According to Pedometer app, I walked the most steps in my Chinese trips:
1. July 5: 31,497 steps ~ 15.12 km* (in Chengdu)
2. July 6: 29,337 steps ~ 14.08 km (in Chengdu)
3. July 3: 28,849 steps ~ 13.85 km (in Mt. Siguniang)
4. June 24: 23,878 steps ~ 11.46 km (in Dujiangyan and Chengdu)
5. June 26: 23,233 steps ~ 11.15 km (in Songpan and Mounigou)
6. June 30: 20,196 steps ~ 9.7 km (in Langmusi)
7. June 27: 20,136 steps ~ 9.67 km (in Huanglong)
8. May 18: 19,550 steps ~ 9.38 km (in Wulingyuan And Fenghuang Old Town)
9. Nov 5: 17,348 steps ~ 8.33 km (in Shanghai)
10. Jun 23: 16,136 steps ~ 7.75 km (in Saigon, Hanoi, and Chengdu)
* My stride length is 48 cm (80% of the number in the app 60cm).
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.
Overall, I have traveled 1,756km on this Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture trip, sitting around 29 hours 22 minutes in a car or a bus. And according to Pedometer, I have walked 262,269 steps during these two weeks, rounding to 125km on feet fortnightly.
Langmusi was very dusty even in the early morning because janitors in their full workwear with masks and long gloves sweeping everywhere. I could only see their eyes and their beautiful feather brooms.
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 driving up to the burial site. Seemed like those people 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. At first, the vultures seemed to merge into the background which I thought stones. When I looked carefully again, they made me startled and frozen for a while. Then I quickly calmed down as the vultures were very quiet despite their enormous appearance. 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.
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.
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?
The train reached Tuy Hoa Station at 9:10am, just in time the flight from Hanoi landed in Tuy Hoa Airport. The bus came to pick me up and I made friends with 3 new girls: 2 were my friend’s colleagues and 1 was kinda the tour leader.
We came to the Nhan Mountain first. The Cham tower looked just like other Cham towers I have seen in Nha Trang, but the overview of Phu Yen land and sky from the mountain was majestic.
Then the tour bus took us to a pagoda before we had an early lunch at 10:40am. Delicious one. Then we had a long rest after checking in Saigon – Phu Yen hotel.
Around 3pm we departed for the Dai Lanh aka Dien Cape. I climbed up to the lighthouse with so many steps and found out I was still scared of heights after all. From there I went down to see the beautiful beach.
The tuna sushi at dinner was so delicious. Just two meals and I realized that Vietnamese food was so good. Thai, Singaporean, and Australian can’t hold a candle to Vietnamese cuisine.
The tour guide was very helpful. He went with us to try the tuna big eye dish, a specialty of Phu Yen. He also called it “ocean headlight”.
After long discussion with a friend who lived in Hanoi, I decided to take the train to Phu Yen to join her and her friends on this trip.
I went to the Saigon Railway Station around 8:30pm to catch the train. I booked a hard seat and turned out it was a wrong choice. Even the train gave me a blanket and I used it as a bed sheet, the narrow width of the seat prevented me from a good night sleep. The guy next to me gave up his seat and stayed elsewhere. Other people had to sleep under seat or on the aisle.
It would take me about 12 hours to reach Tuy Hoa Station in Phu Yen Province.
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.
After having breakfast at the hotel, my sis and I checked out early and walked to the nearest bus stop. Just when we reached the Gia Lam bus station then we realized that we should have taken the other way around. So we paid an extra bus fare to reach the My Dinh bus station.
Sadly, the earliest coach from Hanoi to Dien Bien only departed from 4:30 PM, so we had to stay at the station among the overwhelming solicitation of many companies. To my surprise, they offered a better price than the one the station sold.
After phở (noodles) lunch, we decided to get on a Thong Lan coach as the station sold tickets from this company. This was my first time experiencing a sleeper bus and it was kind of fun at first, scary at later. They let more people in than the number of beds, so there were people lying on the way.
Today, we had to endure smelly men who smoke a lot, at the bus station and stops on the go. It was cold and windy, and the smell traveled far. It was terrible for my sis and I. We always tried to hide from the smoke.
My plane took off from the Tan Son Nhat Airport a lil bit later than expected. Though my flight was with VietJetAir, I went to the Hanoi’s center by the JetStar bus. I checked in the Hanoi Sports Hotel (the one I stayed on the last trip to Sapa and Tam Coc) and took a leisure walk around the Old Quarter while waiting for my sis’s flight to come. She booked the tickets late so her flights didn’t depart at the same time with mine.
While walking around, I found out that I never set foot into the Bach Ma Temple (because it might have been it was closed before). This time, I saw a couple of Westerners walking inside so I followed them.
I was starved when my sis came to the hotel. I had chatted with a friend from HCMC who happened to be in Hanoi too, so the three of us met for “chả cá Lã Vọng” together. To my great disappointment, it appeared that this fish paste dish was worse and more expensive than before. The environment was bad, either.
We stopped by Hang Bac Temple and luckily, they let us in (at 9:30 PM or so). They were so nice.
Then we headed to the night market, and had some “nem chua rán” near the hotel before going to sleep.