ultramarinus – beyond the sea

2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou

DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

Leaving Huanglong behind, our taxi drove northwest into the mountains.  The ride to Jiuzhaigou-Huanglong Airport was roughly an hour long.  The mountainous scenery along the way was pleasant under the sun.  The airport was busy with passengers designated to either Chengdu or Chongqing.  Our flight to Xian only operates during peak tourist season.  It was already dark when we arrived at Xian after the 1.5 hour flight.  Stepping out of the airport, we could immediately tell the difference in the air, from the refreshing highland air of Sichuan to the typical urban smog of a Chinese big city.  It was raining heavily and we decided to take a taxi returning to Hantang House, the guesthouse that we stayed at in the first half of the trip.

Hantang House is a simple guesthouse hidden in an alleyway within walking distance from Xian’s Bell Tower.  Given the affordable price, central location, youth hostel ambience, good selection of international beer and local ice pop, we were quite happy with the stay.  We dropped down our backpacks and walked out to a nearby shopping centre for dinner.  Originally we opted for a popular hotpot restaurant, but eventually gave up when we were told that the wait for a table would be 2.5 hours.  We ended up going to a fish based hotpot restaurant in another shopping centre.  In the next morning, we walked across the alleyway to Xiaohe, a street eatery right outside of our guesthouse.  That was our second and the last opportunity to taste the spicy noodles and local burger made with crispy baked bread.  At the lobby of Hantang House, we said goodbye to the friendly cat which always greeted visitors whenever it was awaken.  We sat around the high wooden table in front of the lobby reception and waited for the American lady whom we would share a taxi to the airport.  Our short trip to Xian and Jiuzhaigou had come to an end.  This concludes our record for this trip.

IMG_7942.JPGThe mountainous terrains near Huanglong reminded us that we were at the southern region of Minshan Mountains.

img_7959Enroute to the Jiuzhai-Huanglong Airport from Huanglong.

dsc_0441Ascending to the sky from Jiuzhaig Huanglong Airport, we could see the a series of snow capped mountains in the area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHidden in an alleyway, it took us a little while at our first night to find our way to the front door of Hantang House.

dsc_7256The lobby of Hantang House resembled a pub.

dsc_7258The front desk of Hantang House.

dsc_7769Xiaohe, the local eatery just across the alleyway from Hantang House.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal burger with fried egg and mixed vegetables in baked bread.

img_8381Spicy noodles were quite delicious, though we had to causally sit on tiny wooden stools at the sidewalk to finish them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAXiaohe Eatery and its table and stools on the sidewalk.

dsc_7752We said farewell to the cute cat at Hantang House.

dsc_7761The friendly cat in the lobby was part of the hospitality of Hantang House.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

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DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China

The hired taxi picked us up at our guesthouse at around 6:30am.  Our flight back to Xian was at 4:50pm.  We planned to arrive at Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport at 2:30pm, so giving us half a day to explore Huanglong (黃龍), another World Heritage scenic designation in the region.  Huanglong is famous for its travertine landscape and colourful calcite pools, similar to the ones in Pamukkale of Turkey.  The taxi ride from Jiuzhaigou to Huanglong took almost three hours on well-paved road.  The weather didn’t look too promising.  It was rainy when we arrived at Huanglong visitor centre.   Though our taxi driver was quite optimistic about the weather, saying that a rainy morning down at the entrance would usually turn out fine when we get up the mountains.  We got our admission and cable car tickets, found our way through a long covered walkway and reached the cable car station.

Several minutes of cable car ride took us up to about 3400m above sea level, where our Huanglong hike began.  There was light rain and fog.  Occasionally as the fog moved, we would get a faint view of the surrounding snow-capped mountains.  The air was chilly but moist and refreshing.  Mountain moss was all over from ground to branches.  We followed the signs pointing towards the famous Five Colour Pond (五彩池), which was about half an hour of gentle uphill hike from the cable car station.  We hoped the rain would stop and fog would be lifted by the time we reached the pond.  We reached the main viewing platform of the Five Colour Pond at almost 3600m above sea level.  The rain had stopped but it was still a little foggy.  We stayed on the platform for a while.  After 10 minutes standing on the platform, the fog began to clear.  As we continued to walk along the Five Colour Pond, the sky get brighter and the air warmer.  At last we could see the true colour of the Five Colour Pond under decent sunlight.  Under the morning sun the turquoise and yellow pools of the Five Colour Pond formed a spectacular gradient of tones.  The Five Colour Pond was the highest point in Huanglong at about 3600m.  From there onward it would be a gradual descend for us to walk back down to the visitor centre at the mountain foot.  _A145916.JPGWith tickets in hands, we followed the long covered walkway to the cable car station.

