Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 1: Saigon To Chengdu, Transit In Hanoi

So I woke up early this morning to board the plane to Hanoi, in order to meet up with my 3 companions that I found online through a Facebook travel group.

I might have got out of bed the wrong side, because I had a problem from the start. The VNA ground staff was very slow. She checked my Chinese visa and thought out loud that it was invalid. I had to tell her if she didn’t know how to check then someone from their international staff in Hanoi should know how to do it. Even if I couldn’t go to China, I was still entitled to fly to and fro Hanoi, right? To make it worse, my luggage handle was stuck in operation.

I met the 3 girls at Noi Bai airport. They seemed to be friendly at first though the girl from Dien Bien Province seemed to have impaired hearing. Yet she could travel by herself to so many places. What an independent girl! I really liked her spirit.

We reached Chengdu on time (or earlier than expected?), but I had some problem with the checkin machine, and even though I finished on the machine, I still had to scan the 4 fingerprints again at the counter. Finally, after 10 years, I fulfilled my wish to return to Chengdu.

The metro was outside the airport. I found how to buy the ticket after a while. But when we reached the Flipflop Hostel, the Hanoi teacher girl had a booking problem. She must have cancelled the wrong date.

As there was too much trouble today, I decided to go to Dujiangyan tomorrow with the hotel tour group instead. I asked for a discount, but they just gave me a stuffed panda, and others some small panda things.

In the evening, I went to see the Anshun Bridge aka Dongmen Bridge (famous for its light at night) and passed by the Bar Street. Someone in a small pub by the street played a new song of Gao Jin, Xia Xue Ha Er Bin, which I liked a lot.

After completely lost to find Tangba Street (in TimeOut’s The coolest neighborhoods to visit in 2019) even with some help from other Chinese visitors in the area, we decided to have noodles at some vendor on the way back. Near the hostel, I bought some yellow cherries at a fruits store as I’d never eaten them before. It tasted like red cherries though.

Before going to sleep, I bought some bread for breakfast at a Hong Qi Guan store as I’d depart early tomorrow.

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Hunan – Hubei, Day 6: Wuhan And Flying Home

[Tiếng Việt ở phần dưới]
This was the last day of my trip. I visited three sites of Wuhan called Yellow Crane Tower (which was made famous by poetry), Hubei Provincial Museum, and East Lake.

Two hours at Yellow Crane Tower seemed like a waste of time. I’d prefer more time at Wulingyuan or Fenghuang Old Town.

I liked the visit to the museum which made me understand more about the Chinese culture. Though I saw so many Chinese students around the beverage vending machines than in the showrooms.

After that, I had a chance to go around East Lake. Unlike Jingzhou, the minibus took all of us around the lake for 30 mins. As I thought out loud that the driver was handsome, my tour group kept joking about me and him. Though he was 9 years younger, he said I looked like 27 haha. We talked a bit. He asked if I was a Malaysian (?) And after a stop, when I switched to the seat next to him, he nicely started a small conversation with me. He asked which city I was from and if it was near the beach. Ashin said that 521 was better than 520. I couldn’t agree more.

After 3 flights with China Southern Airlines this time, I somehow felt that their service was worse than 10 years ago. We had to wait for a while on board and they didn’t give us any water to drink. I even had a meal before the plane departed 10 years ago.

After midnight, I’d be home safe and sound.
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Hồ Nam – Hồ Bắc, Ngày 6: Vũ Hán Và Trở Về Nhà
Đây là ngày cuối cùng trong chuyến đi của mình. Mình đã đến thăm ba địa điểm của Vũ Hán có tên là Hoàng Hạc Lâu (đã được làm nổi tiếng bằng thơ ca), Bảo tàng tỉnh Hồ Bắc và Hồ Đông.

Hai tiếng đồng hồ ở Hoàng Hạc Lâu dường như chỉ lãng phí thời gian. Mình muốn có nhiều thời gian hơn ở Vũ Lăng Nguyên hoặc Phượng Hoàng Cổ Trấn.

Mình thích chuyến thăm bảo tàng, nơi làm cho mình hiểu thêm về văn hóa Trung Quốc. Mặc dù mình thấy nhiều sinh viên Trung Quốc xung quanh các máy bán đồ uống tự động hơn là trong các phòng trưng bày.

Sau đó, mình có cơ hội đi một vòng Hồ Đông. Không giống như Kinh Châu, chiếc xe buýt nhỏ đã đưa mọi người đi quanh hồ trong 30 phút. Khi mình buột miệng rằng người lái xe đẹp trai, nhóm du lịch của mình liên tục nói đùa về mình và em ấy. Dù nhỏ hơn 9 tuổi nhưng em ấy nói mình trông như 27 haha. Chúng mình nói chuyện một chút. Em ấy hỏi mình có phải là người Malaysia không (?) Và sau khi dừng lại một chút, khi mình chuyển sang chỗ ngồi bên cạnh em ấy, em ấy cũng tử tế đãbắt đầu trò chuyện với mình một chút. Em ấy hỏi mình đến từ thành phố nào và có gần biển không. A Tín nói rằng 521 tốt hơn 520. Mình quá mức tán thành ấy chứ.

