China Trip 4: Chengdu, Pandas and Jiuzhaigou (reposted with pics)

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fountainhall
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#1 China Trip 4: Chengdu, Pandas and Jiuzhaigou (reposted with pics)

Postby fountainhall » Sun Jul 02, 2017 8:18 pm

A lot of my travels have been a result of articles I read in magazines when on flights or generally killing time elsewhere. Once flying on the old Northwest Airlines between Chicago and Tokyo I noticed a feature on Glacier Bay off Juneau in Alaska. Back in Hong Kong I did some research and then booked a one-week trip as a stopover from Seattle on my next business trip to New York.

That was how I discovered Jiuzhaigou National Park, a place I had never heard of before. It looked so extraordinarily beautiful. So the following year I arranged a trip to the nearest major city, Chengdu. THAI has the most convenient daily non-stop flight to Chengdu but several airlines also fly the route from Bangkok, including the very cheap Shanghai-based Spring Airlines.

Flight time is 3 hours. The urban population of Chengdu is over 10 million and it boasts no less than 18 universities. That’s a lot of gay guys – as I was to discover! Transport within the city is still largely confined to buses and taxis as the subway system only has 4 lines at present. But another 9 lines are under construction and will be open by 2020. The city boasts several major sites, including various Temples, Museums (including a large Dinosaur Museum!) and an ancient town nearby. There is also part of a very old town within the city itself – despite its having a Starbucks right inside its entrance at Jinli Street! The area is close to the famous Wuhu Temple and dates back as far as 210 BC even though many of the buildings are of much more recent construction. For those with little time, though, it gives an indication of how the many old towns around the country look.

In this photo, note the space on the upper right. This is a stage for occasional performances of Sichuan Opera.
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Elsewhere there are plenty of spaces to eat, shop, relax and chat with friends whilst playing a variety of board games.

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Several major attractions are located one- or two-day-trips away from the city. Mt. Emei is one of the country’s four Sacred Buddhist Mountains. On a clear day you can see part of the vastness of the Tibetan plateau and its snow peaked mountains. Near its base is the Giant Buddha of Leshan carved out of the cliff face by a monk in the 8th century. About 40 kms away is the site of the Sang Xin Dui Ruins now recognised as one of the most important ancient remains in the world

For all visitors, though, it is the Panda Reserve to the north of the city that is the main attraction. Around the world millions visit the one or two pandas rented (yes, they don’t come free!) to their cities and countries by China. Here you can see several dozen of them in more or less their natural surroundings.

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In addition to the black and white cuddly ones, there is a pair of the much more rare foxlike brown pandas.

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The Reserveoi has a breeding section and visitors can be photographed cradling a baby panda – at a price. When I was there is was a whopping RMB1,000 or around US$150 and queues were forming!

When in Chengdu, one must-see short addition to the trip is a 48-hour visit to the National Park at Jiuzhaigou 240 kms away. Perched on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, Jiuzhaigou literally means “Nine Village Valley” from the nine Tibetan villages situated along its length. The road trip is arduous and so flying is by far the best way to get there. If you are seated by a left window on the short flight from Chengdu, have your camera at the ready, I had stupidly placed mine in my bag in the overhead bin. By the time I realised this was the most amazing descent with the aircraft weaving through many mountain peaks it was too late to grab it. Jiuzhai-Huanglong airport is set at 3,450 meters above sea level and has been carved off the top of a mountain with sheer drops on both sides!

This was one of the few trips I have made where I engaged a travel agent to make the arrangements. That proved a mistake! On arrival I was scheduled to go immediately from the airport to the Huanglong Scenic Reserve. The layered calcium deposit patterns in the pools of glacial waters create an almost dragon-like effect. Various colourful ponds are also strewn with gold coloured limestone deposit creating a shimmering golden hue. Being one of the most visited spots in China, not unnaturally it is usually packed with local tourists. But I skipped this because my itinerary had me visit the Reserve, climbing to the top from 3,200 m. to 3,600 m. immediately on arrival. With Chengdu being at just 500 m. this was something I was absolutely not prepared to do without acclimatisation. So I asked the guide to take me direct to Jiuzhaigou.

You reach Jiuzhaigou by descending for 90 minutes to a more comfortable elevation of around 2,000 m. On the way you pass a Tibetan village with a small temple and many prayer flags – for many Tibetans live here. All this area suffered badly in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake and is slowly being reconstructed.

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The town itself is almost exclusively a long road of hotels and guesthouses of all sizes and descriptions. I stayed at the Sheraton which was OK but not really up to Sheraton Asia standards. Being there in late-October, the air conditioning had been shut down. But the colder weather was late arriving and I found the rooms were uncomfortably hot inside even with windows open.

The following morning I was up ready for a 6:30 am start for the short car ride to the National Park. This is set over three valleys stretching up to 4,000 m. After paying at the entrance, you are given an excellent map of the three valleys. You then get on to one of a fleet of shuttle buses which take the thousands of visitors on the single roads that wind to the top of each valley. You then get off and on at will. Before getting on, I noticed this chest displaying the millennia-old swastika symbol found especially in Hinduism and Buddhism before it was appropriated by the Nazis

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I chose to start near the top of the longest valley. Since you are always going down there is no difficulty ambling along the well-marked country pathways despite the elevation. Lunch is included in the Park’s entrance ticket. So when I felt peckish I ventured back to the road, hopped on a bus down to the entrance where there are several simple restaurants before returning later to where I left off.

