Continued from here
The next morning after a breakfast we headed out early at 6:30 am to Jiuzhaigou.
Jiuzhaigou is simply the kingdom of lakes and waterfalls. There are 118 mountain lakes and 68 waterfalls in all.
- Go as early as you can. The area is huge and you do have an option to walk all the way but despite the insanely beautiful scenes if you have only one day there, do not attempt it. However, they have a very convenient shuttle service that takes you between view points.
- Decide in advance on the points you definitely want to cover and spend time there. Covering all of them is just not possible at leisure within a day. Instead, visit those you really want to and re-visit spots if you have time left over at the end of the day. Despite taking the shuttle between spots we walked about 18km that day.
- Food is about 4 times the cost in the city. If being within a budget is in your agenda-pack snacks/fruits as lunch the day you visit here. Otherwise, food is available at one point mid-way.
- The place has lovely views irrespective of the season- just that they are very different. I recall being blown away by it even in winter which is a good option if you want to be on a budget. The best season to go is the autumn since you have the foliage adding to the beauty with a riot of colour- however, this is both the most expensive and most crowded season- up to 4 times as expensive. So choose as per your preferred tradeoff.
Braving the crowds our guide managed to get us tickets into the area. Since it was summer, the area was more crowded than in winter though lesser than in autumn.
We took the shuttle at the entrance to the farthest point so we could walk back to the start. On the way you have announcements introducing the various spots you’d see. And it utterly confuses you wrt which one you like the most since everything passes by in a minute leaving you craving more. I have to mention the bus drivers are the most sharply dressed drivers I’ve ever seen and I believe they look like they could immediately star in a Bond movie.
Arrow Bamboo Lake: the arrow bamboos around this lake make it a haunt of the Giant Pandas. Understandably with the crowds, you can’t expect to see any of them there though. Just as we passed by it, as if the place needed anything to be more touching, we saw a duck and her nest full of ducklings casually propped atop a grassy patch with flowers balanced over a couple of logs in the water.
Panda Lake: This is supposedly the spot where Pandas like to come in and play, hence the name. This had the most visible schools of tiny fish of all the water bodies we saw.
Panda Lake Waterfall: Further down the lake we’d walk on to a pretty scene with a gushing waterfall amidst the emerald backdrop.
5-Flower Lake – Has bigger fish than the others and more colours due to the algae in the water.
Long Lake: this is the largest lake in Jiuzhaigou and on my previous trip, this was the first view of mine into this bright blue paradise and I was instantly in love. It is a tranquil lake in the blue-green shade you fall in love with over and over again in Jiuzhaigou. It has verdant mountains bordering it with the last stubborn residues of snow still visible on a couple of them afar.
Multicolor Lake: This one’s story is the most whimsical of all. The colours are said to be from that of a fairy’s rouge palette. It’s hard to really compare each of the splendid scenes in Jiuzhaigou, but this is said to be the most beautiful of them all.
Nuorilang Fall: it is the widest and highest waterfall in China and is almost the symbol of Jiuzhaigou. It is several 100 meters wide and roars through the greenery and can be heard even from afar. Its majesty and beauty leave you transfixed in wonder. Legend has it that it was just a platform but there was a monk who got a spinning wheel to a village. A girl quickly learnt it and was teaching other girls to spin. However, a cruel man named Roza kicked her and the spinning wheel off a cliff. To avenge this, Roza and his accomplices were pushed down the mountain by the torrents thereby creating this waterfall.
Pearl Shoal Waterfall – named so since the water jumps up like pearls from the surface of the shallow, clear pebbled floor and a 100 tiny waterfalls finally join into a large wide, stunning waterscape that takes your breath away with careless ease.
While walking through the seemingly endless concoctions of brilliant blues it’s easy to hurry and miss the tiny packets of delicate allure with the flowers on our pathway- in calm purples, cheery pinks, bright yellows, flaming reds and flawless whites the little stops to just admire them make the trip so much more charming.
Tiger Lake: I’ve always felt the Chinese tourist spots and scenes are named very imaginatively and this one takes the cake. Here the trees form stunning reflections on the water, the leaves ever so perfectly shadowed on the surface. This was imagined to be like a tiger’s coat on the water and hence the name.
Sleeping Dragon Lake: The long yellow calcified surface below the lake was imagined to be a dragon and hence the name! We could notice the yellow area in the water but I guess its true shape would only be visible from above.
5 colour lake: This is perhaps the smallest of the lakes we saw. But the colours! Jewel-shades of blue and green nestled amidst the rocky edge bordered with bright tiny yellow blossoms on one end.
It is a lot to take in, but in the end, your heart aches at the beauty it has had a chance to witness – the wonderland that the earth is with something unexpectedly moving at every turn.
With aching feet, we headed back to the hotel for dinner after picking up a bag full of juicy loquat fruit. Its trees are seen in many homes on our way to Jiuzhaigou and one could easily eat a huge number of these with their melt in the mouth texture and watery goodness.
After dinner, we decided to stroll around the place and it was quite a charming area on its own too. We spent time learning that dandelion leaves were the greens Anand enjoyed so much in a meal at Huanglong, saw a lady with no inhibitions happily practising her dance steps from a video at her storefront.
Food at the hotel was definitely the simplest of all our meals in Sichuan and so we decided to head out for some food hunting of our own on this walk. Still somewhat full from dinner we only ordered a few sticks of barbecued vegetables but it was sufficient to satiate our cravings for the time being.
Not just inside the scenic area but even in homes and around hotels, the flowers seemed to bloom with the most vivid colours and in huge sizes. We tried to watch yet another movie that night but the day’s fatigue got the better of us and we floated into blissful sleep.
Update: In Aug 2017 just a month after our visit, there was a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Jiuzhaigou killing 19 people and injuring about 240 others. Parts of the immensely gorgeous scenic area were destroyed in a way that Summer so aptly described by saying ” The beauty is broken”. Especially since we were so moved by the loveliness we got to witness here, we are saddened by the fact that it will no longer be the same. However, we’re certain nature will soon recover – she always does, but the people who lost their loved ones and those who have to rebuild their lives- now that will take a whole lot longer.
Up next: China: Of silver cures and love corridors