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, I was still woken up at midnight by 2 others. They also switched the aircon to a temperature that 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. Thank goodness, 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 was in no rush. 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 think I should pick something for dinner later here.

Taking a shower and change clothes, I went out alone to find the famous Yulin Street in the song Chengdu by Zhao Lei. Turned out I could walk there without taking 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, the freelancer guy 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 and added me in WeChat. Thanks to the hostel’s music night, 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 at all the hikes in Sichuan this year.

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

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 snowy top of the mountain at night under the cold wind was no fun to me. I didn’t really wanna go to Mt. Siguniang though it was in my initial plan. Because the Dien Bien girl didn’t intend go climbing alone, and I didn’t know how to see pandas in Wolong, I decided to give Mt. Siguniang a try in the end. Turned out this world heritage had several valleys and was worth seeing.

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

I 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. I also felt at ease with my ability to converse for more than just 1 or 2 sentences asking for direction.

The most picturesque view must have been some pine trees with no leaf under 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 and eating barbecued food. I also helped a couple bargaining for their horse ride because their kids seemed to be worn out. Turned out their horses just went down halfway instead.

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

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 owner, 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 28,849 steps. Huh?

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Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 7: Zoigê To Langmusi

Really, Langmusi (Taktsang Lhamo according to Tibetans) was out of my initial plan. This was somewhere unplanned. Its name wasn’t in my last plan sheet in May. It was somehow a last minute decision. It turned out to be the best place of the journey.

As we all stayed in one room with 2 beds, I woke up quite early in the morning. Unluckily, the rain from yesterday evening has not stopped yet, hence my plan to trek a nearby hill was ruined. A bit later, I decided to go out with my umbrella and found a boiled corn for breakfast. However, the corn was so hard that I couldn’t finish it while it was still hot.

While we were roaming around Zoigê, a driver found me opposite the bus station and stopped for a chat. I was intending to ask for some direction. He told me that there was no direct bus from Langmusi to Mt. Siguniang and that I had to get back to here in Ruoergai first then go to Maerkang (Barkam). He offered 120 yuan per person for the trip to Barkam. I took his name card, but I didn’t think I’d hire a private car.

I met a cute Tibetan kid with his mother (?) on the street where he grabbed my hand and shook it gently which warmed my heart. It turned out that he was begging for money. Then I remembered having met many adult Tibetan beggars in Sichuan 10 years ago.

I finally had the best meal of this trip so far. I picked one of many restaurants opposite the bus station. The wonton was so good, and it tasted even better with the delicious dipping sauce.

The bus to Langmusi was the same with the one we took to the Flower Lake yesterday. However, we were stuck in an hour long traffic. Was it because today was Saturday? The bus driver who was informative yesterday also told me to get back to Zoigê with his bus if I wanted to go to Mt. Siguniang the day after tomorrow.

The bus passed some small streets on the way to the Langmusi bus station. Then it stopped at a small parking lot in front of a big gate. I guess this was one of the 2 famous monasteries of Langmusi as I saw a ticket collector.

When I checked in and put down my luggage, I went down to the hall to realize that there was some misunderstanding with the hotel owner and his father who took us inside. I had to bargain for the two rooms again. This must be the tallest building around here. I had to climb to the 3rd or 4th floor. The rooftop where we found to hang clothes was still 2 floors up.

It was around 6:30 pm and the two Hanoian girls didn’t wanna go see the nearby monastery yet. So I decided to hike the hill nearby. It didn’t look far and the day was still young. Luckily, the Dien Bien girl accompanied me at last even though she was afraid we couldn’t be back before it was dark.

This was my bravest experience of the trip, I finished climbing the hill passing old and damaged wooden stairs in a gloomy afternoon. On the way, I also had to passed a tree bridge with no handrails. It would be threatening to me if I did it alone.

The 2 of us got back to the hotel around 8 pm and I still saw the hill vividly from my hotel room. I tried to reheat the corn in the boiling water for dinner, but it was still too hard to eat.