dsc_9896Huanglong was rainy and cold when we arrived at the upper cable car station.

dsc_9911Much of the surrounding evergreen forest was covered by the fog,

dsc_9918After few minutes into the hike we could see the Five Colour Pond from afar.

dsc_9941Snow-capped mountains were in all four directions

dsc_9976Looking down the valley we could see the Huanglong Middle Temple.

dsc_9981Looking uphill we could see the travertine landscape and colourful pools.

dsc_9995Highland trees were changing their colour to autumn foliage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was still foggy as we approached the Five Colour Pond.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClose up of the Five Colour Pond.

dsc_0041View of the Five Colour Pond as seen from the main deck.

dsc_0107Five Colour Pond and the main viewing deck.

dsc_0112The colours get brighter when the fog was lifted.

dsc_0133Overview of the Five Colour Pond.

dsc_0162Five Colour Pond under the sun.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 

 


DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China

From Nuorilang, we walked northwards to Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝), wanting to check out the sights that we had yet covered the day before.  The first lake we came upon was Rhinoceros Lake (犀牛海).  Despite the name, no rhinoceros could be seen.  The name only refers to a Tibetan legend when a sick old man and his rhinoceros came to this lake, healed by drinking the water and eventually stayed at the lake forever after.  We continued to walk northwards along the shore until reaching another small lake, the Tiger Lake (老虎海).  We had no idea where the name of Tiger Lake came from.  However, there was a spot at Tiger Lake where stripe-like reflection of a row of shrubs did kind of resemble tiger stripes in an abstract way.  Further downstream we passed a point where the tranquil water of Tiger Lake flowed over a sloped shoal, and soon turned into a series of small waterfalls.  We found ourselves standing before an open shoal where trees and shrubs grew out of the shallow water.  In a distance across the road we could see the buildings and Tibetan flags of Shuzheng Village (樹正寨).  On the shoal, a few timber buildings supported on stilts over the moving water captured our attention.  Accessible via timber bridges, one of these houses also contained a traditional watermill underneath the house.

Overlooking Shuzheng Lake Cluster (樹正群海), a series of turquoise lakes separated by tree-lined natural dikes, Shuzheng Village (樹正寨) is the largest village in Jiuzhaigou.  After walking up a sloped path, we entered the village through a large archway which said “Jiuzhaigou Ethnic Cultural Village” (九寨溝民俗文化村).  We didn’t stay long in the touristy village where many traditional Tibetan houses had been converted into souvenir shops catered for domestic visitors.  The emergence of mass tourism seemed completely transformed the former Tibetan community into a shadow of its past.  A few minutes walk from the village entrance, we arrived at a colourful building, a temple of some sort.  In front of the temple, we saw two large Tibetan mastiffs confined in a small cage.  The dogs were barking and jumping up against the cage, desperately wanting to get out while their owners were nowhere to be seen.  It was a cruel sight to watch.  We quietly turned back and left the disappointing Shuzheng Village.  It was already past 5pm, and the park would close its doors soon.  We hopped on a shuttle bus for the main gate.

After years of imagination and expectations, and one-and-a-half day of real experience in Jiuzhaigou gave us scenes after scenes of remarkable scenery, a few occasions of serenity in the early morning and a decent sense of autumn from the vivid palette of nature, but also some moments of disappointments from seeing how mass tourism had made its impact upon the landscape of this once a natural paradise.

dsc_9723Like the other lakes, Rhinoceros Lake was full of fallen branches and trunks in its turquoise water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAncient tree trunks in turquoise water is one of the main features of Jiuzhaigou.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInteresting reflection of shrubs at Tiger Lake.

dsc_9761The peaceful water of Tiger Lake enters the vegetated shoal of Shuzheng.

dsc_9802Steps of waterfalls and the stilt structures near Shuzheng Village.

