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 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.

Hunan – Hubei, Day 4: Fenghuang Old Town And Changde

What I feared the most was the weather as forecast. It rained in the morning again today, and my exploration of Fenghuang Old Town was disrupted somehow. Because I wore the Thai flip flop, I walked slowly and slipped when I got off a boat. I borrowed an umbrella because my jacket wasn’t completely waterproof.

The stoned bridge, the most famous part of the town, was wet so I only stepped on several stones and didn’t get to the middle. However, the boat trip was quite good.

I tried a boba milk tea and thought it was as good as the Vietnamese one.

After lunch, we departed Fenghuang for Changde. After checking in, all of us (except 1) walked to the supermarket called Lian Hua. It was quite big. I bought some gifts for my family and friends. What I loved about China’s summer is the peach season. I’d buy some on the last day to bring back to Vietnam.

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?

Phu Yen – Binh Dinh, Day 5: Ghenh Rang

We went to see the tomb of Han Mac Tu (a famous Vietnamese poet) at Ghenh Rang. This place was kinda old and not worth visiting. However, I thought a leisure walk to see the beach was okayish.

This Phu Yen – Binh Dinh tour was kinda more expensive than others that I could search for online, but the meals were all tasty. I was kinda sad I couldn’t enjoy the last two dinners with the other members. Actually, they were among the best tour groups I’ve traveled with so far.

At noon, after lunch, I parted ways with the tour as they dropped me off at Quy Nhon Railway Station. I had to stay in the stay there for 1 and a half hours before the train started for HCMC. Another long endurance but this time I had quite a good view of the Vietnam land and beach outside the train window.

Australia, Day 13: Bushwalking At Cumberland State Forest

As usual, my twin sis’d like to take a day off to rest. But yesterday didn’t wear me out so I decided to take a leisure stroll alone. And the destination I picked was the nearby Cumberland State Forest.

I was at the bus stop around 10AM but had to wait for so long that I thought I made a mistake reading Google Maps again. But then the bus came and took me to the forest at 10:40AM.

It took me some time to read the forest map near the gate and figure out which trail to start first. There were 3 main walks with indicators of easy or moderate grade, and 1 great north walk not near the other 3.

As I saw nobody walking like me, I started doubting this place was closed (on Wednesday) but still kept on walking. Then I saw exercising people, not just cars. And I began at the middle of the number 2 trail (red one) where I saw the board called Palm Gully Trail (1km return 1hr moderate grade). I really liked the billboard system of this trail. It guided me through the forest and made me think I wasn’t lost.

And I got to the center of the forest (I guessed) in just about 5 mins. Two thoughts crossed my mind: I either walked too fast, or the time indicators are for kid’s speed. The center had more people. It was like a picnic and bbq area with a cafe nearby. Then I saw the entrance of the number 1 trail (yellow one) with a board written Sensory Trail (350m loop 30mins easy grade).

I followed and old couple and a boy. They walked slowly and the woman helped the boy learn the trees in the forest. I copied them a bit by reading the boards carefully. And it took me 16 mins to finish this trail. Ah, I saw some small trash on the trail. Aussie kids still needed to improve environment awareness though.
I started the Palm Gully Trail all over again. This time I saw some adults bushwalking alone like me. The couple and the boy also did this trail. It also took me 16-17 mins to finish this whole 1km trail.

Then I saw some guys instructing a group of people something. Later, I realized that this game was high ropes course. A friend told me that in Vietnam we could find it in Dalat.

Next, I spared 30 minutes to do the number 3 trail (Forestry Trail) bushwalking. That involved some 5-min video recording.

Then I sit down at the bench to have some peach or plum and watched some birds (rainbow lorikeets and maybe noisy miners) for a while. Indeed, the cawing and/or croaking sound of the birds in the forest was what freaked me out the most.

On the way back, I took my shoes off to remove dust from the inside. Then I found a small tree branch fitting right into the hole of the sole. What a remarkable memory.

It looked like it would rain but then it was sunny again so I determined to walk back to my brother’s home. Took me 1 hour on the streets though my sis-in-law kept calling and told me she’d pick me up.

This must be the best day of my Australia trip though I still have half of the journey to go.

