Getting to Jiuzhaigou was extremely hard! As the whole trip was last minute, I tried planning whilst there, the google ban in China didn’t help! We flew to the airport, and almost crashed in the process. The wings were grazing the mountains, literally. Both myself and mum were praying for our lives. This flight is not for the fainthearted (my mum is faint hearted and she basically had palpitations the whole way lol). We got off the flight and had no idea where to go. I always save the hotel destination name in Chinese, as most people were unable to read or understand English. I got the Chinese name from Tripadvisor – top tip! My mum had booked a random hotel and we didn’t know how far it was from the airport and it didn’t offer pick-up from airport.
As we got out, there were two other young Chinese guys that asked whether we wanted to share a taxi with them. They seemed OK and there was only one taxi there anyway, so we agreed. They negotiated the price with the driver and off we went. The drive was beautiful and scenic, but took about an hourish. They swapped drivers half way through, and we were really nervous at this point. The new driver kept arguing with our companions about the price – he wanted to charge us more than originally agreed and he had a good discussion with the previous driver too lol (probably telling him off for charging us too little!) Anyway, he was getting more and more agitated in the end and the experience was all in all a bit uncomfortable. In the end however, he said he would drop us all off at the same point for the amount we were paying. The other two guys agreed to walk the last bit to their hotel. When we arrived, he refused to help us get the suitcases out as he was grumpy over the payment still. The others helped us unload and we paid him 200 YUAN in total.
We got off and checked in to the hotel – the room had a funny smell and we had to then go down and explain this to them. They only wanted a cash deposit and we had no YUAN on us and they didn’t do any cash exchange either. We walked to the bank and they refused to serve us as it was past 14.00. We had to take out cash using the card machines and pay them. We were exhausted from the trip there so we took a nap before walking around the area to have dinner. We found a small restaurant by the river run by a mother and her kid. She introduced us to rice tea and we were hooked! We ended up buying some off her. She let me choose the fish out of the tank that was to be cooked LOL! I couldn’t bare choosing obviously so she made the decision for me. Within 10 minutes, the food was ready (these so called fast food chains could learn a thing or two from her!). We walked back to the hotel and had a rest, before getting up early the next day to spend the whole day in the national park.
As mentioned before, no one here spoke English. We tried to explain to them for hours that we wanted to go to the national park. They were unable to explain that it was actually a 5 min walk. In the end, the manager just asked us to follow him and he drove us there. We thanked him, got our tickets and off we went! On 1st of April, the ticket prices for the park go up. And guess what, we visited on the 1st of April of course and ended up paying almost twice the price. I’d recommend you go as early as possible to be able to maximise your time. You may not be able to see everything in one visit though. We were lucky with the weather alhamdulillah. I’d also say, they close at 4-5pm and start emptying the park at that time. You are pretty dependant on their buses to take you everywhere. At one point my mum took one of them to the bottom and was not allowed to go back up even though it wasn’t closing time. I’d also recommend you pay a visit to the Tibetan villages around the area. They’re really interesting and the closest I got to Tibet during this trip. They have small temples and shops around the area and of course, beautiful colourful lakes and waterfalls. The pictures speak for themselves. This place is known for the special composites and minerals in the water – the water is so clear that you can see all the way to the bottom! The park is almost completely untouched, which is why it is so difficult for tourists to get here. Regardless of, I have never seen anything like this and would recommend it to those wanting a different and more authentic experience of China – this is after all one of the most visited places amongst national Chinese tourists!
We went back and had a meal at the hotel restaurant. There are other more high end hotels around but they aren’t close to the entrance itself and usually extremely expensive. I then spent the evening trying to figure out how to get to Chengdu. You need to buy the tickets a day before for the bus I learnt, and the office closes at 5pm. I had to get up at 6am on the day of travel and buy tickets for 8am. We obviously got stuck in traffic and didn’t get to Chengdu until 3pm! It was an extremely long trip and the bus was super cold so dress warm. I had miscalculated the distance and had read on one blog saying it takes 3-4 hours. THEY LIED. DON’T BELIEVE IN THIS. Even by car it takes the same amount of time and most drivers are unwilling to make the drive. So bus it was basically. We got there and took a taxi to the Panda apartments which seemed to be a bit difficult to find but we had a phone number to the host so it worked out alright. Tony was extremely nice and accommodating. The view from this place was cool too.
I had only scheduled us in for one day in Chengdu purely to see the pandas. By the time we got there, the research centre was closed. So basically, this mistake of mine cost us seeing pandas. However, I recently came across a video of the staff mistreating the pandas at this specific centre so perhaps my money was better spent elsewhere. Instead, we ended up having dinner in a Uygur restaurant in town (served awesome food!!! Mixture of Turkish/Chinese). We got educated on the situation of Uygur people and the oppression they face at the hand of the Chinese government. Unfortunately I didn’t save the name or address of this place, sorry. My phone died!
We then headed towards the Jinli district – I loved this place! Shops, restaurants and even shisha places. Some parts were really loud and more ‘clubby’. Infact, there were two places with live music, opposite each other, competing on who could be the loudest. It was deafening. There were a lot of beautiful buildings around the area.
Once again, I wish I had more time in Chengdu but the flights were already booked for the next morning. Can you imagine my poor mum? She was absolutely exhausted by this point! Our host Tony was kind enough to drive us, and he was an absolute doll. So kind, helpful and accommodating. If you go to Chengdu, please book Panda apartments via Booking.com
We then got on the flight to our next stop – Hangzhou. More about this later. Over and out!