Solo Expensivo

Jiuzhai Travel Blog

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So Jiuzhaigou was a fiasco and a half, though I saw some beautiful sights and met some interesting people. I originally planned to fly there after the panda tour, visit the park for a full day, then take the bus back to Chengdu. I decided to go on my own because the tours were mostly 4 days long and didn't work out with my schedule. My original plan would've been relatively economical, but things didn't work out quite as smoothly as I'd hoped.
First, after arriving at Jiuhuang airport, I found all the airport shuttles had stopped running for the day. My flight had been delayed a couple times (seemingly matter of course for domestic flights), but I still got there pretty early around 6:00 pm. Since the only options available were reserved tour buses or taxis, I ended up taking a taxi about 90 minutes to Jiuzhai town, which already cost 200 RMB in itself. I knew accomodations wouldn't be cheap, but they'd risen a lot since my Lonely Planet guide was published. I paid 350 RMB a night for my room, which I suppose was better than the 450-550 asking price but wayyy more than I planned. For the sake of comparison, I paid 30 RMB a night for my hostel in Chengdu. There may have been cheaper places around, but I didn't want to keep driving around and asking elsewhere.
The first night I also found that I'd brought completely weather-inappropriate clothes. I should've known it'd be cold, since the area's roughly 3500 km above sea level, but everywhere else had been so hot I didn't even think about it. All I had were the tank top and shorts I wore on the plane, as well as one t-shirt. I did bring my new favorite hat from Korea, though, which would've been good for the next day's torrential downpour had I not lost it on the bus 10 minutes before the storm started . . . so sad : ( I hadn't zipped my backpack properly, and it fell out while I exited the bus. Luckily nothing more important fell out; when I discovered my backpack's unzipped state, my camera was just on the brink of dropping -- pheww.
By the way, I hope it doesn't sound cheap for me to keep writing about how much things cost. I'm trying to watch my budget more now 'cause I spent far more than I should've in Europe. I also wouldn't mind if these were necessary expenses, and not just caused by my poor planning.
While in the car to Jiuzhaigou and over the next few days, I had the opportunity to talk a lot to my taxi driver. He spends around 7 months of the year in Jiuzhaigou area, and the rest of the year in his hometown further north in Sichuan. Even at home, he says he sees his daughter maybe once every few days, since she's usually sleeping when he's not working or he's sleeping when she's awake. Not an easy life, and I also shouldn't be complaining about costs considering he makes roughly 10,000 RMB a year (like 1,300 USD), sometimes driving for more than 12 hours a day. 
After I arrived, I decided to book the car for a few days and fly instead of bus back to Chengdu. The fare included my original ride from the airport, a trip to Huanglong 3 hours away from Jiuzhaigou, and also the return trip to the airport. I'd definitely recommend this over a tour if you're traveling with a few people, since it's more flexible, cheaper when split, and you get a more personal introduction to the area. For myself, it was expensive (700 RMB total) but a lot more convenient, and I got to see the pretty 'multi-colored pond' and ancient Daoist temple in Huanglong - figured I didn't know when I'd be back again so might as well see as much as possible while in the area . . .
The driver guy and I got along pretty well, though I only understood half his explanations -- it's hard because I don't know Chinese names for things like Sichuan sights or local minority groups as they don't tend to come up in everyday conversation back home. Along the road, he'd point out special sites to pay attention to and stop the car at nice viewpoints for taking pictures. He's only 36 but looks older and has been driving for a living since age 16. His hometown neighbor (whom he referred to as his 'sifu') taught him to drive, and they've been driving together for the last 20 years.
Probably because I was alone, he invited me to eat with him and his friends over the few days I was there. They mostly spoke in Sichuan dialect but would occasionally switch to standard putonghua to include me in the conversation. On the first night, we ate with the neighbor mentioned above, who called his daughter during dinner to see if a native speaker could comprehend her English hehee.
The next night we ate with the driver's nephew, and I tried some foods like local wild mushrooms and some random soups. His nephew was eating whole Sichuan peppers when we arrived and sweating like crazy. I tried about 1/4 of one and almost cried haha. I think my dad has had them at home before, and you can dip them in vinegar to make them very slightly less spicy. To be nice, they ordered some non-spicy dishes to relieve my non-Sichuan tastebuds, and the driver guy was so nice he treated for all the meals. I tried to pay for myself, but he wouldn't have it.
After dinner we met his nephew's girlfriend and went karaoke-ing in town -- who knew there'd be karaoke in Jiuzhaigou!? It was hilarious 'cause all the private rooms were booked so we ended up in the big public room out front, and the whole place randomly turned into a disco about 45 minutes after we got there hahaa.
Speaking of karaoke, I realized that without actively seeking it out I've karaoke-d with Scottish, English, Italian, Australian, French, German, Albanian, Greek, and Chinese folks in various countries over the past few months. How funny! Karaoke brings the world together =P
Anyway, I took a ton of pictures in both Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong (couldn't stop, the areas were sooo pretty!), then returned totally exhausted to Chengdu on the 29th. Think maybe the altitude tired me out more than usual, but at least this plane wasn't too bad -- only delayed by an hour.
I got back to Mix Hostel before 7 pm that night, and found my 3 favorite Singaporeans from Beijing already checked in. They'd gotten back from Lhasa on the 28th and bought me this nice little Tibetan prayer wheel, not even knowing it was my birthday! So nice =D After booking my plane ticket and hostel for Guilin, we all went to eat hotpot and caught up on our travels since we last saw each other. We had Chongqing style mala hotpot, and they were quite brave about eating stuff from the spicy side. I'd take one item from that side, then maybe 5 from the non-spicy side before sampling the mala stuff again. After dinner I tried some awful baijiu that they bought, then headed off for bed. I'm hoping I'll get to meet up with them again in Singapore, as they're really very friendly and fun. This entry is ridiculously long, and so I shall end it here. Off to Guilin!
Grigo says:
hi, great post! i am planning a trip to jiuzhaigou early next month and thank you for your tips. I can totally understand the expensive situation there. It will be worse during China national day golden week.

I have a question for you: do you think it is a good idea to rent a car with the drive to drive back from jiuzhaigou to chengdu? we want to visit a few other places on the way back but want more flexibility. Any idea about how expensvie it will be? Thanks.

have fun in your coming trips.
Posted on: Sep 18, 2007
goodfarmerchen says:
thanks for reading crystal! : )
Posted on: Jul 03, 2007
crystalware says:
I would just like to say that I always enjoy reading your blogs. You are a great writer!
Posted on: Jun 30, 2007
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