dsc_9820There was an old watermill under one of the stilted house over the water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe watermill is used for grinding inside the house.

dsc_9831View of Shuzheng Lake Cluster as seen from the entrance of Shuzheng Village.

dsc_9836Entrance of Shuzheng Village lies across the street from the lookout of Shuzheng Lake Cluster.

dsc_9839The entrance archway of Shuzheng Ethnic Cultural Village.

dsc_9840Most of the houses were converted into souvenir shops.

dsc_9843The colourful temple at the back of the village.

dsc_9852Dried maize under the eaves of the temple at Shuzheng Village.

dsc_9849Seeing the anxious massive Tibetan mastiffs confined in a small cage was a depressing scene.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe quietly left the village under the colourful Tibetan flags.

dsc_9860A row of colourful flags and white Buddhist stupas mark the entrance of Shuzheng Village.

dsc_9871On our way out of the park, our bus passed by the Bonsai Shoal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way back to guesthouse, we rewarded ourselves with a bowl of local spicy tofu.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 

 

 


DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China

In the morning we had visited part of Rize Valley (日則溝).  In the afternoon we would move on to Zechawa (則查窪溝).  Nuorilang (諾日朗) is the junction point where visitors may switch shuttle buses between the two valleys.  From Nuorilang Waterfall we followed the park signage to the right bus stop for Zechawa.  In order to reach the bus stop we had to walk through a large complex full of souvenir stalls.  The buses shuttled visitors all the way to Long Lake (長海) at the end of Zechawa Valley.   The journey took roughly 20 minutes.  We got off at Long Lake at around 2pm.  Hungry and tired, we sat down on a step at the viewing platform of Long Lake.  At 3,150m, Long Lake is one of the high point in Jiuzhaigou.  Being the largest and deepest, Long Lake is a scenic glacial lake with no obvious water outlets.  Local legends also painted the lake with a mystic touch of monster stories.  Sitting in front of an ancient pine, we had a quick snack break.

After we savoured some pork jerky and bread, once again we followed the park signage for the next destination, the famous Five Colour Lake (五彩池).  The only boardwalk heading to the Five Colour Lake was packed with tourists all heading the same direction.  It became more crowded when we reached the Five Colour Lake, where people spontaneously stopped to take photos of the ultra turquoise water of Five Colour Lake whenever they wished.  Compared to the lakes at Rize Valley, the Five Colour Lake was relatively tiny, making it impossible to walk on the boardwalk leisurely to absorb the atmosphere.  There wasn’t much to explore at the Five Colour Lake, except its water had the deepest turquoise and blue colours found nowhere else.  After the lake, we hopped on a shuttle bus back to Nuorilang.  In the remaining time of the day, we decided to check out the part of Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝) that we hadn’t visit the day before.

dsc_9574At Nuorilang,  we hopped on a shuttle bus heading to Long Lake at Zechawa Valley.

dsc_9578Surrounded by pine and cedar forests and snow-capped mountains, Long Lake is the deepest and largest lake in Jiuzhaigou.

dsc_9586Long Lake is also home to legends of lake monsters.

dsc_9590The strangely looking ancient pine is the centerpiece at the lookout of Long Lake.

dsc_9605We walked as part of the crowd to the Five Colour Lake.

dsc_9618Because of its small size and fame, the Five Colour Lake was the most crowded sight we had encountered at Jiuzhaigou.

dsc_9629Leaving the crowd out of the picture, the deep turquoise water of Five Colour Lake was very impressive.

dsc_9671Apart from the blue water, there wasn’t much else to check out at Five Colour Lake.

dsc_9673Spectators could only view the lake from one side of the water.

dsc_9684Looking back at Five Colour Lake from the end of the raised boardwalk.

dsc_9687There was a visitor pavilion near the shuttle bus stop.  This kind of establishments could be found at a number of spots throughout the park.

dsc_9686After Five Colour Lake, we took the shuttle bus back to Nuorilang.

dsc_9694On our way, we passed by the Seasonal Lakes, a series of three small lakes famous for their fluctuating water level at different times of the year.

dsc_9708As we approached Nuorilang, we passed by Zechawa Village, a Tibetan village turned tourist stop for souvenirs and cultural display.  We didn’t bother to get off.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China

Just a short walk from the incredible Five Flower Lake came the next highlight of Jiuzhaigou, the Pearl Shoals Waterfall (珍珠灘瀑布).  We approached the falls from its upper level, where shallow water flowed on a vast area of rocky shoals.  We followed the path to a 40m cliff where the Pearl Shoals Waterfall finally revealed its side to us.  A large group of spectators concentrated on the stair adjacent to the fall.  We slowly walked down to the bottom of the fall to admire its 160m length.  The water flow wasn’t thundering, but the sheer scale of the waterfall was impressive and could be enjoy from a number of viewpoints.  Matched perfectly with the surrounding landscape, Pearl Shoals Waterfall looked surprisingly peaceful despite its scale.