The Hanoian teacher girl told me she counted the money and thought that we spent half of the budget. I startled at first, then realized that it was half of the journey already. For the rest, I didn’t think it would cost more than what we had already spent.

Check out my Instagram story of this day: https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/18015565684279704/

Continue ReadingNgawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 7: Zoigê To Langmusi

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 5: Huanglong

Because it was raining when we started for Huanglong, we decided to take the cable car to halfway. On the way to the top, I saw some precautions of health and oxygen, but didn’t experience any breathing problem if I walked slowly enough.

The view from the top lake was astonishing. If Mounigou was all lakes with crystal clear water, Huanglong had an incredible calcified scenery.

Finally, I did record some videos when the driver passed through the mountain tunnels.

I thought I was a picky girl over food, but turned out I could have anything that was convenient. There was nothing better than a beer over some barbecued food for a rainy evening. And those barbecue restaurants were near, too. Luckily, the Dien Bien girl finally agreed to go with me tonight. And she was kind enough to treat me.

From WeChat, I learned that the driver didn’t really go to Huanglong even though he was born here. I told him it was beautiful and he should go there in autumn.

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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 noise at night? I envied the other 2 Hanoian girls having their own room yesterday because there weren’t 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!

First I only intended to buy some tea, then I found myself buying some baozi for breakfast, 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 should 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”.

Continue ReadingNgawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 4: Mounigou

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.

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

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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Dien Bien – Hai Phong, Day 8: Hai Phong To HCMC

So the trip was almost over. We had the last meal at a rice place near the bus station. First time I tried sour soup with a strange fruit. I had to ask for its name. Turned out it was called plum mango or mango plum in English which is a species of flowering plant native to Southeast Asia.

Then at noon, I took a xe om to the Cat Bi Airport. The electric board let me see a lot of flights cancelled due to the weather. The airport was as small as the bus station which made me surprised. I thought it would be larger as Hai Phong was considered the 3rd largest city of Vietnam. But I was wrong.

Luckily, I got on the plane just a lil bit later than expected.

I got home around 5 PM and waited for my sis news. At midnight, she told me she was home safe and sound.

Continue ReadingDien Bien – Hai Phong, Day 8: Hai Phong To HCMC

Dien Bien – Hai Phong, Day 7: Hai Phong

The sleeper bus reached Hai Phong City 15 hours later. The day before must have been the longest day of my life. I thought it was no better when a “xe om” rider showed us a place which I thought was worse than a toilet. Luckily, we decided to get out of it and checked in into a hotel which was also near the Nem Nghia bus station.

It was cold outside but we still decided to take a taxi to the Hai Phong’s Opera House. From then we walked and found a place called “Bánh đa cua Bà Cụ” (famous for Hai Phong type of noodles).

After lunching, we went around to visit some temples and pagodas at Le Chan District.

In the evening, we had some snails for dinner, and enjoyed the hot dessert “sủi dìn” (a type of “chè trôi nước”, similar to the Chinese’s tangyuan).

Unluckily, my sis’ plane from Hai Phong back to HCMC was cancelled due to the weather. She was told to depart from Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi. Hope she would be fine on the bus back there.

Continue ReadingDien Bien – Hai Phong, Day 7: Hai Phong

Dien Bien – Hai Phong, Day 6: Dien Bien To Hai Phong

This must have been the worst day of our trip. In the morning, we had a terrible bread breakfast at a cafe nearby.

Just when we got on the sleeper bus to depart Dien Bien for Hai Phong, everything went from bad to worse. The coach reached the passes right away, and we had to endure a severe motion sickness. For my sis, it didn’t stop until she vomited twice. I had a severe headache.

The worst thing was that, at the first stop on the go, the coach left us behind. I had to phone the bus for them to come back. Dammit!

I swore to myself I would never get on a sleeper bus for such a long journey. My advice for people who would choose to travel by a sleeper bus is that never take the upper level where your vision is limited and motion sickness is enhanced.

Continue ReadingDien Bien – Hai Phong, Day 6: Dien Bien To Hai Phong