Saturday, January 19, 2008

Huanglong

After spending the night at Jiuzhaigou, we headed off to Huanglong 黄龙.

Huanglong Valley is located in Songpan County, in the northwest part of Sichuan Province. Due to its layered calcium carbonated deposit patterns, the valley resembles a golden dragon winding its way through the virgin forest, stone mountains and glaciers. Its breathtaking and unique scenery earned its title “Fairy Land on Earth”.

It's going to be another few hours journey up and down the mountains...sigh...

During the entire journey, I noticed the change in terrain as the bus took us up the mountains and then down the valley again.

We started off with bare and rocky mountains, already a sign that those are very high altitute because of minimal vegetation.


Then we came across a wide plain scattered with small Qiang folk villages...and breathtaking snow-capped mountains!


It somehow reminded me of Final Fantasy X's Calm Lands with the snow-capped Mount Gagazet at the background.



As we progressed higher and higher, the sun became so glaring and unbearable. However, that didn't stop us from admiring the beautiful scenery ahead of us. Now I felt like I was parallel to the mountains, and we are in a completely different world.



Just as I thought nothing could beat this experience, suddenly there were gasps from everyone in the bus.

There was snow everywhere!



It must had been snowing the night before, as the snow looked very fresh. It really felt like I was in Winter Wonderland.



The bus driver was very kind to stop and allow us to take photographs. Although there wasn't any wind and the sun was shining brightly, we were all shivering as it was so cold even with our coats. Also, we needed to keep our sunglasses on as it was very glaring, and to slap on sunscreen or else we could get sun burnt easily.

So, after about 4 hours ride, we finally arrived at Huanglong. Lunch was extremely chaotic as there's only one restaurant and service was HORRENDOUS! Have to stand and 'book' our table because there's not enough for everyone in the first place! We don't even have enough utensils because the restaurant workers could not wash them in time!

I was so glad when lunch time was finally over, and we could proceed to Huanglong itself. We were required to hike up Huanglong Valley in order to view its magnificant beauty. So off we went in droves, with great expectations to be able to reach the higher scenic areas.

However, barely 15 minutes after we passed the entrance, I was already panting and gasping for breath, my head was getting dizzy. My body wasn't used to the altitude at all! I saw the rest of the 'uncles' and 'aunties' and they seemed to be ok. I, on the other hand had to take frequent stops to rest and recover from my so-called 'altitude sickness'. How embarrassing!

It was one of the reasons why I could not complete my quest to reach the higher points of Huanglong, much to my dissappointment. According to Oto-san, this usually happens to the younger people, which was quite true because one of my younger fellow tour members had problems as well...at least I know what to watch out for if I intend to climb Mount Kinabalu one day...

We were greeted with the sight of many travertine ponds, one of the main features of Huanglong. While the first few I saw didn't really impressed me as I had higher expectations of the ponds based on pictures I've seen on the Internet and magazines, I was told that the ponds at the higher areas are much more beautiful and clear.







From top :
Travertine ponds located at the bottom, mid-section and higher section of Huanglong


Huanglong offered viewers a vast variety of beautiful scenery along the way. There's the travertine ponds, the waterfalls (though not as grand as Pearl Shoal), the snow-capped mountains, and clear blue sky. My personal favourite Huanglong scenic spot has to be the below, where I have the best of Huanglong mentioned above, all in one photo. In fact, I took so many shots of this place that people must be wondering I'm crazy!




My highest point reached was Golden Sand on Earth 金沙铺地, a 1500 meter long, 70-120 meter wide gold colored slopping travertine formation with thin film of water flowing over it, which gives the impression that the land is covered by golden sand.



I wished I had time to explore more, but due to lack of time (and breath) we had to make our way down before it becomes dark.

On our way back, I noticed some areas still had traces of snow. However I also noticed this eerie sight.



It looked like what's left of an avalanche.

My aunt said maybe it was an area that was blasted off, but as we passed by the area itself, it certainly didn't looked like anything man-made, and the thought of something like that happened while some tourist buses were travelling just made me shudder even more.



After a relatively dizzy trip down from the mountains, we were given a short toilet stop in one of the villages (can't remember the name). While I have passed by so many villages, this one is different from the rest as the most of the residents are Muslim. This is indicated by the star and crescent symbols in front of their shops. Interestingly, their mosque takes form in a shape of a pagoda, but I didn't have a chance to take a photo of it.

Oh, and check out the furs as well.



This post pretty much wraps up my highlights from Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong. I'm still considering if I want to post a few more random observations from this trip, so I can't really say this will be my last post on my China trip. Let's see how it goes...

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