We followed the stream water of Pearl Shoals Waterfall eastwards to another tranquil water body, Mirror Lake (鏡海).  The turquoise water and autumn foliage at Mirror Lake provided a peaceful break from the excitement of Pearl Shoals Waterfall.  A brief sun break gave us a moment of warmth as we leisurely stroll along the lake.  The distant snow-capped mountain finally revealed itself behind the clouds.  Under the sun, the colours of the autumn foliage appeared more vividly, casting colourful reflections on the lake surface.  We walked the full length of Mirror Lake from west to east, crossed the road where shuttle buses ran, and walked down a stair to another prominent waterfall, the Nuorilang Waterfall (諾日朗瀑布).  Roughly 32m in length, “Nuorilang” in Tibetan means “grand and magnificent”.   It was already 1:30pm when we reached Nuorilanf Waterfall.  We didn’t stay for long at Nuorilang and decided to embark on the journey up the other section of the Park, Zechawa Valley at the left branch of the “Y”.

dsc_9253Shallow water ran over the rocky shoals, like a plain of flowing water.

dsc_9268Shrubs and rocks dotted over Pearl Shoals.

dsc_9266The water gradually ran down the shoal to the cliff edge and eventually became the Pearl Shoals Waterfall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPearl Shoals Waterfall as seen from the stair adjacent to the falls.

dsc_9321The sky was clearing up and we could see the snow mountains beyond the waterfall.

dsc_9342At the base of Pearl Shoal Waterfall, water streamed down the rocky landscape into a series of small waterfalls.

dsc_9350Watching hundreds of small streams running down the cliff of Pearl Shoals was a pleasant experience despite the crowds around us.

dsc_9352Looking back to the Pearl Shoals Waterfall as we slowly walked across the shore.

dsc_9387All streams of the waterfall running down the cliff converged into a small river flowing away.

dsc_9415As we walked away from the main Pearl Shoals Waterfall, series of small waterfalls continued to run down the cliff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASilence returned as we left Pearl Shoals Waterfall behind and reached the Mirror Lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun finally came out and we could enjoy some moments of warmth.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite the autumn foliage hadn’t reach its peak, we still enjoyed taking photos of the occasional red and yellow leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJiuzhaigou National Park is actually surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  Brief moments of sun breaks allowed us to have a few glimpses of the magnificent peaks.

dsc_9481It was a delightful walk along Mirror Lake under the sun.

dsc_9491It wasn’t long until we reached the end of the boardwalk along Mirror Lake.

dsc_9553Not far from Mirror Lake, we arrived at another feature waterfall in Jiuzhaigou, Nuorilang Waterfall.

dsc_9557The myriad small streams down the cliff of Nuorilang formed a perfect setting for a atmospheric landscape painting.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China

The next day, we woke up before sunrise.  Knowing that the national park would become crowded soon after opening its doors, we opted to arrive at the park’s gate right at its opening time at 7am.  Our guesthouse offered us shuttle service to the park.  When we arrived at the ticket office at 7am, the queuing scene was already quite hectic.  However, we did manage to get our tickets and boarded on one of the shuttle buses to enter the park.  The three main valleys of Jiuzhaigou can be seen as the three branches that form a “Y”.  The bottom branch is known as Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝), starting from the park entrance at the bottom and ends at Nuorilang (諾日朗), where the park branches into two directions, left to Zechawa Valley (則查洼溝) and right to Rize Valley (日則溝).  We knew we wouldn’t have time to see everything in a single day, so we had decided to start the day at Arrow Bamboo Lake (箭竹海) in the middle of Rize Valley, skipping the virgin forests and a few lakes at the deepest end of the park.