It is is hard to describe such a truly spectacular day with amazing scenery, mountain views, lush foliage, waterfalls and lakes that are so incredibly clear it is easy to see the rotting logs lying along the bottom. With little wind that day, the reflections on the various lakes were stunning. The only disappointment was that I wished I had had at least one more day to explore the other two valleys!

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When I woke the following morning, I was shocked. It was like the area had skipped an entire season, Temperatures had plummeted and there was snow and low cloud everywhere.

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I could not believe my luck at having visited the Park in bright clear sunshine! By the time we had zigzagged up to the airport, it was covered in fog. Flight delays were inevitable and mine was estimated to depart 4 hours late. Nothing you can do when you can’t even see the runway. So I grabbed a large coffee, got out my book and whiled away the time as others were going slightly crazy. Within a couple of hours the fog began to clear and the earlier delayed flights started to arrive.

Back in Chengdu I was staying again in a perfectly acceptable Holiday Inn Express. However, I had again been remiss in not double-checking the itinerary well in advance. I had not realised there were two Holiday Inn Express hotels and assumed I’d be in the one near the city centre. I wasn’t! Mine was on the second ring road about half way to the airport! Whilst this pissed me off for a while, gay romeo soon cheered me up. I could not believe the number of young guys all wanting to pay a visit. On the last evening, one student contacted me but I had to tell him I was leaving the next day. “What time?” The flight was around 3:00pm and I had to be out of the room by midday. “Can I come round at 9:00am?” He did – and was lovely. No money boys and only one offer of a meal afterwards was accepted.

All in all a lovely visit. I really could have done with an extra two days because there is just so much to see not far from Chendu. If I return, I will definitely go solo and not bother with any travel agent!


These responses were added to the original thread

A447 29 Apr 2017
BTW, I like to stay in the centre of town, where the action is. What area would you recommend in Xian and Chengdu? I can then look for a hotel.

FH Reply 29 Apr 2017
If you google Chengdu City Centre Hotels you'll get quite a long list of hotels. I'm not sure about your budget, but in the centre there are 4 Ibis hotels and the Holiday inn Express Gulou (the one I thought I was to be staying in - I was actually in the similarly named Holiday Inn Express Wuhou!) I do like to HE Express brand in Asia - the rooms tend to have a similar layout and breakfast is always included in the price. Average nightly price for a queen-bed room in June seems to be around US$60. The Ibis Chengdu Chungxi looks good at an even lower price of around $30 per night. Both are less than 10 minutes from a subway station. But I have to add I did not get to that city centre location. You might like to start looking at various sites including these -

https://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/h ... oteldetail

http://english.ctrip.com/hotels/chengdu-hotels-list-28/

From just a brief comparison, Ctrip seems to have better prices than agoda.

FH 29 Apr 2017

Sorry, I forgot to mention Xi'an hotels. I liked the Mercure (now the Grand Mercure) which was in an especially quiet location - but there is a long walk to the subway. I certainly think you should stay somewhere within the city walls, preferably on the west side of the main north/south artery that goes through the Bell Tower. I like the look of the Citadines Central Xi'an Apartment Hotel. Great location and reasonable price. Also like the location of what used to be the Days Inn but I see it has just changed to a Wyndham property. It's a bit older and cheaper but seems fine. The Ibis Xi'an is a bit too far away in the east corner for my liking!

Aussie Apr 29 2017
I stayed at and recommend the Citadines Central Xi'an.

Aussie 29 Jun 2017
My two friends stayed in Chengdu for eight days, they loved it and consider it the best city to visit in China. They both had plenty of action from the apps. One of my friends is mid 40's age, very good looking and never has a problem attracting stunning looking Asian twinks when he travels. He tried the Herijun hot springs on a weekday at 5.00pm and found only one younger guy there. Usually he visits the Onsens on the weekends but he was so busy with his other dates and activities that he did not get there at the peak times. My other friend is in his 60's, has a very outgoing personality and prefers the company of average build guys so he is never lonely on his trips to China. I prefer twinks but i get bombarded with dozens of messages from the average build and average looking types when i am in China. If i liked that type of guy i would not have any spare time on my trips as well but fortunately i manage to find a twink or two who are very interested to date an older guy

My friends visited Max nightclub which they recommend and was very busy on the weekends. Apparently some of the locals were happy to fool around a bit in the toilets at the club on the quieter weeknights

My friends also enjoyed The New Century Global Center with it's water park, shopping malls and an abundance of eye candy every time that they went there.

fountainhall
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#2 Re: China Trip 4: Chengdu, Pandas and Jiuzhaigou (reposted with pics)

Postby fountainhall » Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:15 pm

I'm really saddened to report that as a result of Tuesday's 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Sichuan Province, the National Park at Jiuzhaigou near the city of Chengdu sustained major damage, mostly as a result of severe landslides and the draining of several lakes. 30,000 people were quickly evacuated from the area and the authorities have decided that the Park must be closed until the end of this year - and possibly for as long as 3 years.

This is devastating news for the mostly Tibetan people who live in that area. Most make their incomes from the 3 million tourists who visit the Park each year. This region has only recently recovered from the much more devastating 8.00 magnitude 'quake in 2008 which resulted in 87,000 either killed or missing and 4.8 million being left homeless. In terms of effect, that was the worst earthquake in history after the 2011 Sendai 'quake and tsunami.


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