I caught the 8.30am bus to Songpan, a town 300kms north of Chengdu and only 100kms from Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve. The trip took about 7 hours and I found it quite interesting following the river and passing near the epicentre of the devestating 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Most of the towns that were destroyed are full of new housing with only some remnants to be seen, including a few bridges that had collapsed which they haven't done anything about. The other interesting part was a definate tibetan feel the further we got from Chengdu which was reflected in the houses as well as the people. Arriving in Songpan and seeing the renovated city walls and temples I was worried that it might turn out to be another Chinese tourist town, but after going for a walk I was pleased that it was a working business centre that catered to the locals and not tourists. It was great to see a whole range of people from Han, Tibetan, muslims, as well as people from other minority groups going about their everyday business. Songpan is a popular place for multiday horse treks up into the mountains whilst staying in Tibetan villages for the night.
I had the opportunity to join another froeign tourist the next day for a 3 day trek for a reasonable price of $100 but opted out of it due to weather and the unknown affects the altitude may have on me.
The following day I took a very slow but very scenic 2 and a half hour bus ride to Jiuzhaigou just outside the nature parks entrance. At the bus station a lady talked me into staying at her place a couple of kilometres up the road, promising me free transport to and from the entrance of the park and to the bus station when I left. None of these promises eventuated. The next morning I arrived at the entrance not long after 7am and bought the expensive entry ticket ($35) and shuttle bus ticket ($15). On the bus ride up the valley I met a young chinese tourist Vung Gung who was also alone so we decided that we would hang around together for the day. We did the stunning valley on the right in the morning before returning to the centre of the park for some lunch, then the upper valley, and finally we walked from the
centre most of the way back to the entrance. It is probably the most beautiful national park I have ever been to, with beautifully coloured and clear lakes, some nice waterfalls, and a few tibetan settlements all set within a very nice alpine forest. I found the price to be very expensive for China but definately worth it, and the facilities within the park were very good. The weather we had was a bit of a mixed bag with sunshine some of the time, overcast some of the time, and some rain as well. Even in the rain the park was beautiful and I had a great day with very good company and even contemplated spending another day there but I think my legs couldn't have taken much more walking. The size of the park is quite large so I definately recommend buying the shuttle bus ticket.
The following morning I returned to Songpan to have a better look around the town and possibly do a walk to some other villages. That afternoon I was walking past a tea shop near the town wall when a small group of men waved me over. They insisted that I buy tea
and sit with them. They also were drinking a sort of home brew whisky that was surprisingly cheap at 16 cents a small glass compared to the price of the tea which was $1.50 which admittedly was refilled every now and then. We had a interesting time trying to communicate and after about 3 or 4 glasses of the whisky I started to feel quite drunk, so I stumbled the 500 or so metres back to my guesthouse and lied down. About an hour later I had to get up and vomit before returning to bed. I woke up at midnight had a look at the clock, swore, and then read a little so I could go back to sleep again. I slept on and off through the night and was still feeling hungover in the morning. That afternoon I decided not too wander off to far as I didn't feel up to it, so I just had a stroll around the centre of town and had a few shots of basketball with some locals. Around this area there are quite a few yaks and whilst in Songpan I had the opportunity to try a yak burger, yak spaghetti bolognese,
and a banana yak yogurt shake which were all very tasty.
I caught the bus back to Chengdu which took about 7 hours and returned to the Dragon Town Hostel. I quickly put my bag down and walked to Mcdonalds for a big mac meal and cappucinowhich I had been hanging out for. I took a few photos of Chengdu at night from city square before returning to the hostel to relax. Later that night whilst surfing the net a staff member at the hostel told me that a gentlemen and his friends would like to invite me for some drinks and food nearby, of course I said yes. So about 10 of us went to a nearby outside restaurant and had some food and plenty of beer whilst they asked me questions about my travels in China. We had some spicy food which Chengdu is noted for, and I even tried rabbit head which was pretty nice but obviously didn't contain too much meat. The next day I went to the city square again and back to the peoples park for some entertainment before catching a taxi to the train station for my overnight train to Xichang. From
there I will make my way to Lugu Lake which is on the border of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
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