Anhui – Zhejiang – Shanghai 2019, Day 1: Saigon To Huangshan Tunxi Airport

Only 9 days before had I decided to go on another trip to China with my twin sis, this time to 3 provinces/cities of Anhui, Zhejiang, Shanghai. My main visits would be Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Yanguan Ancient Town.

This was another trip that required no individual visa (like my previous trip to Hunan and Hubei). The 4-hour non-stop flight stopped at the Huangshan Tunxi International Airport at 9PM. Some local officials with banners saying that this was the first flight from Ho Chi Minh City. They also gave us some Chinese and Vietnamese flags. I learned that this trip was sponsored by China. That was why this tour of 6 days was so cheap. With the same amount of money, I might have bought the plane tickets only.

I was asked in English by some customs officers how many times I’ve been to China. This time I didn’t have to scan my finger prints any more. It was my easiest Chinese customs check ever. I loved Huangshan!

Because of taking photos for some local newspapers or promotion(?), it took us all an hour to get out of the airport. Around 30 mins later, I could lie down on my bed and call it a night.

Outside of my window I saw a pine tree with the top turning to the the color of fall. I hoped to see more autumn leaves on this Jiangnan trip.

Bắc Hành Tạp Lục

Hôm nay đọc giới thiệu về Bắc Hành Tạp Lục của Nguyễn Du thì thấy hành trình đi sứ TQ hồi xưa nên bỗng dưng mình nghĩ có dịp đi theo lộ trình đó cũng hay á.

Đường đi của sứ bộ Nguyễn Du (1813-1814):

Nguyễn Du đi qua cửa Nam Quan ngày mồng 6 tháng 4 năm Quí Dậu (1813), đến Yên Kinh ngày 4 tháng 10 năm Quí Dậu (1813) và về qua Nam Quan ngày 29 tháng 3 năm Giáp Tuất (1814).
06-04 Quý Dậu: đi qua cửa Nam Quan (1813).
08-04 Quý Dậu: đến Ninh Minh Châu.
02-05 Quý Dậu: đến thành phủ Ngô Châu.
18-07 Quý Dậu: đến Trường Sa, tỉnh lỵ Hồ Nam.
30-07 Quý Dậu: đến Võ Xương, tỉnh lỵ Hồ Bắc.
09-08 Quý Dậu: từ Hán Khẩu ra đi.
22-08 Quý Dậu: ra khỏi địa phận huyện An Dương, tỉnh Hà Nam.
04-10 Quý Dậu: đến Yên Kinh (1813).
24-10 Quý Dậu: từ Yên Kinh khởi hành về nước (1813).
02-11 Quý Dậu: qua tỉnh An Huy xuống Hồ Bắc.
25-12 Quý Dậu: đến huyện Lâm Tương, tỉnh Hồ Nam.
30-01 Giáp Tuất: đến huyện Kỳ Dương, tỉnh Hồ Nam.
04-02 Giáp Tuất: đến Quế Lâm, tỉnh Quảng Tây.
29-03 Giáp Tuất: về qua Nam Quan (1814).

Thần Nông Giá

Nửa đêm lên giường bỗng dưng nghĩ đến địa điểm tiếp theo ở Trung Quốc mà mình sẽ đi tự túc là Thần Nông Giá (thuộc tỉnh Hồ Bắc). Tên vừa hay ho, mà rừng cây thuốc quý này nọ cũng là lạ.

Vừa check thử Thần Nông thì ra cũng xem như là thủy tổ người Việt. Vậy chuyến đi sẽ càng thêm ý nghĩa ha.

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 10: Barkam To Mt. Siguniang

Barkam to Aba/Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture was like Kangding to Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, meaning it was the seat of the prefecture. There was a river flowing alongside the town, too. But I felt that Barkam seemed to be much less crowded than Kangding and had no sign of international travelers.

Today was a great public transport experience. Because the driver said 8:30AM the bus to Xiaojin would depart, this morning, I came to the station early to buy a new ticket. Turned out I was too early, again. The bus would depart around noon, again.

