Chengdu Panda Base 2020

Ngày này 10 năm trước mình đi xem gấu trúc ở Thành Đô. Chỗ này không hẳn là nơi đặc biệt gì cho lắm, nhưng lại là chỗ duy nhất mình trở lại ở hành trình Tứ Xuyên lần thứ 2.
Thời gian thấm thoắt thoi đưa, để lại dấu vết trên dung nhan, đồng thời làm mờ đi nhiều thứ, nhưng tình yêu với gấu trúc của mình vẫn không thay đổi.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 15: Chengdu To Hanoi

At 8 in the morning, I went downstair to have breakfast at the hostel restaurant. But I opted for a dish of price instead of the buffet. I decided to stay inside for the whole morning because I’d get tired of waiting at the airport later.

I checked out of the hostel at noon, and got to the airport by metro. Because I was 1-hour early, I tool a stroll around the airport and took some pictures. It seemed to change a lot compared to the picture in my memory of 10 years ago.

Having such 3 companions, I didn’t have any nostalgic feeling leaving Chengdu. I guessed Langmusi was the best place of this trip, but there was no special place I’d like to return. Maybe after seeing the pictures on my iMac when I return home, my mood should be better.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 14: Chengdu Shopping Spree And Wenshu Temple

Luckily for me, I could sleep well until 7AM because the other 2 girls checked in before midnight yesterday. Because it was raining, I waited for a while then decided to go out shopping.

It took me an hour to get to Decathlon. It was my first time at such a big sport store in any country. I wanted to buy many things, but then decided to buy a 10-lit rucksack that can fold up into a small ball. I need extra storage for my stuff.

I also saw IKEA nearby so I dropped by to see why it was famous. Many people came here for food (?!) I also went into a mall and checked out Zara, H&M, Uniqlo stores, etc.

In the afternoon, I visited the Wenshu Temple. I used to visit one of the street here 10 years ago but I wasn’t so sure. This area even seemed to be bigger than the Wuhou Temple area where I stayed.
After getting back to the hostel, I took a late afternoon stroll to the so-called Tibetan Quarter which was near. But there was nothing impressive.

I decided on trying the giant grilled squid after drooling a few times at Jinli. And it was indeed very tasty.

What made my time in Chengdu an immense satisfaction was I hardly saw my companions. I was a little worried the first night I returned to Chengdu, but then finding their whereabouts was not in my head these 2 days.

Another one of the girls in the dorm room thought I was Hongkonger because of my English, except from the girl I met on the first night here.

Just figured out I was a lil bit too naive about the metro system. I didn’t need to buy separate tickets for connecting trains. It wasted time (queuing at ticket booths), and maybe money (the longer distance I went, the cheaper it was).

The Pedometer app said that I walked 30,471 (later 29,337) steps today.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 13: Chengdu Panda Base, Jinli Ancient Street, And Yulin Street

Though there was a girl checking in the room yesterday afternoon after me, today I was waken up at midnight by 2 others. They also switched on the air con which made me hard to sleep again.

I tried the buffet breakfast. It cost me 15 yuans and was worth it. The Dien Bien girl then joined me for the panda tour opposite the hostel. Then I found out the code the hostel staff sent me was different from what other people in the bus had. I got accepted no matter what.

The Chengdu Panda Base was very crowded today, unlike 10 years ago. It was very sunny, unlike 10 years ago when it had been raining nonstop. I had a better view this time, because I could come back any time with any bus. But the heat stopped me from staying here past noon.

As Jinli Ancient Street didn’t seem as hot or crowded, I made a stroll around here. I was more attracted to the local street food than handicrafts and teahouses. I should pick something for dinner later here.

Taking a shower and change clothes, I went out to find the famous Yulin Street in the song Chengdu by Zhao Lei. Turned out I could walk there (meaning it wasn’t far to take metro). The street didn’t have anything prominent as I thought, but I found the old Little Bar and some good wall paintings.

When I was back to Jinli Street, I decide to eat pineapple sticky rice (the black one).

Too much walking today made me want to sleep early; however, someone told me there would be a live music session happening downstairs at 8:30PM. So I decided to stay and another Chinese girl started talking to me.

