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DAY 1 (1/3): TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.16

Leaving all daily troubles behind, we left Hong Kong for Chengdu on a Friday evening in mid September.  By the time we arrived at the provincial capital of Sichuan two hours later, it was almost 11pm.  We had several hours to kill at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (成都雙流國際機場) before our connecting flight to Lhasa at 6am the next morning.  At Terminal 1 of Chengdu , we sat down at a quiet corner in the departure hall until 3am.  Then we exited the terminal, and walked over to Terminal 2 for our Lhasa flight.  We were sleepy as expected, and could only managed to get a bit more rest on the 2-hour flight.  After an hour into the flight, the sun was already up above the clouds.  As we approached Tibet, we could occasionally see beautiful snow-capped peaks sticking out of the clouds.  During the descend, after our plane passed through the thick layer of clouds, we were excited to find the glorious terrains of the Tibetan Plateau below.  The Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) and Lhasa River (拉薩河) near Lhasa Gonggar Airport (拉薩貢嘎機場) glowed under the morning sun.  Our plane made a few turns before touching down onto the runway strip surrounded by patches of yellow trees. We didn’t prearrange any pick up from the airport.  There were plenty of airport buses outside the airport and only costed us 25 RMB each (compared to 300 RMB for taxi and 500 RMB for private pickup).  The ride to Central Lhasa took roughly an hour.

DSC_8652It was almost midnight when we arrived at Chengdu.

DSC_8653.JPGAt 3am, we walked over to Terminal 2 for our Lhasa flight.

DSC_8687Occasional snow-capped peaks appeared above the clouds.

DSC_8711Despite exhaustion from the sleepless night, the excitement of seeing the mountainous landscape below kept our eyes opened until landing.

DSC_8720Descending below the layer of clouds was like entering a different world.

DSC_8721Under the clouds, the rugged landscape and the river valley received the first morning light of the day.

DSC_8729The flow of Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) offers a touch of colour to the otherwise dark brown terrain near Lhasa.

DSC_8738Under the light of morning sun, Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) glowed in the dark and rugged terrains.

DSC_8747The flood plains of Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) near the airport were dotted with yellow trees.

DSC_8753Surrounded by rugged mountains, Lhasa Gonggar Airport (拉薩貢嘎機場) is a simple airport that connects Lhasa to several Chinese cities including Chengdu and Beijing.

IMG_2337The bus ride out to Central Lhasa took about an hour.  The journey passed by river valleys and through mountain tunnels until reaching the suburb of Lhasa.

IMG_2354The bus passed by the majestic Potala as it approached the station nearby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the bus station at the shadow of the Potala, our exploration of Lhasa officially began.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

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JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)

It has been many years since I dreamed of visiting Tibet.  Yet it only took us a little over a month to plan for this trip and invite our Canadian friend Maggie to join.  The itinerary consisted of two parts: 4 days in Lhasa and surrounding monasteries, and 6 days on the road climaxed with a close encounter with Mount Everest’s north face at the Everest Base Camp.  Apart from occasional hassles of security checkpoints, our Tibetan story was largely filled with breathtaking scenery, photogenic monasteries and joyful laughter among the three of us.

Under rapid modernization in recent years, Tibet has been changing drastically.  Since the opening of Qinghai-Tibet Railway, more highways and rail roads are being constructed every year, connecting Tibet with the rest of China.  Modern infrastructure has brought in a large influx of local tourists and commercial goods.  Given the inevitable social changes and urbanization of Lhasa, we were delighted to discover that the local Tibetan lifestyle is still going strong at many places, especially at Buddhist monasteries where locals pilgrims and monks still practise their traditional rituals, and at rural areas where farmers still live off the land raising yaks and sheep, and farming the famous Highland barley.