The bus ride to our destination Arrow Bamboo Lake took a little over half an hour.  When we reached Arrow Bamboo Lake, time was still early and we could still enjoy the serenity of the misty morning.  The water was perfectly still as if a huge mirror.  No wonder Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (張藝謀) chose this lake for a poetic duel scene in his epic martial art wuxia drama Hero.  It wasn’t raining but the air was wet and chilly from yesterday’s rain.  Some trees had already changed to autumn colours but we knew we were about one week too early to admire the peak autumn foliage of Jiuzhaigou.  Beyond Arrow Bamboo Lake we reached Arrow Bamboo Falls (箭竹海瀑布).  The boardwalk structure allowed us to have a close encounter with the waterfalls.  Onward on our journey we reached Panda Lake (熊貓海), another mirror-like turquoise lake.  Named after old stories about how wild giant pandas loved to come down for a drink, the endangered Chinese icon hadn’t shown up at Panda Lake for many years.  Hidden beyond Panda Lake was another spectacular waterfall, the Panda Lake Falls (熊貓海瀑布).  Then we continued our hike towards one of the park’s centerpieces, the Five Flower Lake (五花海).  With its turquoise water, and vivid autumn colours from the surroundings,  the picturesque Five Flower Lake was truly the highlight of Jiuzhaigou.  The trail led us to circle around the colourful lake, bringing us from one end of the lake to the opposite end where a large viewing platform was erected.  Visitors gathered in large number on the platform to take pictures.

dsc_8602Misty mountains over Alpine evergreen forests near Arrow Bamboo Lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tranquil water of Arrow Bamboo Lake acted like a mirror.

dsc_8653Beyond the mist revealed the snow-capped mountains.

dsc_8628The mist began to lift a little as we walked along the lake shore on designated boardwalk.

dsc_8683Beyond the lake we reached the peaceful Arrow Bamboo Falls.

dsc_8703Jiuzhaigou is famous for its uncounted number of waterfalls.

dsc_8724The Arrow Bamboo Falls was one of the smaller waterfalls that we encountered during the day, but its close proximity to the boardwalk allowed us to have a close encounter, as if we were embraced by the moving water.

dsc_8735Then the boardwalk continued to extend along Rize Valley.

dsc_8827Next came Panda Lake, which according to official descriptions, was once a popular drinking spot for wild giant pandas.

dsc_8837Today, it attracts buses after buses of tourists and zero panda.

dsc_8847Visitors gathered at the Panda Lake Falls.

dsc_8945Further down the path we reached one of the biggest highlights in the park, the Five Flower Lake.

dsc_8987The multi-coloured water of Five Flower Lake plus the reflection of autumn leaves was a painting of sheer beauty.

dsc_9006Around the lake, there were a number of lookout decks for visitors to enjoy the view.

dsc_9057Walking along the lake shore, no matter in which direction, the Five Flower Lake still looked magnificent.

dsc_9098There was a larger viewing platform at the end of Five Flower Lake, where visitors gathered to take photos.  Costumes of native ethnic groups could be rented for photo taking.

dsc_9111The sky got a little brighter as we moved on from Five Flower Lake.

dsc_9165The yellow foliage reflected on the turquoise water was incredible.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFallen tree trunks, some of which could date back to hundreds and thousands of years, could be seen in many Jiuzhaigou lakes.

dsc_9223We were a week or so too early for the peak autumn foliage.  At certain spots we could still witness a sense of fall at the Five Flower Lake.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 


DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China

An hour-long morning flight brought us from the ancient Chinese capital Xian to the southern part of Minshan Mountains (岷山), a transitional area where the flat Sichuan Basin meets with the Tibetan Plateau.  Geologically it is right on the vaultline between the Yangtze Plate and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plate, and is therefore prone to earthquakes.  Ecologically it is the habitat for the endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys and giant pandas.  For travelers, it is an famous destination for two of China’s scenic attractions: Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝) and Huanglong (黃龍).  At 8:15am, we landed at the Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, a highland airport (about 3400m above sea level) opened in 2003 to serve the constantly growing demand of tourism.  We hopped on a minibus outside the airport for Jiuzhaigou.  The bus ride took a little over an hour, traveling through villages, mountain passes, and valleys.  Just as suspected, the minibus dropped everyone off at a village parking lot some 10 minutes of drive away from Pengfeng Village (彭豐村), where the main gate of Jiuzhaigou National Park and our guesthouse were located.  A bunch of taxi drivers came over as if hawks saw their preys.  Despite the rain, we pushed away the drivers and attempted to find our own way to Pengfeng.  We walked into the adjacent village (don’t even know the name) and asked around.  We eventually flagged down a car whose driver (a guesthouse owner) was willing to drive us to Pengfeng for a small fee.  By the time we reached our guesthouse Friendship Hostel in Pengfeng, it was almost noon.