Thanks to the hostel, I enjoyed some of my fav Chinese songs like Chengdu, Baby До свидания, Hua.

According to Pedometer, I walked 31,497 steps today. I didn’t know that I walked more than I did in all the hikes in Sichuan this year.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 12: Mt. Siguniang To Chengdu

I realized that I was unlucky yesterday because it wasn’t raining any more. We went to the grocery store to find out the bus would only be here around 10AM. So I decided to have another beef noodles. I was surprised that other companions didn’t have lunch.

I sat on the las row of the buses together with 2 Chinese girls. One of them puked somewhere and that event kinda woke me up. Luckily I could move to a better seat at a Gengda stop.

I reached Chengdu around 4PM. Then it took me an hour on the metro and foot to reach the Dreams Travel International Youth Hostel (near Wuhouci aka Temple of Marquis). This time, I booked a bed in a 4-bed dorm, while others were kinda late so that they could only booked the 6 or 8-bed dorm only. At least, my ear wouldn’t be hurt by money complaints.

The Jinli Ancient Street next to Wuhouci was so crowded in this early evening. I guessed I would be back here tomorrow after revisiting the Chengdu Panda Base.

To my surprise, they treated me dinner at a hotspot restaurant near the hostel after I booked my panda tour with the help of a hostel staff. They didn’t speak as well as the people in the previous hostel in Chengdu, but they seemed to be more friendly.

Back to the hotspot, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t see the 9 separate compartments; however, I thought it was Sichuan hotpot, maybe a lil bit different with the Chongqing one.

The oil helped make the spicy taste go away, I thought. If I go back to Chengdu again, I’ll try another hotpot place.

When I was back at the hostel, a guy from Xinjiang working as a freelancer here started talking to me. His English choices of words made me frown several times before I lost my patience and said goodbye for today.

Only in Chengdu could I feel the heat of the summer.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 11: Changping Valley

Before I went on this trip, I thought Mt. Siguniang must be a place for climbers. I only liked hiking for a day of about 30,000 steps which was tiring enough. Stargazing on the top of the mountain at night under the cold wind was no fun to me. Though this place was in my initial plan, I didn’t really wanna go. Turned out this world heritage had several valleys and was worth giving a try.

The highest place of my journey: somewhere near 3,700m beside a waterfall.

A met a forest keeper on the hike (first I thought he was a traveler), and after chatting for a while, he told me my Chinese was good.

The most picturesque view must have been some pine trees with no leaf under the water.

After the boardwalk, there was a muddy trek because of the continuous rain from yesterday. I decided to wait for others at the roadside stop, enjoyed my 10-yuan hot milk tea to keep me warm, and looked at other hikers chatting. I also helped a couple bargaining for their horse ride.

On the way out, I entered the monastery near the gate which I couldn’t get in in the morning because it was too soon.

I thought I’d go to 2 valleys today, but Changpinggou (Changping Valley) turned out to be so long a hike.

When I was back to the hostel in the afternoon, I was also trying to ask for the bus to Chengdu with the bosslady, and she said there were 3 buses tomorrow. I’d like to take the noon one.

Later, I bought more milk teas in a grocery store. 1 cup cost only 4 yuans.

My Pedometer app first indexed 30,535 steps for today, but then later I saw only 288,849 steps. Huh?

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 4: Mounigou

I didn’t have a good night sleep with people coming in and going out. Why did they have to make so much nóie at night? I envied the other 2 Hanoian girls having their own room yesterday because they didn’t have enough beds in the dorm rooms. And I found out the Dien Bien girl also had to work again early in the morning. What a nuisance having to work so hard on her vacation!

Yesterday they made a breakfast appointment at 7:30AM, then left at 7 without me. They said they’d had porridge at a restaurant when they came back. First I only intended to buy some tea, then I found myself buying some baozi, too.

The driver took us to Mounigou Valley. The 2 Brits surprised me when they said they were students. They looked older. However, what I meant to say was they paid cheaper for the tickets here. We went to the Zhaga Waterfall for starters. My legs were so numb I didn’t climb all the stairs, just waited for them to go outside later. Turned out they took longer than I thought.

