A relatively untravelled area to the south west of Kangding is the mountainous Jiulong county. It is only six hours drive (250km) on the daily bus from Kangding along a good road, but few westerners come this way. It's a pity because Jiulong has some of the best alpine scenery in Sichuan.
The main attractions are the alpine lakes of Wuxu Hai and Lieta Hu, the yeti 'Wild Man' temple (Yeren Miao) and the massive 3000 metre deep gorge of the Yalong river that forms the western border of Jiulong with the equally remote Muli county. Jiulong is also a fascinating melting pot of Tibetan, Pumi and Yi cultures as well as a few Han Chinese.
Its climate is quite mild compared to Kangding, which makes visiting more pleasant at the end of the year when all the autumnal colours are out. The locals say the best time to visit are in June, when all the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom on the mountainsides, and in late October-November, when the autumnal colours reach their peak.
The main only town is Jiulong, a pretty uninspiring one street town of mock-Tibetan apartments on the main north south highway connecting the Tibetan highway with the Sichuan towns of Mianning and Xichang. But the street life is interesting ?with Tibetans and Yi in full dress rubbing shoulders with modern Chinese.
A trip to Jiulong is worth it almost for the stunning Tibetan scenery en route. From Kangding there is a daily bus that leaves at 7am and costs around 70RMB. It follows the Tibetan highway west towards Litang over the Zheduo Pass (over 4000 metres) but then branches off south down a valley just before Xinduqiao. This road has recently been improved and is now much smoother than the potholed Kangding-Litang route! The bus is also comfortable.
Things To See Around Jiulong
Wuxu Lake: entrance ticket 25RMB
Horse Riding: 40-160RMB
The main attraction of Jiulong is the Wuxu Lake, about 25km north west of town along a dirt track. This can be reached in about 90 minutes by car or jeep.
Wuxu Lake is an idyllic scenic spot, flanked to the south by a long range of grey peaks called the 12 Sisters, and with an expanse of paddock leading down to the unspoiled waters edge. On the opposite side of the lake (reached by a track on the eastern ?ie right hand side of the lake) the valley continues up to be lost in the snowy peaks of 18-20,000 foot high mountains. It's all very Shangri La.
The road to Wuxu Hai follows a narrow forested river valley past limestone cragsup to the picturesque village of Wuxu, where there are some tourists cabins being built. From here it continues up to a few newly built tourist log cabins right at the lake. The last 5km is quite rough road. It's a nice walk, passing a huge rock covered with colourful Buddhist deity paintings that locals circle round.
The Tibetan locals will nag you relentlessly to ride their horses. They do rides up to a waterfall about 30 minutes on from the other side of the lake, and beyond to hot springs where you have to build the pool around yourself with boulders from the creek. You don't need to ride a horse ?you can find your own way quite easily by just locating the well trodden tack that bears off from the middle of the forest. The locals will charge you about 50 to ride up there on horses.
Yeren Miao (Wild man temple): About an hour's drive and a 40 minute walk up a bumpy farm track southeast of town, this small temple is built in a cave, half way up a cliff. Local legend has it that the local people knew of the cave and its stream many hundreds of years ago, and visited it to pray for a good harvest. Then one day some primitive statues and simple structures appeared overnight. No one knew who did it, and it was attributed to the 'Wild Man' or Yeren ?the Chinese term for yeti. You can now see the yeti's big footprints and hand prints, enshrined in the small temple, reached by a short but steep walk up the cliff path.