After a memorable 10 hour bus ride (part 1 of this post) up into the mountains of northern Sichuan, my friends and I finally made it to our destination: beautiful Jiuzhaigou Park in the heart of winter.
The next morning, we awoke in our hotel to find that everywhere we looked was white and snow flakes were still falling! We could not wait to visit Jiuzhaigou Park!
Jiuzhaigou is made up of three main valleys -
- Shuzheng Valley
- Rize Valley
- Zechawa Valley
Which all three come together to form a 'Y'. Our initial plan was to visit the virgin forests at the top of Rize Valley first, but it was closed for the winter, so we took the sightseeing bus to Shuzheng valley instead. On the bus ride, we passed Bonsai Lake, with different plants scattered throughout its blue water, and then passed Reed Lake, where the golden reeds grow so thickly that they contrast the clear stream winding through the reeds. It is said that the stream is the mountain goddess’s towel when she is taking a bath here.
As we stepped out of our bus, in front of a small village where we saw Tibetan prayer wheels and prayer flags flapping in the crisp winter breeze. As we then walked down to the Shuzheng Lake Cluster and Shuzheng waterfall and were amazed by their natural beauty, but quickly moved on to climb up to Tiger Lake for a visit and a number of great photos. Continuing on, we visited Rhinoceros Lake, which is the largest lake in Shuzheng Valley. As the story goes, there was once a Tibetan holy man who was seriously ill and dying, so his rhinoceros brought him here to the lake and after he drank some of the lake's water, he recovered immediately! After that, the holy man was reluctant to leave and decided instead to dwell in the lake forever.
Again getting on the park's free tour bus, we went to Nuorilang for lunch. After which, we explored Nuorilang Waterfall, the widest waterfall in Jiuzhaigou Valley. We were amazed by its grandness, and were not surprised to hear that many famous films, including Journey to the west have featured this spectacular waterfall.
After our visit to those beautiful lake at Rize valley, our final destination was Zechawa valley, a remote region inhabited by various Tibetan and Qiang peoples. Our highlights from this valley were famous "Five-Colored Pond" and Long Lake.
Five-Colored Pond is so colorful that it is surreal, like something from Alice's and Wonderland adventure. I felt just like we were in a dreamland. Long Lake, on the other hand, is imposingly real: the highest, largest, and deepest lake in Jiuzhaigou. Half of this lake was covered in a sheet of snow and the other half sparkling from its' clear blue water. As kids we took turns throwing many small stones at the ice trying to crack the ice, but alas, the ice won. :-( Maybe we should have tried skating instead!