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* Sylvia's Social Sabbatical


This blog is part of a whole series and the other blogs can be found here:

1. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Week 1 + 2

2. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 1

3. Current blog: SYSOSA in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

4. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3

5. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend 3/2


Our Journey to Jiuzhaigou or the 9 fortified Tibetan Villages

A few days before our second weekend we decided to book flights & hotel and go and see Jiuzhaigou, which is pronounced Tschutschaigooo - or for experts tɕi̯òu̯ʈʂâi̯kóu̯ in the North of Sichuan province.

What we had heard about it sounded spectacular: "Jiuzhaigou is a nature reserve and national park located in the north of Sichuan province, China. Jiuzhaigou Valley is part of the Min Mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and stretches over 72,000 hectares." See more here:

The whole valley has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and is since 1997 a World Biosphere Reserve.

And all photos looked brilliant!


Okay, flights were booked with the untiring help of Zhen Chen from Pixera Global - not easy to get seven people booked on the same flight where you need passport IDs of all travelers for the reservation - thanks again, Zhen!


Hotel was found, and it was extremely cheap, but the reviews were sort of okay. Let me say that we had running hot water, and free WIFI. And we did not have to share rooms.


Chengdu Airport and Toilets


The flight on Friday night was around 10:00 pm, and Chengdu Airport at night looked like this: deserted!





















As one better uses the toilet before a flight I was surprised to find this sign here :

But everything was fine, what I found behind the door was a "normal" toilet with a seat. Now I have to explain that in most public toilets there are only squat toilets... and I did not take any photos of them, and there is a good reason for it!


Finally in Jiuzhaigou


We landed after about 40 min at Jiuzhai Huanlong Airport in approx. 3500 m above sea level, and it was freezing cold with - 2°C, in Chengdu we had around 24°C. We then were expected by two drivers who drove us in nearly complete darkness to the village. The journey was long, sometimes interrupted by speed cameras and Yaks on the road, but after 90 min we arrived at the hotel, and they were still waiting for us at 0:20 am in the morning.


The next day we finally saw where we were: in an extremely busy little place, with its main purpose to accommodate as many tourists as possible, with all drivers, regardless of the size of the vehicle, honking and honking and honking! It was maddening, even more so as I had a room to the street and the first lorries started to rush past at 5:00 am! Aaaaarrrrggg!

Our hotel was in walking distance of the park's entrance, so we had a quick breakfast in a small dumpling and noodle soup place and off we walked.

When we finally arrived at the ticket counter we were not the only ones. In high season there will be on average 15000 mostly Chinese tourists in the park. You have to pay for the green shuttle busses, and at every bus stop there are 10 to 20 busses waiting to drive passengers back and forth!

So not a quiet little place where you can enjoy the loneliness and peacefulness of the surroundings. And it was cold, the sun disappeared in the afternoon, and ice even saw a few snowflakes.

All in all not something I have expected. You had to fight to get a good view to take some photos, and if you were not fast enough, people pushed you out of the way.

As I had been to New Zealand several times, this place felt a bit like Disney Land, some kind of a show you had to pay for. And it was the dry season, so most of the lakes had no or not too much water.



Here some impressions: this was the view....

...and when you turned around you saw this:

Here are impressions from Tibetan buildings:

and waterfalls, and you can see that it was a very dry winter:

In the afternoon it started raining and snowing, which did not improve the mood, but nevertheless we decided to come back the following day, and voila: we had sunshine, and there was fresh snow on the mountains and the lakes were finally green:

On our way back to the hotel we found a market or the market found us, and some of us discovered that they were quite good at bargaining with the locals:

Then it was time to fly back and we finally saw where we landed as it was still light on the way to the airport - photos were taken out of the car:

Back at the airport we found out that the only warm place was the little restaurant there, which is where we spent every minute before our check-in.


What we have learned:

Overall the whole weekend was an interesting experience, we had managed to order a fantastic dinner in a Tibetan restaurant, but one of the waitresses spoke some English, that helped! Otherwise it can be a challenge to communicate. The good thing is that  nowadays there are plenty of apps you can use to translate back and forth between Chinese and English, and there is also sign language and a calculator when you want to bargain. And all 7 of us were still in speaking terms when we got back to Chengdu, cool!

The third week was waiting for us.


More to come here:

SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3