Sau 3 chuyến bay với Hàng không Nam Phương Trung Quốc lần này, mình phần nào cảm thấy dịch vụ của họ kém hơn 10 năm trước. Cả đoàn phải đợi một lúc trên máy bay và họ không cho uống nước. Mình thậm chí đã được ăn một bữa trước khi máy bay khởi hành 10 năm trước.

Sau nửa đêm, mình sẽ về nhà an toàn và bình yên.

Continue ReadingHunan – Hubei, Day 6: Wuhan And Flying Home

Hunan – Hubei, Day 5: Historical Jingzhou And Walking Street Of Jianghan Road

We departed Changde, Hunan for Jingzhou, Hubei in the morning. In this historical city, we had a chance to go around the wall on an electric car and it was a great ride even though some of us disliked it.

Two members of our group decided that they would do some cosplaying. One dressed as an ancient girl, and one dressed as an ancient general.

The the tour bus took us to Wuhan. After dinner, we walked to see the busiest district called Jianghan. The walking street was filled with branded stores and even a night market. We had some fun here. I also tried the fruit tea of a chain milk tea store called Idrink.

I found that today was May 20 which was kind of a Valentine’s Day in China because 520 in Chinese sounded like ‘I love you.’ Today would have been worse if my friend and I hadn’t made fun of the day. We even took a sweet picture with the Chinese intern guide.

Continue ReadingHunan – Hubei, Day 5: Historical Jingzhou And Walking Street Of Jianghan Road

Hunan – Hubei, Day 4: Fenghuang Old Town And Changde

What I feared the most was the weather as forecast. It rained in the morning again today, and my exploration of Fenghuang Old Town was disrupted somehow. Because I wore the Thai flip flop, I walked slowly and slipped when I got off a boat. I borrowed an umbrella because my jacket wasn’t completely waterproof.

The stoned bridge, the most famous part of the town, was wet so I only stepped on several stones and didn’t get to the middle. However, the boat trip was quite good.

I tried a boba milk tea and thought it was as good as the Vietnamese one.

After lunch, we departed Fenghuang for Changde. After checking in, all of us (except 1) walked to the supermarket called Lian Hua. It was quite big. I bought some gifts for my family and friends. What I loved about China’s summer is the peach season. I’d buy some on the last day to bring back to Vietnam.

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Hunan – Hubei, Day 3: Wulingyuan And Fenghuang Old Town

Some people disliked waking up early, but I thought it was okay on a trip when we had to check out. At least, I didn’t have to fight for breakfast like in Taiwan. However, the food was just so so.

We passed a sidewalk market on the way to the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After taking a bus, we reached the elevator station. Though it is the world’s highest outdoor elevator, the Bailong Elevator only took 1 min 20 seconds to reach its top floor. There we enjoyed a fantastic view of Tianzi Mountain.

And we then walked to Tian Xia Di Yi Qiao, also known as the Number 1 Bridge Under the Heaven. I tried squeezing in with other people to take a pic and heard some guys said ‘mei’ and ‘piao lang’ which I replied with ‘xie xie’.

Then it rained cats and dogs while we were looking for the Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.
The tour guides and leader couldn’t find two of the tour members on the way out. They were lost because they couldn’t see the flag due to umbrellas. Luckily, I could spot them on the way back searching.

After lunch, the bus took us to Fenghuang Old Town. We had dinner, then walked around the town for only 45 mins. That’s why my friend and I decided to come back later.

At 10PM, 6 of us took a cab to Fenghuang. Here we tried stinky tofu and enjoyed the night.
I was looking for boba milk tea, but I didn’t order because the menu was in Chinese and I wasn’t really thirsty. At midnight, we returned to the hotel.

Continue ReadingHunan – Hubei, Day 3: Wulingyuan And Fenghuang Old Town

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.

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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?

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Taiwan, Day 4: Way Back Home

The hotel almost had nothing left for us at breakfast. We then headed to Kaohsiung Airport and left Taiwan around noon. Finally the tour had some lunch with VietJetAir for us. I shouldn’t have eaten the noodles I brought with me. Next time, I wouldn’t bring noodles to any where.
The best thing about this tour was the knowledge about Taiwan politics. I now understood more about Taiwanese culture as well. I expected to come back to Taiwan soon to visit more places, maybe when Mayday has a live show here.

Continue ReadingTaiwan, Day 4: Way Back Home