Chengdu and Jiujaigo, Sichuan
Hubby had to visit a factory in Chengdu and asked me to tag along. What a chance, because October is the best time to see Jiujaigo, the famous park in China with its colorful lakes and trees. However to my disappointment we were to travel on an arranged tour as it was peak tourist season and it would've been too troublesome to travel on our own (our favorite way).
Our first visit was to 'Huang Loong' (Yellow Dragon), north of Chengdu. To reach there, we had to take a plane, then a long bus ride. The first thing that struck me was the altitude and the colder air. Then the landscape gave me a glimpse of how diverse China is in terms of ethnic groups and topography. Everywhere was brown rolling hills with intermittant groups of brick houses. You see the colorful flags fluttering in the wind that tells you that the people living here are not 'Han' (as all Chinese are), but some minority group that still dress in their traditional costumes. The flags reminded me of the pictures of Tibet and their religion. As winter was approaching, there were lots of fur and animal hides for sale by the roadside shops. The locals wore some kind of cowboy hats, and their chiseled faces were brown with sharp high noses and, well, even slittier eyes than ours! Wow, is this really China?
Huang Loong. Don't go if you're not fit! The place gets more and more beautiful as you climb up (the peak is over 4000m I think). However the altitude got to me and no matter how hard I tried I had to give up halfway.
Huang Loong is famous for the bright torquoise-blue water that cascade down the terraced pools. I regret not getting to the top where the best scenery is. And we got so upset with our tour guide because he didn't tell us until later that there's cable car service!
The famous lakes of Jiujaigo. Unbelievably clear blue water.
The place speaks for itself...
The waterfalls were like those in chinese paintings.
There were 20,000 tourists (mostly locals; many outside of China have not heard of this shangri-la) on that day so it was hard to take a picture of the famous 5-Color Lake. We used a small digital camera. An American lady using some impressive camera and lenses said it was hard to capture the different shades of blue even with her equipment.
Juijaigo Park is managed by the gov't. There's only one huge canteen and everybody sits together and eats the same communistic vegan food (haha). I actually had a second helping; it was good. Really! However if you're in China for the first time be prepared to be shocked by the local guy sitting in front of you: slip-slurp, spit, chomp, chomp..
Everybody should stay at the 'Ancient City' Hotel (translated from Chinese "Goo Cheng") in Juijaigo. Its an amazing reconstruction of an ancient town, complete with streets of restaurants, grocery stores and other amenities that open till midnight. All the 3-storey houses/guestrooms and the streets are made of stone, giving it a very old, back-in-time kind of feeling. Its so big that they have to use buggies to get around.
I tried the yak milk tea (only one small sip, because it smelled like parmesan gone bad!). The pancake with minced meat was very good.
On the way out of Jiujaigo, there's a small town where tourists can spend their money.
Out of fear of visiting the toilets in Jiujaigo Park, I did not drink any fluid the whole day. It was a thrill to return to the luxurious washroom in our hotel!
Back to the city. It was good not to have to wear heavy winter clothing. Chengdu is in a basin, so it is always overcast with clouds. With the overcast sky and moist air, the girls there are considered to have the best skin in China (or so our unbiased Sichuan guide said!). The traffic is horrific, like the rest of China, but probably worse here because there were thousands of trishaws. We loved the trishaw rides (cheap, fast and the 'drivers' were honest and friendly) and were disappointed that in two months they would be a thing of the past as the gov't considered them a hazard. The city has many preserved old areas and tea houses, which makes it charming and not too modern.
One of the main shopping streets.
We had a great time going around the city one night with this guy who charged only RMB10 for half an hour. We paid him double.
This Xinjiang fella was nervous; probably thought I was one of those PETA people.
Another Xinjiang fella. His kebabs were excellent!
They were everywhere!! And they speak better Chinese than me!
This dish, 'goong bao' chicken was served at almost every meal and we never got tired of it. What we get in Malaysia is a terrible version, without the essential Sichuan peppercorns and chili oil. Another favorite with the locals is the Sichuan 'firepot', a steamboat that uses stock 3 inches thick in chili oil! Too greasy for us.
When you eat where the locals eat, that's where the food is the best! The beef noodles were so good we had a second bowl (serving size was big), the 'liang fern' or cold noodles (green color) was unusual: like a jelly yet it tasted chili-hot and savory.
These were like in-between regular buns and xiaoloongbao. Yummy but kinda too fatty/greasy for us.
The Sichuans are famous for a chinese opera called Changing Faces. Its an amazing act where the elaborately painted faces of the opera artistes change right in front of our eyes many many times and in many different patterns. A closely guarded secret, the actors are said to have refused large sums of $ to reveal the technique.
Sichuan is the home of these cute but silly-looking animals. I never knew there are two types of pandas in the world, the other being a fox-like cutie like the one below.
As poor as a church mouse. As pissed as Posh.