Beautiful Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan China

My nine-hour bus ride from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou was a fitting introduction to the classic long-distance bus journey in China. As the bus tore through the narrow, windy cliff roads, swerving around hairpin corners and braking sharply to dodge sudden oncoming traffic, I held my breath and felt every muscle in my body tie up into knots. A couple of times I thought that was it, we were going down the cliff into the raging river. Sitting by the window on the side overlooking the drop, I felt as if I were hovering over the edge of the void. It wasn’t until I focused all of my attention on taking deep breaths that I finally relaxed into my seat. If I was going to meet my end today, I was going to do it in peace.

The bus ride also introduced me to the hole-in-the-wall public squat toilets that are exactly that: public. When I moved to the US from France where restroom doors are floor-to-ceiling, I remember initially feeling a bit exposed by the peek-a-boo gaps of American toilet doors. But in these Chinese restrooms, there are no doors; when two or three people line up in front of each toilet stall, there is no such thing as privacy. I stood at the end of the line and bolted for the stall at the far end. I wasn’t going to have spectators–not this time, at least.

The last hour of the ride offered spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Everyone on the bus pulled out their camera to snap pictures of the scenery. By then the bus driver had sensibly slowed down because snow sprinkles had started dotting the increasingly precipitous roads. We arrived in Jiuzhaigou about one hour ahead of schedule, greeted by the crisp, fresh air and alive stillness of the mountains around us. The earlier tension of the day completely forgotten, I felt invigorated. Tomorrow I would visit the Jiuzhaigou National Park, a nature reserve in Northern Sichuan known for its pristine sapphire and emerald lakes framed by lush forests and snow-capped peaks. I was very excited.

Bright and early the next morning, I walked over to the reserve from my hostel, hoping to enjoy a brief moment of solitary tranquility before the hordes of Chinese tourists started pouring into the park. I took the park bus to the first lake where a few tourists were already busy posing for pictures.

Following the path to the other side of the lake, I soon found myself all alone. At first I was overwhelmed by the imposing grandeur of the eerily quiet landscape which seemed to engulf me completely. I felt like a tiny speck of dust admist a vast natural world beating with life and breathtaking beauty. As I walked, I listened to the rushing stream and the rustling of the leaves, my lungs deeply inhaling the pure mountain air. A current of inner peace flowed through me.  I stopped to take pictures of what were like paintings just waiting to be captured on camera. Tree limbs emerged from the clear blue waters into which the undulating hills, snow-covered mountains, and puffs of clouds were reflected. It was all so perfect; all I had to do was frame the picture and out came a beautiful shot.

My serene moments of solitude did not last, however, as the rush of tourists had dramatically increased by the time I took the bus to another site within the park. Through the end of my visit, I was surrounded  by a deluge of Chinese tourists, most of whom in their respective tour groups, all looking to get their picture taken in front of the same scenic spots. At the bus stops, I found myself being swept onboard buses by waves of people pushing and shoving each other to board the buses. Long gone was the stillness of my early morning walk; it was now replaced by the incessant cacophony of loud voices. Wherever I went in the park, the views were just as awe-inspiring, though. I can’t recall how many times I exclaimed to myself “wow, this is gooorgeous!” And even if I didn’t understand Chinese, I knew when the tourists were doing their bit of gushing.

In the afternoon, I stopped by a couple of flamboyantly colorful and ornate Tibetan villages selling various crafts and souvenirs. I was tempted to purchase a pretty little Tibetan doll to add to my collection of Peruvian dolls back home, but I decided that I couldn’t add weight to my pack so early on in my journey. I still had four months to go before I returned home! I left the park still in awe of its unspoiled beauty. Despite the crowds, the Jiuzhaigou National Park was without a doubt nature at its finest.

For more pictures, go to the Flickr page.

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8 Responses to “Beautiful Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan China”

  1. Arun May 3, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Wow – really pretty landscapes! Looks like you’re having a really great time.


  2. Valerie May 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    I am following you through your blogs and am really happy to hear that you are well and enjoying your adventure. It all sounds so beautiful and peaceful. :-)

    • Cinthia May 7, 2011 at 5:39 am #

      Valerie – Thank you so much! It’s wonderful to hear from you. Yes, it is indeed very beautiful here. I am thoroughly enjoying the experience thus far! Thanks for commenting. I hope you’re doing well!

  3. Natasha May 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    Sounds like an amazing experience!

  4. Helena May 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Beautiful mountains and lakes! You are also a great writer, you should write a book of your travels.

    • Cinthia May 13, 2011 at 10:07 am #

      Helena, thank you for your nice, encouraging words. It’s great to hear from you!

  5. Le May 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    These are beautiful pictures, Cinthia. Thanks for sharing these pictures with us. Looking forward to read your next tweets and blogs.


    • Cinthia May 13, 2011 at 10:04 am #

      You’re welcome, Le! Thank you for your kind comments. It’s so wonderful to hear from you!