Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 2: Dujiangyan And Mt. Qingcheng

We woke quite early this morning, then waited for the tour bus. But then a small van took us to another place where it started raining.

The Chinese guy didn’t speak English so it was hard to understand about the Dujiangyan and Mt. Qingcheng history. And he tried to get more money from us. Turned out we had to pay more, and much more than the hotelier told us. I sent WeChat messages and they replied way too late. Bad service. Felt like we were cheated. Luckily, a Suzhou student girl who spoke some English tried to help me from time to time. 70 CNY more than expected (170 CNY instead of 100) made our trip too expensive.

To make it worse, it didn’t seem to stop raining, even after we finished visiting Dujiangyan and sat for the lunch. The square lunch was worth the money somehow.

Somewhere on the hike to Mt. Qingcheng top, I saw billboards with the temperature and humidity (22-23.5 degrees celcius, 99.9%). I was a bit tired, but I found that Chinese people were really good at hiking. They almost wasted no time and breath.

At least we could have some short break with the cable car of Mount Qingcheng and Dujiangyan. I liked recording videos while on a cable car. Check it out:

I also tried in vain to ask for the coach stop to Huanglong and Jiuzhaigou, as the pretty girl as well as her handsome boyfriend seemed to have limited knowledge of Sichuan while the tour guide kept on thinking there was no way to go alone there. How about local people going back to their hometowns? They had no clue or didn’t wanna share with me.

So, after the tour stopped at Chengdu, I’d like to go and see if I could buy the tickets at the Chadianzi station first. But I was lost from some metro as usual, and had no clue of the map. After walking for a while, I decided to take a bus. We reached the station a lil bit later than 7:30pm. But I finally know how to get back here early tomorrow by metro.

Back to our hostel metro, I decided to skip dinner and opted for a milk tea instead.

Continue Reading Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 2: Dujiangyan And Mt. Qingcheng

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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5 Tips To Pick On The Road Songs

On celebrating 10 years of my domain NgocNga.net, I decided to post an entry on how I picked music to listen on the road.

First, songs whose lyrics inspired me to go.
– This type of songs accounted for the big part of my playlist. For several years now, Đen and Da Lab’s raps have been famous all over Vietnam. These tracks were in my list: Chạy Trốn Mặt Trời, Đi Theo Bóng Mặt Trời, Ngày Khác Lạ, Ta Cứ Đi Cùng Nhau, Đưa Nhau Đi Trốn, Cho Tôi Lang Thang, Đời Là Đi, Lái Xe Một Mình.
– English songs: Airplane (Plain White T’s), Moving Along (The All-American Rejects), I Am The Highway (Audioslave), Somewhere Only We Know (Keane), Have It All (Jason Mraz).
– Chinese songs: Ping Fan Zhi Lu (Pu Shu), Piao Xiang Bei Fang (Namewee ft. Wang Lee Hom), Mi Lu Lu Wen Wen Dao (Zeng Zhao Wei), Yi Lu Xiang Bei (Jay Chou), Jin Ri Wo Li Bie (Mao Bu Yi), Ru Guo Wo Men Bu Ceng Xiang Yu (Mayday), Ren Yi Men (Mayday), Bu Jian Bu San (Ashin).

Second, songs with places in titles.
– Worldly, there were songs like Across The Universe (The Beatles), On Top Of The World (Tim McMorris), Li Kai Di Qiu Bao Mian (Mayday).
– Songs with country names: In Italia (Fabri Fibra ft. Gianna Nannini).
– Songs with city names: Dien Bien Victory (Various Artists), Hue Saigon Hanoi (Hong Nhung), Tokyo (Owl City ft. Sekai No Owari), Chengdu (Zhao Lei), Copenhagen Fairytale (Cynthia Wang), Prague Square (Jolin Tsai), Harbin Snow (Gao Jin).
– Just some random places: Trường Sơn Đông, Trường Sơn Tây (Thuỳ Chi and Tạ Quang Thắng), Lake Baikal (Li Jian), Beverly Hills (Weezer).

Third, songs about home.
After all, I’d come back home after a trip. And these songs I’d like to play on the way back: Đi Để Trở Về (Soobin Hoàng Sơn), Sẽ Hứa Đi Cùng Nhau (Da Lab ft. Soobin Hoàng Sơn), Về Nhà (Da Lab ft Kaang), Bình Yên Là Khi Trở Về (Thuỳ Chi), The Man Who Can’t Be Moved (The Script), Next Plane Home (Daniel Powter), Svet V Tvoyom Okne (Alsu), Zai Jia Xiang (Li Jian Qing), Zhong Yu Jie Shu De Qi Dian (Mayday).
Fourth, classical music.
Sometimes it was hard to sleep on the plane. Then I chose to listen to some classical crossover by Maksim Mrvica.

Last but not least, international songs.
I don’t mean world music. I like listening to songs of many languages. I’m not a multilinguist, but I listen to English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Russian, and Italian music, anything that suits my ears. Sometimes I put my player on shuffle mode and it made me feel like I was traveling to other countries when jumping from language to language. Interesting!

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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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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 Reading Garzê 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!

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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 Reading Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 12: Garzê To Danba

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 3: Chengdu To Kangding

Very early in the morning, we checked out of the guesthouse and went to the West Chengdu Bus Station (also called Chadianzi) at 8 AM. The tickets showed us that we had to wait 3 hours for the bus to start for Kangding.