When I went back to the hostel, they invited me to have breakfast. So kind. And it was a square meal with green bean and rice porridge, two Chinese steamed buns (mantou), a boiled egg, peanuts, and pickled cucumber.

It was a bumpy bus ride to Xiaojin via winding roads and passes. Sometimes, I thought the bus couldn’t get through some big stone piles. But thanks to the onsite wheel loader and rotary mixer, plus the help of the bus staff, there was a connecting bus waiting for us somewhere on the way to Mt. Siguniang.

The 10-hour on the bus ride yesterday was not as tiring as 6 hours today; however, I enjoyed the crowded bus, and moreover, kindness of Chinese people.

They stopped near Changping Valley under the rain, so I picked that hostel. Its decoration looked warm and comfortable. Actually there were cheaper twin rooms but I chose a more expensive dorm room because I intended to enjoy 1 bed on my own. Again, I ignored the complaint of prices from my companions.

The Changping Inn hostel’s owner didn’t speak English, but I found her bookcase interesting.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 9: Langmusi To Barkam, Transit In Zoigê

I didn’t know that I saw the Hui mosque the day I arrived in Langmusi. It was on the right side of the Kirti Gompa and on the way to the hill that I trekked in that evening. I found out when I saw the photos I took that day.

Before getting on the bus back to Zoige (Ruoergai), I went inside the mosque but all doors were closed. I was at the Ruoergai station before 8:30AM but the tickets wrote that the bus to Xiaojin started at 12:10PM.

This place must be the highest place I’ve been to in this trip. It was cold today, too. I followed a Hanoian girl to buy some flat peaches. They tasted just like other peaches I’d eaten before. But at least I tried.

After having potatoes and beef rice for lunch, I found a cat playing with my backpack hit belt. The same Hanoian girl above-mentioned thought we’d be back to Songpan so that she could retrieve her towel and underwear. OMG!

After 1 hour, we were stuck again in a traffic jam for 1 and a half hours. First time I got to use my paper fan. 10 years later, Sichuan traffic jams were much more orderly and polite.

It was so hard to ask for the direction to Siguniang here because the station was closed when we arrived in Barkam aka Maerkang at 7:30PM. The bus driver told me there’d be one early tomorrow morning.

Then I leaded my team to find a hotel. I saw one looking kinda luxury next to the bus station. I realized that Chinese people used a face recognition machine to check in to the hotels here. After waiting for a while, I got the boot because I was a foreigner. I got the same result from several places nearby.

Didn’t know why my companions had to signal the opposite direction out of town. I ignored their idea and wheeled my suitcase faster to the downtown though they were dragging their feet. Then I saw another luxury hotel after crossing a small bridge. Luckily, they accepted 4 foreigners in 1 room. But the receptionist took so long to register me that I had to tell her I’d come back to get my passport.

The room was the most well-equipped I’d ever seen in Sichuan, and the bathroom looked extravagant too.

Later, when I was out finding dinner at 9:00PM, I realized that this town was almost empty. It was hard to find a noodles restaurant but the chef didn’t seem to believe I wasn’t Chinese until I showed him my passport. Didn’t know why he kept laughing. However, he cooked delicious noodles.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 8: Langmusi And Tibetan Sky Burial Site

Langmusi was very dusty even in the early morning. I saw janitors in their full workwear with masks and long gloves. I could only see their eyes.

I started for what I thought the Sichuan side of the town, but couldn’t find the Hui mosque. Then I bought the entrance ticket for Sertri Gompa aka Dacanglangmu Saichisi.

Luckily, because I didn’t know the direction well enough, I guessed I should do what others do. Turned out I was at the northern side (Gansu side). I sought for the sky burial site after I left my companions because they either went the other way or were slow. I saw people walking to the hill side, so I followed them. After a while, I stopped near a school and some Chinese women spoke to me. I could barely answer them, but they thought I spoke Chinese so well. However, I barely understood what they said because they used some local dialect. From their outfits, I thought they must be tourists from the countryside.