Before reaching the second place, the driver took us to a stop at a secluded monastery called Tara around 10:40AM. I walked inside with the driver and 2 Brits then walked around outside a bit. The driver seemed to be friendly with the monks here.

At 11:30 he drove us to the Erdaohai Scenic Area. There were more tourists here. Thank God the walkway was not as steep as the waterfall. I stopped after getting through the gate to have the leftover baozi for lunch.

The more I went inside, the more beautiful this place was. So many crystal clear lakes. I thought this place must have been more beautiful than Jiuzhaigou which were somehow ruined by the earthquake in 2017. But I wouldn’t know, as Jiuzhaigou was still closed at the moment.

At 2:30PM, I reached the top calcium lake because I saw people resting their feet inside. It wasn’t hot as I thought, but it turned out cold instead. When we walked out, it was just 3PM. In the morning, I helped the Brits tell the driver to come back late, but it turned out this place was not as big as Huanglong they’d seen yesterday.

I finally had to wash my clothes after 4 days in China. Because I couldn’t take a nap, I decided to buy tickets for Zoigê (Ruoergai) the day after tomorrow.

The four of us drank some beer in the garden. I then listened to my music on the phone, from Chinese to English to Vietnamese songs. Later, an old man with a guitar joined the fun with his singing Chengdu and some old Chinese songs I hadn’t known of, except for “Dang Ni Lao Le”.

Too much of what’s called group traveling was just making the leader tired because of their nonsense request. I even thought I leaded a group of tourists because they kept complaining for food and stuff. On the contrary, I didn’t even have a penny for what I’ve been doing. It was so hard to find a suitable place to have dinner. Other companions seemed to lend no helpful hand. At the end, we decided to divide a dish of fried egg rice. First time I knew they charged for extra bowls and chopsticks.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 3: Chengdu To Songpan

I woke up early at around 4AM to be present at the nearest metro early. Turned out I was a lil bit early because I was there at 5:50AM just to find out that the metro would only be open at 6:06.

Took more than half an hour to reach the Chadianzi Bus Station at 6:45. My destination of Songpan didn’t appear in the ticket machines, then I had to ask for help from the help desk.

7 hours on the bus without any traffic delay, I was at Songpan around 3PM. Earlier than I thought. As we descended from the bus, a lot of drivers asked to take us to a nearby hostel, or to Huanglong or Mounigou. But I decided that I should spend the rest of the afternoon strolling the Songzhou Ancient City nearby first.

As I booked the Youranju Hostel while on the bus, the hostel owner thought I was Thai. (Maybe it was because I used a Thai sim card for roaming here). I arranged with her for the 4 of us to visit Mounigou tomorrow in a rented car with other 2 British travelers living in the same hostel. This place had a nice garden with blossom flowers, flag decoration, and some maps on the wall. Especially, some tables and chairs outside were really inviting people to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.

As we were all hungry, we decided to have a late lunch with the hostel restaurant beside.

When we headed for the ancient wall, the main gate was closed for renovation(?!) so we took a longer way around the wall. Some of the wall look rusty and a bit scary. Along the way, there was even a close gate which made us turned around. Too much walking until we went inside and saw some touristy shopping streets near the Songpan Bridge. It must be the busiest place of this town. But there weren’t many travelers around here. (In fact, from the hostel, I saw more people leaving than coming).

Inside the ancient city was a big empty ground. Here I saw the crowd of most people square dancing at the same time in my life. 3 of my companions joined them. Next to it was some kids playing basketballs and other sport activities.

On the way back, I saw sunset around 8PM. When it got dark, it got colder, too. My body was too tired that I took a Tibetan massage at a place next to the hostel with a price of 78 yuans for 1 hour, much cheaper than I thought. To my surprise, the girl didn’t apply any oil in my skin. There was no hot stone, either. In fact, she didn’t even ask me to take my clothes off. She massaged kind of every millimeter of my skin and comforted me to relax when she knew I was hurt. I hoped I’d feel better tomorrow.

15 degrees celsius outside and in order to sleep, I had to put on my hat with ear flaps, 2 layers of shirts, 2 layers of blankets and even had to turn on the electric mattress.

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 a little difficulty in communication.

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, there was a problem with a Hanoi girl booking.

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 even with some help from other visitors in the area, I and 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.

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?