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March 14th 2016
Published: March 14th 2016
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 Pingyao  Pingyao Pingyao

small walled town. the whole town is bank/martial arts/security guard training centre/ vault for old money transport network around empire

Just a month’s travel with a friend around an area I know nothing about. After three years of not travelling and looking at a map of where I have been in China, I realized that I had been all around the edges, but not the centre. This needed to be remedied.

The plan was to see two of the huge national parks there. One at each end of the Yangtze River Cruise. I have never been on a cruise before.” Too boring” I always thought, but a rest over three days, between a lot of walking seemed like a good idea. Also the gorges and world’s biggest dam sounded quite interesting.

After my friend, Louise would return to Australia, I was to visit the first school I taught at in China in the city of Nanchang (see Blog #1). It was the ten year anniversary of leaving in 2005. It would be interesting to see how it had changed.


Arrived in Xian in mid June 2015. I have been there in 2006 (see Blog #2).

Louise was
 Pingyao  Pingyao Pingyao

fungus (?) growing on roofs
to arrive two days later, so I did a quick trip to Pingyoa- few hundred kilometres just up the road. Bullet trains are everywhere now. Very fast transport between cities at 300 kilometres per hour! Pingyao is one of China’s best preserved wall town with no cars within the walls, so very pleasant walking.

The whole town was a ‘bank’; a ‘pit stop’ for transporting money around the country for many centuries . There were also many martial art combat schools here for training of the security guards/soldiers when transporting money. I stayed at a hutong, which was a maze of tiny rooms and courtyards. Woke up early but no breakfast in sight so walked along the 4 kilometres long wall. Altogether, a pleasant slow paced stay. Well recommended for anyone travelling between Xian and Beijing.

But for me it was another bullet train back to Xian thru metro at peak hour to airport. Found Louise in deserted airport middle of night due to missed flights and communication problems. Next day, visited the Terracotta Warriors and got lost in Islamic markets. Nothing has changed since 2006..

 Pingyao   Pingyao  Pingyao

old catholic church

Next it was a flight down south west into the Tibetan foot hills leading up to the Tibet plateau.. From dry grey flat dusty hot polluted city of Xian to unspoilt cool pristine green rolling misty alpine mountains of Jiuzhaiguo National Park. This World Heritage area is the complete opposite of people’s image of China. One hour flight or 8 hour bus from closest big city, the air, water and land here is clear and pristine.

Internal access to the park is easy but super crowded year long in spite of being so isolated. A fairly cool area but exhausting with a lot of walking involved. A pretty amazing place altogether and well recommended


From high, cool national park 8 hour bus ride thru 2008 Wenchuan earthquake area to lower hotter plains.

Chengdu is the old capital of Sichuan and one of the first centres of civilization in China due to controlling of water at Dujiangyan for irrigation for crops . Qingchengshan Mountain is one of the first Taoist centres in China. Using Taoist principles of working with nature,
 Pingyao   Pingyao  Pingyao

just inside the wall
around the year 200 BC, a weir ( made of rocks in bamboo baskets) was used to divert excess water to flood plains for growing crops and diverting waters away in times of flood. To about 3 million acres are cultivated using the same system! This area was the start of China’s large population growth


Close to Chengdu, by bullet train, Chongqing is the world’s fastest growing city. Half a million people move there every year. It split from Sichuan a few decades ago and is now directly controlled from Beijing. It almost became the capital of China when the Japanese invaded the Chinese coast. It was also heavily bombed in the war.

An amazing history and unusual in that it started as a city on a hill at the junction of two rivers this is where the flat plains a section of the Yangtze starts and the Yangtze River Boat Cruise starts and runs down past the Three Gorges Dam (world’s biggest dam.) I have always been a bit curious about this area.

The cruise was a luxury I rarely indulge
 Pingyao   Pingyao  Pingyao

picnic table(?) on top of wall
in due to wanting 3 easy days after almost two weeks on the go. Also another ‘full on’ national park was coming up next.

The cruise was not much of a rest however with extra shore excursions (OK) and a bus diversion around the best gorge to other boat, due to small tsunami at start of trip. About 15 smaller boats were capsizing (one person killed-seehttp://www.travelchinaguide.com/tour/news/2015/0701.htm for details.) so the boat company did not want to risk our boat. (bloody ‘nanny state’ insurance companies!) It was the main problem we had. Nice scenery but expensive. The only place in China we were expected to pay for Wifi! Laundry was also expensive at underwear $4 per article and shirt $7 each! Cheaper to buy and throw out after use.


Next it was another bullet train to another huge World Heritage National Park. This was also very popular with free buses thru park to numerous points of interest. Thick jungle below and high karsts; many joined together at top. There was even a glass elevator up side of one karst.

The area was filmed for part of the scenery in the movie ‘Avatar’ and there is even statues of the winged animals from the movie on the walks. They are talking about an Avatar theme park here. I can just imagine it now; winged dragon ‘flying fox’ rides across the canyons. I am sure the Chinese would love to ‘out do’ the Americans with a super Disney theme park. In spite of all this, the national park is also well worth a visit even in spite of it being off peak at the start of summer( 35-37 degrees!).


