Hunan – Hubei, Day 2: Tianmen Mountain

We met up with the Chinese guide, Ms. Liu, at Zhangjiajie Airport. Then we headed to Days Hotel nearby and called it a night.

After breakfast, we started for the Tianmen Mountain cable car station. But there was some ticket problem that made us wait for more than an hour before we could get in the station. After lining up for another 30 mins, we took an 8-people cabin. The longest passenger cableway of high mountains in the world took about 25 mins to reach the upper station.

The Coiling Dragon Cliff skywalk was far from scary or long. It required no bravery at all.

Then we took the escalator down to Tianmen Cave, then another escalator down to the minibus station. Later the intern guide, He Da Sheng, said that he walked down the 99-step staircase instead. And he reached the station earlier than we did. I guessed that he ran.

We took the minibus to get down. The 11km road with 99 bends made my friend dizzy and she even threw up.

I wished I had had more time here. I didn’t have a chance to see the glass bridge. It should have been more terrifying than the glass pathway.

We had a late lunch in the afternoon, then the tour bus took us to some shopping places like herbs and gemstone stores. Then we came to Xibu Old Street and had an early dinner. Inside the restaurant, I saw an interesting custom by the Miao ethnic people.

Luckily, I could walk a bit around this place before it dawned because my friend was too tired to come back in the evening.

Continue ReadingHunan – Hubei, Day 2: Tianmen Mountain

Hunan – Hubei, Day 1: Flying To Zhangjiajie, Transit In Shenzhen

After 10 years, I flew with China Southern Airlines again to China. 2 flights today would finally bring me to Zhangjiajie.

The travel group leader instructed us so we spent 45 mins at the customs clearance. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought. We didn’t have to collect our checked baggage so it was faster. Shenzhen Bao’an Intl Airport was bigger than what I thought. However, its design didn’t impress me much. 6 hours of waiting here was kinda a waste of time. Saigontourist should have brought us something to eat for dinner because the inland plane only gave us some snack.

At least, our domestic Chinese flight wasn’t delayed. I saw the Wuxi one at the same gate was delayed from 6:50pm until after 9pm. We only had to wait for 4 flights to land before being able to fly from the same runway.

We landed in the Zhangjiajie Hehua Intl Airport after midnight. Luckily, we’d still have some sleep at the hotel before walking in the mountain area tomorrow.

Continue ReadingHunan – Hubei, Day 1: Flying To Zhangjiajie, Transit In Shenzhen

Prepping For Another Sichuan Trip To Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture

As coming back to Sichuan has been my plan for quite a long time, I decided that I would look for travel partners because my friends and sister didn’t like this kind of traveling.

After looking in vain on Instagram, I decided to find on Facebook groups for other Vietnamese travelers. On 27 Feb, I posted an overview of the area on a China travel group (on Facebook) but there was nobody really interested on the Ngawa (Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. Then I found a worldwide travel group and was surprised at the positive feedback though there were tourists in here.

At first, I thought that guys would be more interested in this journey which would involve a lot of walking and trekking. But then there were so many girls PMing me. Having some travel buddies excited me and made me draft the schedule immediately. I shared it on a new Facebook group with my companions-to-be.

On Mar 15, Vietnam Airlines started their summer holiday sales, and quickly I grabbed a pair of return tickets to Chengdu (via Hanoi). There were at least 2 girls on board so I wouldn’t be alone on this trip. I looked forward to seeing cute giant pandas again. I missed them so much!

In 2009, I carried a backpack about 10kgs (when the clothes were not wet) to Sichuan. When walking a lot, I felt a little exhausted because this one was not dedicated to traveling. I guessed this contained about 35 liters.

Would it be possible if I only carry a 20-liter hiking backpack this summer?

Continue ReadingPrepping For Another Sichuan Trip To Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 15: Chengdu To Hanoi, Transit In Guangzhou

I didn’t have a good night sleep so I felt a lil bit tired after waking up. Alex said that he didn’t wanna miss breakfast. Alex looked forward to a Western breakfast, but they served a Chinese one. Ha ha! But I liked this kind of a light breakfast.