Just when we left the city streets, there was a big traffic jam for 3 hours. Cars and buses and trucks ran everywhere on the road, making it worse. Because people in the other lane couldn’t move ahead when people in this lane didn’t retreat.

Then the road to Kangding held a lot of fun. I saw many beautiful scenes, river one side and mountain the other side of the road, passing by big tunnels. At last, the bus made it in Kangding around 8 PM.

On the way to find a hostel, we met a 22 year-old Israeli guy named Gal. As we didn’t know where to stay in Kangding, we went with him to find a place. Finally, we all headed to a place called Zhilam Hostel uphill. Its decoration had a feel of Tibetan though its owners were foreigners.

I was very tired. If Alex hadn’t carried my backpack, I couldn’t have made it to the hostel at all.

It was the first time I shared a dorm room with strangers. I was a lil bit bothered by the smelly stuff of a Western couple. There was just curtains dividing our beds so I just hoped there would be no thief.

At 9 PM, the 3 of us went out to find food. Because Gal didn’t eat pork, and there was only barbecued food and hotpot, I bought only milk, and tried an ice cream. The ice cream surprised me. It tasted like it was the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. Alex tried something like a Chinese pizza.

Then Alex and I watched the movie “The soloist” (part 1) together before calling it a night.

P.s.: Kangding’s altitude was said to be from 2,800m.

Continue Reading Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 3: Chengdu To Kangding

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 2: Chengdu Panda Base

We took a panda tour to visit the world famous giant pandas in the Chengdu Panda Base. They were so lovely, cutie… and I could use all beautiful adjectives I knew to describe such a creature. Even it was raining this morning, I felt so lucky to see the pandas in many of their positions: sleeping, eating breakfast, playing with each other, even lazily hanging on a tree.

Alex decided to have mapo tofu for lunch. That was my nightmare. It was so spicy I hardly ate anything except rice. Even Alex felt it spicy.

It was still raining in the afternoon. But we still took a stroll to the People’s Park with rented umbrellas from the hostel. On the way back, we took the wrong bus. I realized that it went to the airport instead of the hostel.

It wasn’t late, so we stopped to discover the Wenshu Temple’s walkways. The streets around this temple were perfect for walking. We took some pictures here.

I told Alex to walk back because maybe we could luckily find the shuttle car on the way back to the Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel. I was right. The driver was pleased to bring us back. We were lucky.

After finishing the second part of the Italian movie we watched yesterday, we found a good place to have dinner: I had wonton and Alex had noodles. Such a good meal!

I tried to buy 2 peaches in a fruit store. Dammit! Peaches in China looked big but tasted bad. There was mostly water inside.

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Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 1: Hanoi To Chengdu, Transit In Guangzhou

Got the boarding pass long ahead of time, but I was still late for the boarding time because I thought that the time on the paper was the beginning time of boarding. I heard the last call for several times and realized that I was late. My French friend and I had to run at Noi Bai airport. But that wasn’t the only trouble of the day.

Filled in the immigration quarantine form on the airplane for H1N1. Though the outbreak of H5N1 was severe, but I just needed to pass a simple gate and there was no special control as far as I knew.

However, the wait to clear customs at Baiyunport in Guangzhou was quite long, but I was impressed at the largeness of the airport. It’s too big that they use horizontal escalators to help people move from gate to gate.

Alex had a problem with Chinese customs because his Omo detergent pack. Maybe they thought it was heroin?

As we reached Guangzhou at 9AM and the next flight to Chengdu is in the afternoon, we decided to spend our transit time at Guangzhou downtown. So, we got on the bus No. 2 or so which stopped at the President Hotel in the city center.

We went to a Chinese restaurant with an all-Chinese menu. After several times explaining the dish, we had a claypot of chicken rice for lunch. It tasted good!

What I did in 3 hours in this city: viewing the metro (just the ticket system and not the trains), having lunch in a restaurant where everybody stared at Alex, getting lost, and buying a brand-new camera at the technology fair, a Canon IXUS 100 IS. The salesgirl’s English was kinda limited, but she was very good at her job. She confirmed that the camera was made in Japan, and gave me a discount after convincing me for a while. The camera was also equipped with a 4 GB Kingston memory card.

We had a lot trouble catching the bus back to Baiyunport. We waited for the bus in vain in front of the President Hotel but no bus seemed to pass by. We had a lot of problem asking around as we couldn’t speak Chinese while other didn’t understand English. All the signboards were written in Chinese without any Pinyin. At last, a nice taxi driver understood what Baiyunport meant. We took the taxi to the Baiyunport bus stop about a few hundred meters away from where we thought it should have been.

Got in time for checking in at Baiyunport, but the boarding machine didn’t recognize Alex’s online tickets. Luckily, we got help. But unluckily, we had the meal on the plane before it departed because of traffic jam at the airport. I did a quiz on the plane but didn’t finish it. I knew that my English was limited.

Because of the plane delay, we checked in at the Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel at about 11:30 PM. I walked a lot today: at the airports, around the Guangzhou downtown, walking to find the hostel (under the rain), specifically getting lost several times. When we found that there was a shuttle car at the Old Sim’s Cozy, I found so relieved. And luckily, it was a free ride. Such a long day!

We haven’t booked the hostel in advance, so we were lucky to find that there’s still a room with 2 separate beds in this Sim’s Cozy. It seemed to be a well-known place in Chengdu for travelers.

Even the day was long and we were tired enough, we still watched the Italian movie Gomorra (part 1) together from my Dell netbook before sleeping.

Continue Reading Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 1: Hanoi To Chengdu, Transit In Guangzhou