Trip almost over and now mostly travel to airport home. This involved couple more days from Zhangjiaiie City to Changsha, then Wuhan(Louise to home) and meonto Nanchang before home. They were long distances but short times due to Bullet Trains accessible all over China now. They can go at 250, 300, 350 kilometres per hour and some faster!

Most cities, even small cities have good transport systems and connections. Everything here is sooo big-buildings, national parks, cities, expressways (noodle Junctions); a good connection system, with English, between trains, buses
 xian  xian xian

Islamic Family
and metros, but they are all like giant airport terminals with long walks , long escalators and corridors- a 3D maze. Most cites seem to be creating efficient metro systems either above or underground connected to all other transport hubs.

Yes security is everywhere but sometimes not well enforced. They even have it at bus stations, train and metro stations ,even national parks, slowing down peak hour traffic considerably.


I visited some people I met from the first city I worked in 10 years ago. The changes are even greater than I imagined. Like all cities, it has grown tremendously. In 2004 there was a ‘ghost city’ built across the river, which was full of completely deserted skyscraper accommodation. Now it is packed with many people and cars. More people in cars than on the now very wide footpaths. They say that Nanchang has increased about 3 times in size in 10 years. It was hard to recognize some areas.

My last days on this trip were with people I worked with 10 years ago. It was good after
 xian  xian xian

head covers and kebabs at market
one month to finally slow down from racing around everywhere in the heat to a pleasant spacey cool apartment. British English teacher, John and his Chinese wife, May (also English teacher) have moved into a quiet ‘open gated community’ on second floor large apartment surrounded by trees and greenery. It was a very pleasant area except for maybe parking hassles. It seems that everywhere slow traffic and parking is a problem even in shopping car parks! They seem to have many teaching jobs and sometimes travel and work in different cites often. For me it would be a good way to experience China, as in the past, but for me now all just too hard.

Ex-best student Tracy and new husband are doing well with new baby and have moved into new building on the 32nd floor! They took me up new Nanchang Wheel on riverfront, (now world’s second biggest Ferris Wheel). It would not surprise me if Nanchang has increased more than 3 times in size.

My university had not changed, except that before it was surrounded by green fields with some skyscrapers in the distance. Now, it is surrounded by wall-to-wall skyscrapers
 xian  xian xian

Louise at Airport Guard "NO photo! No Photo!"
made to look like European villas, with shopping centres and KFCs close by. The camphor laurel park was still outside my old apartment, but one row of trees was removed to allow for teacher parking. It was still fairly quiet on the campus though.

So overall a good one month trip. I arrived home from 37 degrees steamy weather to 7 degrees in one of coldest winters for quite a while.

Additional photos below
Photos: 54, Displayed: 28


Xian to Jiuzhaiguo National Park (Nine village valley)Xian to Jiuzhaiguo National Park (Nine village valley)
Xian to Jiuzhaiguo National Park (Nine village valley)

One hour flight to mountain peaks poking thru top of clouds in Tibetan' foot hills'.
 Jiuzhaiguo  Jiuzhaiguo

Entrance to national park- green electric buses send tourists off to all corners of the park-early morning
 Jiuzhaiguo Jiuzhaiguo

Boardwalks take tourists into the middle of cascades and other inaccessible areas
Jiuzhaiguo Jiuzhaiguo

Easy access. Guys wear suits and girls wear high heels in this wilderness
 Jiuzhaiguo  Jiuzhaiguo

Crystal clear lakes. High silica water turns fallen trees into petrified wood-eventually. camera under water-notice fish top right corner
Jiuzhaiguo Jiuzhaiguo

more easy access

Tibetan Restaurant in town
 Jiuzhaiguo  Jiuzhaiguo

Tibetan Restaurant Menu
 Jiuzhaiguo Jiuzhaiguo

Louise with Chinese tourists at top of park
 Jiuzhaiguo-day  Jiuzhaiguo-day

Huge fir trees covered in mosses algae, fungus. At 2900 metres, air begins to become hard to breath.
Dujiangyan-world’s oldest irrigation systemDujiangyan-world’s oldest irrigation system
Dujiangyan-world’s oldest irrigation system

Water diversion channel of worlds oldest irrigation project (Made 200 BC). Concrete weir replaced rocks in woven bamboo baskets just a few decades ago!

overview of irrigation system

14th March 2016

Well hi there stranger!
How nice to hear from you again, John! Back teaching in China , wow! Just had a quick look at a couple of previous blogs & saw you taught at Taizhou Teachers College. My old stamping ground! Have a vague recollection that you mentioned it at the time. Look forward to reading more of your blogs & it may motivate me to restart mine!
14th March 2016

Hello again.
yes, I like to keep the blog up to date; even thought it is hard sometimes. this last one came thru before I wanted it to. I only just started it and more to add yet. Central China was just one month travel since I don't teach any more. I will email you. John

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