Hainan

Sanya

Hubei

Three Gorges Dam

Shanghai


Sichuan

Chengdu
Huanglong
Jiuzhaigou


Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou lakeAccording to many guides Sichuan province has enough travel destinations to last months. But most of them point to Jiuzhaigou as the number one must-see. Isolated by a ten hour bus ride from Chengdu and with the most expensive ticket price in China, Jiuzhaigou is a place frequented by many dedicated travelers. There is a small airport about two hours away from the park, but it was closed when we went this summer. The bus ride was mainly uphill and very curvy. As we ascended the sky got bluer and the temperature dropped. Light jackets were necessary at night. We stayed at a cheap hotel next to the Sheraton, which is not cheap. There are barbeque restaurants outside selling whole roasted lambs and yak meat. Half a kilo of mutton was 30 yuan (about $4).

Jiuzhaigou villageYou should go to the park early. There were thousands of people there when we arrived in the morning. Tickets are good for two days if you ask, and they wiil take your photo and print it on the ticket. The ticket price sign indicated you could buy park tickets without buying bus tickets (park tickets were 240 and bus tickets 90 when I went). Buses ran up and down the valley and they were the only approved transportation in the park. We asked for gate tickets only, but without explanation were sold both gate and bus tickets. Possibly this is because there were no ticket checkers on the bus, and everyone rode the buses. We decided to walk anyway and we were the only ones on the trail. The park is very large, maybe 30 km from top to bottom, too large to explore thoroughly on foot in just two days.

Jiuzhaigou waterfallJiuzhaigou was better than anyone had described. It was a true natural wonder. The effect of tourism was well controlled; in fact I don’t recall seeing a single piece of trash on the ground. There are walkways everywhere suspended from the ground so that not even tourists’ footprints leave a mark. In some cases the cement and wooden walkways as well as the tour bus road were a distraction from the natural beauty, but I don’t see how this could have been avoided. If there were no buses the amount of tourists would have been severely reduced as I don’t see many children or elderly hiking the entire length of the valley, and it would require overnight stays in the park which might also affect the environment. Usually the walkway and road ran parallel to each other on opposite sides of the rivers and lakes. This means that one or the other is nearly always visible. But if they were not thus situated it would be impossible to see the scenery from both sides. The walkways were well laid out, sometimes crossing the rivers or extending over the tops of waterfalls. Usually every preferable vantage point had a walkway or deck so that it was rare to see anyone wandering off the paths.

See Jiuzhaigou gallery

November 25th, 2006

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