We rent a bike next door, at Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel, to cycle around the block. It was great to ride in Chengdu because there was no rain nor shine. I realized that the Chinese girl style of riding bicycles and e-bikes was a lot different from the Vietnamese ones. They rode bikes like guys did. No exception! It was raining a lil bit after our 3 hours of cycling.

Checked out of Angelica Hotel 5 mins before 12 noon. I liked the advertising panel near the hotel that says, ‘Red is the new attitude.’ At last, I bought some cookies as a gift for our colleagues. We had a simple lunch in a near-by store with vegetables only.

Because we still had a lot of time, Alex wanted to try a real coffee. In a building, we found a coffee shop which looked normal from outside but was of high class inside. The expensive Italian coffee here cost a lot more than what I ever tried in Vietnam.

Again, we got on the wrong bus 300 to the North Bus Station instead of the airport. At last, the bus made it to the airport soon enough for us to board the plane. We had a lil bit of trouble because Alex used his name to book my ticket, so we needed help from the China Southern Airlines for some changes.

There was no delay, but we still ran at Guangzhou Baiyunport again because I wanted to be sure we could be on time for the next international plane to Hanoi. I had a fever and was afraid of the health check and customs clearances at Guangzhou and Noi Bai airports. But turned out everything was okay. We arrived at Noi Bai airport at 10:30 PM.

Continue ReadingGarzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 15: Chengdu To Hanoi, Transit In Guangzhou

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 14: Danba To Chengdu

We got up very early, packed up very fast. We shared a cab with an Asian guy, costing 3 yuans each. We were early for the bus so I had a light breakfast. The drive to Chengdu got us stuck in 2 traffic jams, one of which was caused by our bus driver. He hit a car and quarreled with them for about 1 hour. The we got stuck in another traffic jam spot somewhere near Ya’an where we had been stuck on the way to Kangding on day 3 (???).

We returned to Chengdu around 7 PM. Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel was all booked. Because we had no advance reservation, we went to the hotel next door called Angelica Hotel (安祺高酒店). The price here was cheaper, and I thought this was the best accommodation we had stayed in China so far.

We went to eat noodles and wonton dinner at the place Alex picked the last time because he liked the noodles here a lot. The weather was kinda hot so I didn’t enjoy my wonton much.

We counted money. Except for the camera, I only spent very little here. That was a surprise to me! But then think again, we ate little and I must have dropped some weights after this trip.

We’ll have breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant the next morning. Yahoo!

Continue ReadingGarzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 14: Danba To Chengdu

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 13: Danba Hiking

Last night I had the longest sleep ever. I didn’t wanna go out, but then to please Alex’s desire to walk more, we got out of the hotel at 9 AM and walked along the road out of town until we found a track. We met a Tibetan woman, later she gave Alex two oranges. And he gave me one. It must be the best orange in my life.

But unluckily, at noon, we couldn’t keep going forward anymore because the way was blocked by a lot of grass bushes. After trying in vain for another way to come up to the mountain, we gave up and gotta go back, also because of Alex’s allergy to pollens. We stopped under a big tree to rest and wait for the sun to go down a bit. But we only sat there for 1 hour or so because the clouds seemed to be afraid of the sun, too. While sitting on a rock, I was thinking I wouldn’t wanna leave Danba, and Danba was the most beautiful place on earth.

While walking back to the hotel, there was a guy in a car signaled if I wanted a ride, but I rejected. We reached the hotel at around 3:15 PM. Then I took my shower while Alex was searching for peanuts. I liked the shower I had today. I feared the coldness no more.

I was waiting for the round moon, but it hid behind the mountain. I could only saw it a bit on the way back to the hotel.

I so loved life here. Danba had everything: mountains and rivers, trees and grass, downtown and countryside, sunny and rainy days, cloudy and starry nights, lovely and friendly Chinese Han and Tibetan people, the food, the dancing on the road in the evenings, stores of all kinds, and especially, the roads that glitter every step I take.

I shed few teardrops when I thought tomorrow I would have to leave these beautiful sights. The only thing that Danba didn’t have was Facebook.