Surprisingly, I met the best English speaking person of China on the hill here where she happily told me I needed to walk up the way she went down to reach the Tibetan sky burial site. She also added that there were big birds and almost no people at the site now. Then I continued and saw only yaks.

I was surprised again when I saw cars at the burial site. Seemed like they came from a different road and didn’t see the monastery. I walked around the site for a while, took some photos and videos.

At the farthest point of the journey above 3,500m was a plot of land surrounded by Tibetan flags where I saw many huge axes on the ground and vultures waiting on the mountainside. I also saw many fragments of human bones and even a bloody tooth nearby. I didn’t wanna see straight into the bloody stuff. However, in the daylight, I wasn’t scared, I felt a bit lucky I found a sacred place like this.

https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17858287111867407/

After getting down the hill, my team joined me and we went to a crowded restaurant for lunch. The wonton soup was good, but I still preferred the dry wonton in Zoigê.

After taking a nap in the hotel, we went to the monastery nearby. I thought this Kirti Gompa aka Dacangnama Ge’erdisi (on the southern/Sichuan side) was more beautiful, but it was just one big temple. People outside it looked more like camping to me because they were like just sitting there or finding a good spot to take some pictures. I walked towards to canyon, and my temple visit suddenly turned into a trek. Maybe I lacked info of the Namo Gorge before I actually saw it.

Wading through the stream, some horse keepers talked to me. They tried to get me on a horse trekking but I told them I was afraid of horses. (Actually I didn’t like riding on animals). He told me the valley would lead to a meadow. Two companions found me while I was slowing down so I decided to go back. The meadow was a little disappointed because the scene was nothing unique at this time of the year.

When I returned I met a Canadian guy whose face was redder than the Tibetans and a short-haired British girl who looked like a nun. He said my hat was from Canada, but I told him it was more Russian. He told me that he went to Vietnam, and actually the two of them were hitchhiking together after meeting in Hanoi. Lucy said the luggage was too heavy. Watching her carrying her backpack made me feel tired too.

I tried yak yogurt because a companion told me it tasted like Greek yogurt. But I smelled like the cow itself in this yogurt at the first taste. Nothing delicious about it.

Before dinner, I bought a panda faced craft item as a gift for my friend. After another fried rice meal, I decided to buy some Tibetan beef jerky for my sis. I really liked the packaging. Then I called it a day after 20,000+ steps.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 6: Songpan To Zoigê Grassland

After one third of the journey, I discovered that I was able to buy a ticket, make a reservation, ask for directions, order food, etc. with my basic Chinese.

Though the bus departed at 10:00AM, it reached Zoigê Grassland aka Ruoergai Marsh at 12:30PM. I thought I would be here at 2PM. Luckily, I had enough time to find out the bus to Langmusi at 2:30PM also passed Huahu/Flower Lake. So I bought the ticket for 21 yuans (26 and we could go to Langmusi).

A woman took us to their hotel. 4 of us shared the 2 bedrooms. I hope I could sleep tonight.

I then found a big restaurant where many people was having lunch. I decided for a bowl of beef noodles. Hmmm, too much noodles and too little beef. Too salty as well.

We strolled around the bus station as we waited for the bus. Zoigê had something that reminded me of Kangding, maybe because it wasn’t as dull as I had thought. Maybe I was the first Vietnamese to have been to this town.

As I was at a higher place than Songpan, I saw no trees, only grass, goats, yaks, and tents. It took us 45 mins on the bus to be at the so-called Ruoergai Wetland National Nature Reserve.

Because it was rather late, I was worried of the bus going back, I asked some travelers to find out how much time needed for this place. It took me 2 hours instead of 1.

It was so cold and windy here (8-9 degrees celsius) despite sunshine, with not many flowers to see. If I were here in late July (as my initial plan), flowers would be in full bloom. However, I’d never seen so many gesanghua in the wild like in here.

When I was walking and waiting at the gate, I found out there was no bus back to Ruoergai. The taxi driver from Langmusi didn’t accept the bus fare. We went back to Ruoergai with 100 yuans.

Finally, I had a normal rice meal with eggs and tomato soup which cost me only 5 yuans.