to like bamboo shoots and cabbage and the number of ways you could actually cooked them. The conversations and chit chat during the meals more than make up for everything else! Everyone came to know each other a little better and the camaradie grew as the trip progressed. There was no pre-planned seat arrangements, everyone just grabbed any available seats at each meal and we somehow ended up knowing everyone within the group! It was so easy to strike up a conversation as different groups of people came from all over the Mainland and the exchanges were very interesting indeed.

As we got nearer to Jiuzhaigou, there were snow seen on mountain tops and stone houses along the way.

When we arrived at the designated hotels, one group managed to checked into one hotel but for the rest of us we weren't so lucky. As it was low season, quite a number of hotels were closed and the hotel which the rest of the group was supposed to check into had given our rooms to other groups as we did not checked in on time. We proceeded to have our dinner early, at that same hotel while the tour guide went about arranging for alternative hotel. As the actual hotel could not be confirmed, we went instead to the Tibetan hospitality night programme with our baggages all still in the coach.

By idea of this Tibetan home visit was like a cosy little home with just our group but that notion was way off the actual reality. They were hosting at least 3 to 4 different tour groups in total, that would equate to about 100 to 120 persons in one night in a single so-called Tibetan home! Multiply that by the per head charge, I would say it was darn good business! Imagine that at peak seasons? Quite an income per household. The food were nowhere near a feast befitting a banquet, neither was the Tibetan tea and Tibetan liquor! In fact the liquor had a quaint sour taste.
The starters and bread.

One of the two main course. This one the finale - a whole lamb BBQ-ed. Everyone started to take pictures with the dish as they were brought to each table. Little did we realise that it tasted totally bland, absolutely tasteless! The other main course was lamb pieces cooked in boiling water. Equally bland!

On arrival all guests were welcomed with the traditional white silk scarf and were guided through some Tibetan rituals prior to entering the home. During the feast there were some entertainment by the children of the host, surprisingly we did not see the actual hosts (i.e. the parents!). If going by the traditional logic, wouldn't it be rude for the actual hosts not to come out and welcome their (paying) guests? To me this is just a "show" and nothing else, there were never any hosts of the house. This is purely a commercial gimmick to fill otherwise an uneventual evening in this little town. I have my doubts that these 桑巴族 would be that welcoming to total strangers! Caveat to those who intend to walk this way -- take this in the spirit of a tour event and take in the programme as a night of entertainment but do eat well first before you attend this programme. In any case you would do this only once irregardless of how many times you intend to come to Jiuzhaigou. All said, you won't miss much even if you decide to pass this up. Better to get a good night's rest to take in the beauty of Jiuzhaigou the next day even if the hotels are really not up to basic tourist class unless you can fork out for the Sheraton that is. Do bring your own soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, they don't supply those in the rooms.

The entertainment was then passed on to the guests, imagine the guests having to entertain other guests! They may claim this to be active participation but then why would you pay and then have to entertain at the same time? You might as well go to a karaoke and enjoy with your friends!

The night ended with a circled dance around a fireplace in the open yard. Imagine 100 to 120 persons circling in a tiny yard? An open field may be a better choice.

All in all a forgettable evening.

One of the small hosting room.
The same room, good for photo moments.
The banquet hall, those in the traditonal costumes are the host family members.
The entertainment by the guests. This lady was from our group and she really can sing!!
The remaining of the group were checked into a 4-star hotel for the night, an upgrade in fact for just this one night. Would move back to the orginally booked hotel for tomorrow night.
A better bed and with soap and shampoo. The tour guide had advised one and all not to shower for the first night in order for the body to adjust to the high altitude environment and also to drink less water. Me? Nah! As long as there is hot shower, I will jump in come hell or water high, anywhere and under any condition. Why waste the opportunity? I always have talcum powder for cases where shower is not possible to be had, so I am well covered one way or the other.