adventure, backpacking, Chengdu, China, happiness, Jiuzhaigou, Jiuzhaigou National Park, Jiuzhaiguo, lakes, Nourilang Waterfalls, Panda Waterfalls, photography, Sichuan, Spring Airlines, thoughts, travels, Tsingtao beer, UNESCO, wanderlust, winter, Xinnanmen Bus Station
Jiuzhaigou National Park is a testament to Mother Nature’s work of wonder. It gives you a serene feeling, that surge of happiness and the answer to why keep travelling. It is China’s beautiful surprise to travellers. I was surprised! Especially with all the negative travel publicities in my twitter news feed. I was awed that they’re able to maintain the unspoiled look of the landscapes.
The National Park transports you somewhere in countryside Europe. The bus ride reminds me of Isle of Skye, the glassy waters bring back Interlaken, Switzerland and the sceneries are cut-outs from Bavaria, Germany. It’s more than beautiful. More than amazing.
The Park is part of the Tibetan plains occupying 700 hectares. It became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992 and home to some Tibetan Villages. Don’t be surprised if some of the names are in Tibetan language and not the standard Chinese. Tibet border is only 2 hours away.
They say winter is not the best time to visit but I disagree. The whiteness of the snowy winter was in contrast with the glorious loud colours of the blue mountains, mirror green lakes, cascading waterfalls and the autumn leftover colors of the trees. Some of the lakes and waterfalls were frozen and you can visibly see what was trapped inside.
Based on my research (I researched a lot before any travel!), there is only one route to Jiuzhaigou – the bus – and nope, it’s not a sleeper’s bus. You have to sit for seven to nine hours from Chengdu. The endless view, though, compensates for your aching ass and stiff back. I think they’re already constructing a train but no one knows when.
I have low expectations of our China backpacking leg. I was looking forward to Mongolia but China came as an amazing addition to my travel stories. We never encountered rude stories or unfortunate acts from the locals. We were safe and had really fun. We met a family from Hong Kong with their two little kids following us everywhere. The nine-year-old boy wanted to be in our EVERY photo! What’s best, he became our tour guide! He was part of a tour group and could speak English well. We nicknamed him the TNB (Tunay na Boss) or little boss.
On our way to the park, we met a Dutch couple and they told us to show any kind of ID to the inspector to avail of student discount. Sorry but we obliged. We saved from CNY180 to CNY120 that includes entrance fee and the bus (back and forth) to the top. No worries, the money went to a good cause – tasting their local beers. Tsingtao beer is totally recommended! We met the couple again in the restaurant for dinner with my friend feeling embarrassed to take out our left-overs (she got a little crush on him).
By the way, we recommend our hostel YHA! The owner-receptionist upgraded us from a dormitory to a double room. He doesn’t speak/understand English but he would always find/call someone from his guests to help translate for us. He was very accommodating considering that we paid $5 each (105CNY) only (3 girls). Great location with 10-mins walk to the park and a neighbor to restaurants and convenience stores. Great value for your money.
Cheers from us! if you have questions, ask away!
adventure, art, backpacking, culture, friendships, Gaya's Guesthouse, Genghis Khan, ger camp, happiness, Karakorum, Kharkhorin, Mongolia, Mongols, nature, New Year 2017, photography, reflections, thoughts, travels, Ulaan Baatar, wanderlust, winter
Five days in the Land of Genghis Khan and I’m already planning of visiting it again. Its capital, Ulaan Baatar, is the coldest city in the world so our winter travel itinerary is actually a box of insanity. We bravely embraced the negative 30C temperature (swings to -50 at night) with thermal suits and layered coats. Still, what’s better time than the winter time. Imagine white snow draped over endless landscapes of green or brown ridges with cloudless blue sky or moonless starry night. Picture wild horses and camels traversing along the Gobi sands. Think of a city full of solitude with friendly smiles and tomato cheeks! A country rich with history. Freezing but fascinating.
From Beijing, we took the cheapest but the hardest route of land border travel. We hopped on a sleeper’s bus in Muxiyuan Bus Station (180CNY) and arrived in Erlian (inner Mongolia) the next day. We then took a pick up to Zamyn Udd (75CNY) and crossed over the border (1hr). Here we got on the famous Trans-Mongolian train (22,850 MNT) to the capital for 14 hours. It looks simple but actually not.
Some tips for your future travel:
It was in this journey that we met some interesting people with overwhelming kindness to strangers – Tsuyoshi from Japan and the locals Tsengel, Altaa, Ugna (+boyfriend) and Gaya. Mongolia has one of the biggest black markets in the world so one has to be extra careful. Tsuyoshi who goes by his last name Abe never left us from Beijing to Mongolia and back to China even though we are 3 crazy girls with imposing attitudes. Tsengel, a Mongolian postgraduate student in Beijing, went home to his family only after he walked us to our hotel, exchange currency and settled to a local buffet. All through the night aboard the Trans-Mongolian train, he only slept after looking over us. Altaa, Ugna and boyfriend also helped us crossed the border and mind you, it’s not a friendly place for female travellers. This border is identified as a human trafficking hotspot. Many women disappeared and never resurfaced. So, I was really relieved and thankful that we made it smoothly.
From Ulaan Baatar, we moved to the 13th century capital of the Great Mongol Empire, Karakorum/Kharkhorin, to experience living in a traditional ger camp. The temperature was supposed to be a bit friendlier because it’s down south but we ended in a blistering cold (I was swearing at some point during the night even after chugging on some vodka). Still, the ger experience is one of kind. It offers a slice of the traditional lives of the Mongols. If you plan to visit it, pls contact Gaya and she will arrange everything for you. She has a magic wand to whip whatever you need! Her website is http://gayas-guesthouse.strikingly.com/ or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. She opened the Erdene Zuu Monastery for us!
On our last day, we had an unfortunate event. My friend’s wallet was stolen by a pickpocket in the bus station. Fortunately, her passport, phones and other valuables were not taken. Nevertheless, this incident can never eclipsed our amazing Mongolian experience. It was too short but fun – trekking the old silk road in Karakorum, seeing the Gobi desert, appreciating their culture and cuisine, walking on the paths previously walked on by the Great Mongol Empire and being at the receiving end of the local’s hospitality. It was actually an epic adventure, one for the books.
I think you’ll appreciate Mongolia if you have knowledge of its rich history (Genghis and Kublai Khans, Marco Polo, Manchurias, Yuan dynasty, Silk road etc.). Else, you’ll find it as just one exotic country. By far, this is my coldest travel experience.
[Unedited version] Written aboard the plane yesterday from Taipei to Bangkok. My 1st journal for 2017.
Every person has its own story. Every story has its own ending. Every ending leads to a new beginning. Cheers to 2017.
Caesar Cyril Tablante treats Japan like a 30-minute taxi ride. He was there again last December to spend winter holidays. He used the hashtag #JaFUN (witty!) and looks like he had really some fun.
This guy is horribly busy that I thought he’ll never find time to answer my question what makes Japan a fun experience. Here’s what he has to say:
Japan is a great country to immerse yourself in the unique cultural mix of Shintoism and Buddhism while unraveling yourself in the latest technological innovations of the 21st century.
All photos belong to Cyril. You can follow him or just browse for more photos on his instagram account largecaesarsalad. You can also leave a comment and ask him to chill! 🙂
I featured some of his Japan photos on another post last year – Cyril in Tokyo, Japan. Check it out.