It didn’t took us long to refresh ourselves and began our afternoon adventure into Jiuzhaigou National Park.  It was a 20 minute from our guesthouse to the park entrance.  It was rainy and chilly and hardly visitors were entering the park this late in the day.  We bought the admission ticket excluding the shuttle bus fare as we wanted to do some hiking in the area close to the park entrance, while leaving most of the park highlights for the next day.  It was a slippery hike in a wet afternoon, but we had the trail pretty much all by ourselves.  Our plan was to walk as far as we could and get a taste of the park.  Along the Shuzheng River, in the remaining time of the day before the park closed, we covered the lower half of Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝).  Despite the rain, we had some tranquil moments on the trail until reaching the area between Bonsai Shoals (盆景灘) and Sparking Lake (火花海), where apart from the magnificent turquoise lakes and scenic waterfalls, we also had our first experience of the horrific tourist crowds, which unfortunately, was also what Jiuzhaigou is well known for in recent years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinding through valleys and passes, the airport bus passed by a kitschy welcome sign of Jiuzhaigou in the middle of nowhere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASnow was already present at mountain passes on our way to Jiuzhaigou.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt noon, we finally reached Friendship Hostel at Pengfeng Village.  We chose to stay at Pengfeng because of its walkable distance from the park entrance.  Despite simple, the guesthouse had a causal and welcoming atmosphere.

dsc_8348We reached the visitor centre and ticket office of Jiuzhaigou National Park at about 1pm.  It was rainy and chilly and we were a little tired from the early morning flight, but our hearts were excited.

dsc_8349The trail along Shuzheng River was mostly consisted of boardwalk paths.

dsc_8374The hike was wet and sometimes slippery, but we felt like we were the only visitors for the first two hours.

dsc_8389Out of the nine Tibetan villages in Jiuzhaigou, seven are still populated.  Closest to the park entrance, Heye Village (荷葉寨) is also one of the biggest.  As we approached Heye, the rain began to recede.

dsc_8397Heye Village (荷葉寨) was the first village we encountered.  Houses in Heye were still decorated in Tibetan style.

dsc_8408Village houses of Heye Villag (荷葉寨).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Heye Village, we continued to walk along Shuzheng River until reaching an area with a number of small lakes, including Bonzai Shoals (盆景灘), Reeds Lake (蘆葦海), Double Dragon Lake (雙龍海), Sparkling Lake (火花海), and Sleeping Dragon Lake (臥龍海).  Despite the gloomy weather, we had our first glimpses of Jiuzhaigou’s crystal clear turquoise water.

dsc_8427Water plants were clearly visible in the crystal water.

dsc_8458At Reeds Lake (蘆葦海), the reeds can grow as tall as human height.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADrying reeds on racks near Reeds Lake (蘆葦海).

dsc_8465Winding boardwalk along Reeds Lake (蘆葦海).

dsc_8484A Tibetan roadside shrine with colourful prayer flags.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABird enthusiast taking photos of an eagle with a professional telephoto lens.

dsc_8513With water coming from two opposite ridges, one of the highlights of our day was Sparkling Lake Waterfalls (火花海瀑布).

dsc_8558Looking down the turquoise water of Sleeping Dragon Lake (臥龍海) from the zigzag boardwalk on the higher ridge.

dsc_8541Small waterfalls at both sides of the boardwalk from one lake down to another were virtually everywhere in the Sparkling Lake (火花海) area.

dsc_8591It was almost 7pm when we returned to Pengfeng Village.  We opted for a recently established restaurant of Chongqing cuisine for dinner and retired to our guesthouse after a brief visit to a small grocery shop.  As we hoped for a good rest in a rather cold night, all we could wish was some fine weather in the next morning.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China