The last stretch of my trip was to a National Park that was a 9 hour drive North of Chengdu. I went to the bus stop but all the tickets were sold out, so I ended up taking a private car there with 3 other Chinese people--one man and then a mom and her daughter.
If you ever travel here which I would definitely recommend, buy your bus tickets early! I think its the cheapest safest way to get to JZG other than flying, which is extremely expensive.
Also camp overnight in the park! You must book reservations to do this but it would be worth it! Hands down one of the most beautiful/unbelievable places I have ever been.
The drive was entirely in the mountains...gorgeous!
And through tunnels. I started off in the passenger seat but switched with the man as soon as we stopped. No way was I going to sit shot gun with his driving.
The alternative? Sitting in the squished back seat right in the wind from his smoke. He had a cigarette in his hand the entire trip.
And he kept answering his phone.
A rest stop.
Probably one of the grossest squatter toilets I have used
The roads became very windy as they went up and down mountains. The road was a one lane road and often times there was a solid yellow line (which in America means no passing)
Not in China. When drivers here want to pass they just start honking to let the cars around them know or to warn oncoming traffic. Just a little terrifying.
At one point in the trip on the windy road, our driver was passing an SUV. He answered his phone and stopped honking. While he wasn't paying very close attention to the road, another car came from the opposite direction. Somehow all three cars fit on the road but the driver on both sides almost went off the road...the one who was traveling the opposite direction almost off the railing.
What happened next kind of shocked me. Our driver was very shooken up. He slapped himself on the face a few times and kept telling the others sorry.
Out of no where one car came in front of us and stopped (we had to slam on the breaks) another behind us and then two other cars on the side of us. We were trapped. With no room for oncoming traffic, all the cars around us were stopped. The men in the other cars came and pulled our driver out of the car and just started screaming at him. They were pushing him
If I had to imagine what they were saying to our driver it'd probably be something like "you almost caused an accident and killed some people, you're an idiot for talking on your phone, you need to drive safer, you shouldn't be allowed on the road" our driver picked up a stone at one point to protect himself. The other men drove nice cars and were dressed very well with families in their SUVs.
I was kind of amazed at how much the people looked out for one another. While no police were around, the others wanted to ensure this wouldn't happen again and protect all other people on the road. Very scary/interesting experience.
Our driver drove a little slower and safer the rest of the way...it only took 6 hours to get there which was kind of nice.
My hotel was right on the main road and about a 10 minute walk to the park which was really nice because it was all past little shops or restaurants.
The hotel also had a restaurant in it and many other activities to do in the area besides Jiuzhai National Park. I wish I had stayed longer! There was a Tibetan culture show and a cooking class for Tibetan food.
Stunningggg! So nice to get out of the big city
Knitting a gorgeous handmade scarf
Pashmina scarfs were everywhere for 20-30RMB ($4-5) I wish I had more room in my luggage!
They sold these little plums everywhere. They were so addicting!
Yak jerky was everywhere. It's a Tibetan specialty and was pretty expensive. I'm pretty sure those are Yak penis/testicles...they were unusually expensive. For dinner I tried Yak stew at a nice restaurant (by myself--the downside of vacationing alone!) It looked a little bit like dog meat.
The next morning I woke up really early to make it to the park around 7AM
I walked to the park and bought a ticket for the day, and a bus ticket, which altogether was around 300RMB. The bus system was SO nice! The park was huge and is basically the shape of a Y. As you hit the fork in the road between and East and West side of the park, the altitude continues to go up. So the bus brought us all the way to the top and you can either hike or take the bus from scenic spot to scenic spot down.
The very top!
I opted to hike rather than take the bus. It much more peaceful and I could avoid the big crowds.
Unbelievably blue water
When I got to Panda Lake this girl took a picture with me and wanted me to come with her to see the Park. I didn't really respond but after someone saw me take a picture with her, I had a line of people...kids, adults, grandparents who wanted a picture. It was a little ridiculous.
You could pay 30 RMB and take pictures in Tibetan clothes. Someone asked me if they could pay for me to put it on so they could take a picture of me in Tibetan clothes (just a little weird...)
So many tourists!
Since it was pretty costly to get into the park and Jiuzhaigou is a pretty expensive place to travel to, I made the assumption that most of the tourists were pretty wealthy. Many parents were urging their kids to come practice their English and say hello to me or say "can I help you?"
I did a lot of hiking in the back parts of the park to avoid the crowds.
Unreal! I want to get some tubes, transport my friends or family here, and a cooler of cold beer. Dream vacation
All in all I think this National Park is the cleanest place that I have ever seen or been to in China.
Before I came here, I didn't realize Tibetan people had their own language.
This looked to be a campsite...If I ever go back to the park I would love to stay and camp here
One of the Tibetan Villages within the park
I thought this was interesting...before we went into the park the chance of a forest fire was low. Even after raining all day when we came out it was moderate.
Maybe because all the smokers in the park? Despite all the no smoking signs I came across a number of men smoking.
Loved the landscaping.
Food and vendors were EVERYWHERE once you left the park.
For dinner I went to a Tibetan Resturant that was owned by one of the local people and recommended in Lonley Planet. A few guys from my hostel were there so I sat and ate with them. I tried Yak meat again with fried potatoes and peppers with Tibetan Tea.
I also tried some dan dan main...noodles with meat and spices
And my favorite dish garlic cucumber
And then did some more shopping
Chinese people wearing cowboy hats could be one of the funniest things I've seen here
women clearly ready to hike (those hot pink converse wedges...chills)
The next day it was time to head back to Chengdu. I rode with a family from Shanghai. Much safer than the way there! It took 9 hours and the woman from Shanghai talked my ear off pretty much the entire time.
We came to a rest stop with this rare white yak. 20 RMB to get on it and take a picture. Someone at the stop asked me if I would get on it so he could take a picture of me...no way it smelled gross!
On the 9 hour drive we could see a lot of damage that was still being rebuilt from the devastating 2008 earthquake that hit Sichuan province.
Some towns were very rural and poor looking; others that had been damaged by the earthquake were brand new and very modern looking since the Government paid to rebuild everything. It was an interesting contrast of landscape.
Our driver also told us about the corruption and other effects of the earthquake; I guess every family that lost a child got to have another and were exempt from the 1 child policy. Many kindergartens were damaged so families complained that they were not built properly in the first place. The government paid each family 20,000 RMB to be quiet and then put much better supplies and materials into building new ones.
After making it back to Chengdu I went to my hotel which was located near the airport, grabbed a quick easy dinner at McDonalds (I swear I don't usually eat there that often) and went to bed...wake up call was at 5 AM to catch my flight back to Shenzhen. Ready for some time to relax!
A chicken, rice, veggie, and mayo wrap from McD's--my latest addiction