In anticipation of this year's New Year holiday, my friends and I decided that it would be a fantastic opportunity for a three-day road trip to see the beautiful Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong parks. As a bonus, we opted to take the bus for the scenery as we rose into the mountains on the 10 hour trip.
We left Chengdu around 7 am, but it wasn't until we reached Wenchuan, the epicenter of Sichuan's massive 2008 earthquake that we were truly awakened by our guide’s voice. From the bus windows, we could still see impassable bridges, the destroyed road on the other side of the river, boulders littering the river and the mountainside, and even cars buried under tons of rock. We simply could not imagine how devastating the disaster was until we saw it with our own eyes. However, despite remnants of the destruction, new development and restoration are happening very fast - beautiful houses have been re-built and everything has largely returned to a sense order and normalcy.
Sadly, when we arrived at Huanglong Park, we found that it was closed because of too much snowfall, so we opted to press on to Zhaga waterfall in Mounigou valley instead. The area around the waterfall offered a delightful array of pools of different size and shapes. Here, for the first time in my life, I saw a waterfall in the heart of winter - shrouded in snow, surrounded by frost-covered ever green trees, with flows of ice apparently frozen in time as they cascaded down the falls. The frozen Zhaga waterfall, the largest travertine waterfall in China, looked like one of Harbin's amazing ice sculptures rather than a natural water feature, truly amazing.
We finally arrived in Jiuzhaigou around 5:30 pm, having been rewarded by an interesting array of different styles of Tibetan houses and beautiful snowy landscapes along the way during our long drive. Tomorrow we would head into the park to enjoy the world famous "fairyland."