So, here we are back with the next installment of the Sichuan trip.
Following our brief stay in Chengdu we made the move to head on to a place called JiuZhaiGou which is a pretty famous place in China. You tell anyone at all that you are going to Sichuan, and I guarantee that they will ask if you are planning on going there. So this already gives you an indication as to the popularity of this place, and thus how busy it could get at peak times. Now I would like to take this moment now to just say, I hate going places in China during peak travel times, and therefore we came to Sichuan at a time when I thought people would be back in work and school, so missing all the crowds…oh how wrong I was!
But going back to the beginning, our trip started very earily, waking up at 5am to get the first bus out of Chengdu. To get to the bus station you have to take the underground there, now for anyone who has never been to China, there they treat all public transport like flying. By this I mean that they scan your luggage before allowing you in to the station, so during busy periods it can cause all kinds of mayhem. This fortunately wasn’t the case for us at this time of year, however they did not take kindly to me having a can of spray on deodorant in my suitcase and proceeded to try and confiscate it off me to my absolute confusion. Far be it for me to tell these guys how to do there jobs, but if it is safe on a plane then I am sure that it will be ok on a train, nevertheless I had to hand it over; but not after standing by security and unloading as much of my can into my armpits as I possibly could! Got to stick it to the man wherever possible!
The remainder of this day was taken up with a mammoth 10 hour drive whereupon we passed through the village where the huge earthquake of 2008 hit sadly killing 69,197 people and injuring 374,176 people. We didn’t stop here, just passed through; but it was a chilling reminder of just how powerful nature is and the level of destruction it can cause. On this trip we met a lovely old couple who we ended up staying in the same hotel as and spending a lot of time with. There is one thing that I love second only to seeing the Earths amazing places, and that is meeting new people, awesome new people who you will never forget. I think that it is the people sometimes that make some trips what they are, and can make the difference between a good trip and a bloody great trip!
We knew that we were only going to stay here in JZG for just a few days, and we knew upon arrival and seeing the hordes of people that we would have to make sure that we were up early each and every day to try and beat the crowds as best as possible. The first day we went in to the national park when the gates opened, ran through and got on to a bus to take us up to the top of the reserve, whereupon we could begin walking down at our own pace.
The drive through is the first little taste you get of the jaw dropping scenery, seeing the crystal clear blue water that gives perfect reflections of the early morning fog covering the tops of the surrounding mountains. It was at this point where I remember thinking, this is why I don’t want to settle down anywhere and stop travelling whilst I am young. This is what I live for!
On the way up the road forks off to the right and left, we decided to head off to the right in the morning and then the left in the afternoon. We got to the top, being some of the only people there and began walking down back towards the fork, taking our time to soak up the views and take whatever photos we wanted. It is a funny thing; I used to tell friends and students the same story about where I lived in China, about living above a very busy park where at 6am in the morning you could hear locals screaming at the top of there lungs. So to bring this back on topic let me set the scene for you somewhat; we are surrounded by lovely broad-leaf forest, small waterfalls and dark blue waters with crisp cold air that you can see your breath on…suddenly for this shrill scream to appear from 20 or 30 meters behind us, followed by a few more screams and hysterical laughter. In that moment my heart dropped as the peaceful serenity of the situation was shattered and never to be found again for the remainder of the trip.
As I previously mentioned, we had planned this trip for as late as possible before leaving China in the hope that there would not be too many crowds to have to contend with. This unfortunately was just wishful thinking on my behalf, as there were literally thousands and thousands of people here with us. It only leaves me thinking how it must be during the summer months! However, although there were an ungodly amount of people there, we were able to go at our own pace, avoiding the crowds where we could and getting to relatively secluded spots to capture images that were breathtaking, giving the illusion at times that we were the only people there.
As for the national park itself, there is not a lot that I can tell you that the pictures we took can’t tell you, my words certainly couldn’t do this place justice! I had seen pictures on google before coming here and I had assumed that the pictures had been touched up in lightroom or photoshop; I was amazed to see that this was actually just how the place is! The coloration of the water comes from once glacial activity which was dammed by rock falls and other phenomena and then solidified by carbonate deposition. This all results in some of the bluest and greenest waters that I think I will ever see in my entire life!
To see more pictures of our trip here, please check out my gallery where I will put the rest of our photos from here.
The following day we jumped on the earliest bus that we could to go to a place called Huanglong, meaning Yellow Dragon in Chinese. If I thought that JZG was beautiful, then I was in for a real treat here. On the way there though we were given a speech about how a lot of people suffer greatly from the altitude; being over 3500m at the highest point, and being tempted with what I like to called “the mystery magic water”, which is just a very expensive drink (£10 roughly) that is supposed to prevent all side-effects of altitude sickness. It made me laugh when they had two different types, one for men and one for women; because apparently men and women are so completely different that the formula for the magic water must be totally different.
Anyway, we arrived and we began our ascent to the top with our two new elderly friends whom we met on the bus. Huanglong is a scenic and historic area of interest being located in the Minshan mountain range, which is roughly about a 2/2.5 hour bus drive from JZG. It is dotted all over with hundreds of small pools formed form calcite deposits and carbonic acid rock. Once you get to the top-most part of the walk you will see how the water changes from a sulphur yellow to a beautiful green and ending in a bright crystal clear clean blue colour. In and amongst this are one or two temples, and surrounding this is a huge mountain range. This all makes for an absolutely awe inspiring view, which for me trumped JZG, walking down through the reserve on you way back to the entrance you go past different hues of blues and greens which change with the time of day and the changing of the seasons.
If you ever wanted to come here, I would not recommend spending more than a day here, the last bus back to JZG leaves at 4pm, after which point you would have to try and bargain for a taxi (which is what we had to do) costing anywhere between 200RMB upwards, depending on how good your bargaining skills. We were lucky and got a taxi for about 200RMB, which when compared to UK prices is insanely cheap!
This was our last full day in JZG, after which we undertook the long journey back to Chengdu to spend the rest of our time going to a few places that we didn’t have time to visit in the first day or two.
I want to spend these last few thoughts offering a little advice for anyone that might choose to go here based on my own experience. If you are planning on coming to see the blue waters of JiuZhaiGou and Huanglong, then I would strongly recommend that if you can cope with cold weather, plan on coming in the winter, beginning in November through to about the end of March. I say this for a few reasons, the main one being the fact that there will not be too many people to have to contend with, also everything will be considerably cheaper! From entry prices to hotels and food, everything will be a great deal cheaper. Finally, if you are like me and you like to take photos, then I really can’t think of anything more beautiful than the blues of the water against the snow covered mountains! Just thinking about it makes me want to go straight back next month and spend a week photographing it! If however you choose to go during the peak seasons (Beginning of May – end of August/September) then be prepared for crowds and seeing humans turn in to animals in front of your very eyes!
Thank you so much for getting this far and spending your time reading this! Next week will be the last entry in this mini adventure! Please go and check out my gallery for more pictures from this leg of the journey.