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.
Misty mountains over Alpine evergreen forests near Arrow Bamboo Lake.
The tranquil water of Arrow Bamboo Lake acted like a mirror.
Beyond the mist revealed the snow-capped mountains.
The mist began to lift a little as we walked along the lake shore on designated boardwalk.
Beyond the lake we reached the peaceful Arrow Bamboo Falls.
Jiuzhaigou is famous for its uncounted number of waterfalls.
The 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.
Then the boardwalk continued to extend along Rize Valley.
Next came Panda Lake, which according to official descriptions, was once a popular drinking spot for wild giant pandas.
Today, it attracts buses after buses of tourists and zero panda.
Visitors gathered at the Panda Lake Falls.
Further down the path we reached one of the biggest highlights in the park, the Five Flower Lake.
The multi-coloured water of Five Flower Lake plus the reflection of autumn leaves was a painting of sheer beauty.
Around the lake, there were a number of lookout decks for visitors to enjoy the view.
Walking along the lake shore, no matter in which direction, the Five Flower Lake still looked magnificent.
There 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.
The sky got a little brighter as we moved on from Five Flower Lake.
The yellow foliage reflected on the turquoise water was incredible.
Fallen tree trunks, some of which could date back to hundreds and thousands of years, could be seen in many Jiuzhaigou lakes.
We 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