For 11 days we had the blessing of promising weather, even the infamous gusty and freezing weather at Everest Base Camp and Namtso Lake didn’t come to trouble us while we enjoyed the spectacle of the Milky Way and shooting stars over snow-capped mountains.  The rich culture of Tibetan Buddhism was equally spectacular and visible almost everywhere from vivid prayer flags at mountain passes to the myriad of prostrating pilgrims around Jokhang Monastery and the majestic Potala in Lhasa.  For us, the centuries old spirituality was inseparable from the Tibetan landscape.  At the land of mystic Shangri-La where heavenly landscapes coincide with the spirituality of the Buddhist Mandala, we had experienced a marvelous journey that defied fatigue from a red eye flight, occasional altitude sickness, and days of awful toilets.

DSC_0385Our first part of the trip concentrated on exploring Lhasa, the sacred capital of Tibet.  Walking the clockwise kora (pilgrimage) on Barkhor Street around Jokhang Monastery was an interesting experience that we had everyday during our stay in Lhasa.

DSC_1963Our second part of the trip was an remarkable road journey of ancient monasteries and spectacular scenery of snow-capped mountains and pristine lakes.  We were fortunate to enjoy beautiful weather and clear sky while admiring the starry sky from the Everest Base Camp and Namtso Lake.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


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


DAY 6 – DESCEND FROM FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), China

After the Five Colour Pond, we stopped by a colourful Buddhist temple known as Huanglong Ancient Temple (黃龍古寺).  Outside the temple, we sat down on a bench and took out the sandwiches brought with us from our guesthouse.  It was chilly and we quickly finished our lunch and began our walk downhill.  From about 3600m above sea level at the temple, we followed the designated path and descend to other major sights of Huanglong.  The Five Colour Pond was only the first of many travertine pools in Huanglong.  Next came a series of clusters of turquoise pools including Flamboyant Pond (爭豔池), Azalea Pond (娑蘿映彩池), Mirror Pond (明鏡倒映池), Bonsai Pond (盆景池), etc.  Gentle waterfalls over white calcified terrain and the dense evergreen forests created a picture of visual contrast, while occasional yellow foliage stood out as brushes of vivid highlights.  Our descend to the park entrance took a little over two hours.  We made it just on time, about five minutes before 2pm when our taxi driver would come pick us up for the airport.

Unlike Jiuzhaigou where our experience relied heavily on shuttle buses, Huanglong was primarily a hiking experience.  Visiting Huanglong was a pleasant hike of meandering through the surreal calcite terrains at high altitude.  Huanglong was less crowded and in a way less touristy.  The three days at Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong were physical demanding, but were also highly rewarding.

dsc_0178Huanglong Ancient Temple (黃龍古寺), where we took a lunch break at its forecourt.

dsc_0206Elevated boardwalks provide most of the park trails.

dsc_0214Huanglong Middle Temple (黃龍中寺), another old temple that we passed by during our descend.

dsc_0222Most visitors, including us, ascend to the Five Colour Pond by cable car, then walk down to visit the various sights on our way to the main park entrance.

dsc_0255Flamboyant Pond (爭豔池) was another popular site with surreal turquoise pools.

dsc_0287Gentle waterfalls and the delightful sounds of running water were all over Huanglong.

dsc_0300Azalea Pond (娑蘿映彩池) had a higher concentration of shrubs in the pools.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABonsai Pond (盆景池) was another interesting spot where trees and shrubs grow from the calcite waters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeven Mile Golden Sand (七里金沙) and a golden tree stood out from the mountainous background.

dsc_0309Golden Sand Pavement (金沙鋪地) looked like rolling hills covered with a white and golden carpet.

dsc_0311Close up of crystal clear water.

dsc_0380Mirror like turquoise pools on our way down.

dsc_0407Flying Waterfall on Lotus Platform 蓮台飛瀑, a gentle waterfall flowing on the yellowish calcified landscape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWashing Cave 洗身洞 where local tourists loved to take photos.

dsc_0419Close to the bottom, the boardwalk arrived at the last main attraction, the Guests Welcome Pond (迎賓池).

dsc_0431The main concentration of turquoise pools of Guests Welcome Pond (迎賓池).

dsc_0437We reached the park entrance minutes before 2pm, when our taxi would drop by the roadside to pick us up for the airport.

 

 


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