Singapore, Day 2: Sentosa Island And Mayday Concert

In order to be present at Sentosa Island early, I decided to skip the breakfast somewhere not near the 5footway.inn. Unluckily, Singapore seemed to be a country that woke up late though the Sentosa pass said they operated from 8:45am. Around 9:30am we changed the tickets and took the cable car to see what Sentosa had to offer.

After reaching the Faber’s Peak to find out that it was closed, we went down to have lunch at Beaver’s Cafe. Though the restaurant was kinda hard to find, their meals were delicious.

As we only had 3 options out of many recreational spots at Sentosa, we went around for quite some time before picking the aquarium though the Royal Albatross had to be redeemed together. Though we were in time for the last opportunity to visit the ship, it was nothing like unique nor luxury.

The Trick Eye Museum (a 3D+AR studio) was our last choice because I didn’t feel like visiting the likes of Madame Tussaud after something lookalike at Ba Na Hills in Danang, Vietnam. Turned out we had some fun for the afternoon though the museum was rather old.

After leaving Sentosa Island, my sis and I made a shopping spree at Daiso in VivoCity before we parted ways. My sis went to see the Gardens by the Bay while I found my way to the Mayday concert at Singapore Indoor Stadium. As usual, I made another mistake with finding the right MRT line and it took me rather long to get to the right station. Luckily, the stadium was right outside the station and I still had time to check in and buy some snack for dinner.

The Singapore fans gave me some banners to cheer the band. They were so organized. I took the wrong seat at first, but later I still found my seat quite comfortable. Only at the end of the show did the fans behind come in front of me. The light stick was so much better than the band at the Coldplay’s concert earlier this year in Bangkok. And Mayday’s sponsor also gave us some gift (face masks I guessed).

Out of 3 gigs I attended this year, this was the best one. However, I missed the last song at 11:15pm as I was afraid that the MRT would stop operating. I kinda found myself and very few people on the last trains back to Chinatown.

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.

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.

Sapa – Tam Coc, Day 5: Tam Coc – Bich Dong (Ninh Binh)

We came back to Hanoi very early, so we stayed at the train station for a while before catching a taxi back to Hanoi Sports Hotel.

We walked to the Sword Lake and enjoyed seeing people exercising for a bit, then searched for the place where a bus would wait for us. Around 8 AM, we started for Ninh Binh province where we would visit Hoa Lu (the old capital of Vietnam under Dinh, Tien Le and Ly dynasties) and Tam Coc (which is dubbed the Ha Long Bay on land).

Hoa Lu architecture looked like Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam to me, so I wasn’t so interested. But Tam Coc was exquisite beyond description. I preferred the Ha Long Bay on land to the real Ha Long Bay.

All of us loved the boat trip on Tam Coc. What a majestic scenery!

And I also liked the buffet with local specialties.
Back to Hanoi, after dinner, we went to Dong Xuan night market very late. Then we found the delicious sweet treats on a sidewalk to enjoy before we called it a night.

Sapa – Tam Coc, Day 4: O Quy Ho Mountain Pass (Lao Cai)

It was raining in the morning which prevented us from going outside early as we expected. However, we were lucky that the rain stopped around 9 AM. We headed out to rent 2 motorbikes at a nearby hotel, then straight to the Ô Quý Hồ peak.

We passed “Thác Bạc” (Silver Waterfall) but then we didn’t stop long because all the beauty could be seen from outside. I heard that “Thác Tình Yêu”(Love Waterfall) was more beautiful, but someone didn’t stop on the way to the peak. So we reached the peak at around 10 AM. We took so many photos here because my lil bro always wanted to reach the top of the highest place of Vietnam where a bike is accessible, of course.

We went back to “Thác Bạc” for a salmon lunch. The price was quite okay, and we had a square meal with 3 dishes (salad, roast an hotpot) of 1.5 kgs of salmon.

Following a local or tourist advice, we went back to “Thác Tình Yêu” (Love Waterfall) for sightseeing. Someone opted out as he was too full to walk. The 3 of us (my siblings and I) could only walk to “Suối Vàng” (Golden Stream) because we were afraid of a possible rain.

We went back to Quoc Thai Inn, checked out then walked back to Auberge Dang Trung Hotel for dinner. We caught the coach there to the Lao Cai train station.

We did nothing while on board the train tonight. We silently went to sleep early.