Continue ReadingGarzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 13: Danba Hiking

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 12: Garzê To Danba

I hardly slept so I got up early. I rushed Alex to pack things up because we had to walk to the bus station.

The bus looked like a truck with so many things on the floor, blocking the isle. The music on the bus was too loud. Also, the driver used too much of the horn. Anyway, I didn’t feel like I would get a fever again. Hope my tonsils won’t hurt me again, either.

At the bus station, we realized that there would be no bus back to Chengdu tomorrow. Thanks to another Chinese girl who spoke English, we could book the bus ticket for the 6:30 AM bus the day after tomorrow. We decided that we’d go about Danba tomorrow because we only could come back to Chengdu the day after.

On the way to have dinner and back, I bought a pair of earrings looking like the one of Aussie woman for 30 yuans and gifts for my siblings (a folding fan for my sis and a prayer wheel for my lil bro). We had another beer but Alex didn’t like the black beer much.

Tonight the sky had a few stars. I saw the round moon. It must be day 14 or 15 of the lunar month. These were the first stars I’ve seen since I came to China. I had expected more than that.

Continue ReadingGarzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 12: Garzê To Danba

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 11: Garzê Monastery

We woke up very late around 8 AM. Didn’t know what to do so I listened to music while waiting for the rain to stop. As Alex wanted to go out, at 10 AM, we walked to a monastery nearby then another temple on the way we went to the mountains yesterday. 4 hours of walking today was nice, I felt no pain in my feet. We bought the bus tickets to go back to Danba tomorrow.

Even when it rained, I still loved the place too much to leave it behind. We had some cakes for lunch. I thought that cakes in China tasted better than in Vietnam.

At 4 PM, Alex wanted to walk out again, so we went around, passing a military base. Alex told me not to take photos of the soldiers, or else I would be in a complicated situation. I took a pic of a cosmos flower instead. Later I found out it has a beautiful Chinese name gesanghua after a legendary story of a Chinese princess marrying a Tibetan king.

I successfully ordered noodles without chili for dinner tonigh. I got fever before going to sleep (due to tonsillitis, I guess). Damn!

Continue ReadingGarzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 11: Garzê Monastery

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 10: Garzê Hiking

We climbed a mountain across a river from 8 AM to 4 PM. We started very early when there were clouds over them, but when we reached the top, it was all sunny. My big toes didn’t hurt me much like the hike in Kangding. My feet surely preferred walking on the grass to on the rocks.

Was it the first time I crossed a hanging bridge? Alex wrote about it, “When a way begins that way, it can’t be bad ! The flow of the river was very strong, and the bridge was moving a bit under the steps”.

The sky was clear. The sun shined directly on us. I got sunburned on my hands where they were exposed to the sun. Alex’s neck was so red. We spent about half an hour on the top of the mountain chatting. I didn’t really wanna go down at all. Why was life made of choices? I was thinking hard almost every hour that I could live here in Sichuan forever and didn’t wanna come back to Vietnam. I preferred Ganzi than the Tagong Grassland.

Alex was very nice today, letting me walk slowly without rushing me. Each of us had 2 ice creams on the way back. I was breathing in ice and breathing out cream to encourage myself that the way wasn’t so long.

On the way back, we met a group of Tibetan women. They must be peasants. They were resting on a carpet or something like that and invited us to have some tea. As usual, they thought I was Chinese, but I explained that I came from Vietnam. They probably didn’t know where Vietnam was. I tried to talk to them in Chinese. Must have been the day when I spoke so many Chinese sentences.

We also met Gal on the way back. The Israeli guy said tomorrow he would go to Litang.

Had dinner by Alex’s random choice like he did in Danba. But the food today wasn’t that good. It was too spicy for me.

Ganzi had a lot of barbecued carts on the sidewalks. We had beer with some barbecued food in front of a house. I liked it. I saw some Western backpackers copying us.

I heard fireworks again. Unluckily, there were no stars in the sky at night.

Continue ReadingGarzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 10: Garzê Hiking