Friday, August 28, 2015

Hiking in Jiu Zhai Gou

Jiuzhaigou is a nature reserve and national park located in the north of Sichuan province, China. Jiuzhaigou Valley is part of the Min Mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, known for its many multi-level waterfalls, colorful lakes.

It attracts a lot of domestic visitors. The first day we visited Jiu Zhai Gou, the park reached its daily max at 41000 people. Thousands of tourists crowded the entrance. It took about one hour to get in and another half hour to get on the shuttle to get to vistas.

the crowd at entrance
the crowd at colorful pond
The crowd, the noise just totally destroyed any mood one has to appreciate the wonder of nature. 

The problem can be easily solved if we hike. That was what we did partially the second day. The hiking trail is at the other side of the valley from the shuttle route. Note that domestic tourists don't hike! They take shuttles to get to a location, take pictures and move on to next location to register their presence. 

Rhino Lake

The whole trail in the park is wood boardwalk!

What a difference it made - the crowd disappeared and noise evaporated after we hiked away from a major junction for about half mile. Everywhere we went, we essentially had the whole place to ourselves. We could hear the sound of rushing water in the valley, the chirping of birds in the woods and our own footsteps on the boardwalk!

water falls

a finch on a fallen tree branch
The sun came out to reveal the changing colors of water at Jiu Zhai Gou. Flowers swung in the light wind, and butterflies flew by and rest on flowers.

We hiked at a leisure pace, chatted now and then. We had a picnic lunch on the trail without blocking anyone. We enjoyed the tranquility and beauty of the wonder of nature at Jiu Zhai Gou in its "natural" state. It was one of the best day I had in China!

Note - if I go to Jiu Zhai Gou again, I would do the following

1) stay at a hotel in walking distance  to the entrance (within 2~ 3km , to beat the traffic in town)
2) hiking up the mountain on the wooden board walk (avoid crowds, no lines!)
3) cross the valley via board walk to have better views of some vistas, but will hike on the trail side 
4) go to the primitive forest side first
5) take shuttle downward
6) best to spend 2 days at the park 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tea Savoring in Beijing - by Lily

Having savored the jasmine pearl tea at a teahouse in San Francisco earlier this year I was determined to hunt it down when my family visited China this summer. I was delighted to find out that my sister is also a tea-lover now. She took us to her favorite tea house, TianHe (天禾), located at the famous tea street in Beijing,  Ma Lian Dao (马连道).

Tea house keeper - lady in red
The teahouse is rather a front store of a tea warehouse, large bags of various types of tea leaves filled the shop. The owner of the teahouse, a middle age woman,  has a factory in her hometown in southern China to make all these teas to supply for her store here. She welcomed all of us and set up small tea cups for us to sample. Since I was there for Jasmine tea, she took out three types for us to try. The first was the jasmine pearl, the second was the jasmine tea in loose leaf form mixed with flowers, and the third was the pristine jasmine tea sprouts. As we tasted the tea getting better and better, she explained the process of making jasmine tea, the type of tea leaves used in each of the tea we sampled, and hence the difference in its taste. I felt intoxicated by the heavenly smell and flavor.

After sampling the green tea, she invited us to try some black tea. Black tea has a different processing procedure than green tea. It is known to be good for blood circulation and the GI system and especially beneficial for women. We tried two types, Jin Jun Mei (金骏眉) and Da Hong Pao (大红袍). As we savored the tea the owner smilingly told us stories on how these two types of tea got their names.

Green Tea

Black Tea

White tea has become very popular in recent years, so we will have to try that as well. White tea is known to have medicinal benefits in curing common cold and other maladies. The longer it ages the more valuable it becomes, just like wine. I have a box that my mom gave me two years ago. I haven’t touched it for not knowing its benefits, now its value has doubled! The teahouse owner boiled more water and explained that white tea requires boiling water to make, unlike green and black tea which tastes best when made with ~80°C water. We sipped the hot tea and felt a bit of bitter taste. My sister said that adding some crystal sugar into it would make it an excellent drink even for kids. White tea also doesn’t contain any caffeine, which is a total sell for Allan! He said he’d drink it everyday.

white tea
As we packed all sorts of teas we purchased, we bid good bye to the owner and thanked her for her hospitality. I asked to have a picture taken with her in front of her store and told her I’ll visit again in a few years.

Tea House

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jiu Zhai Gou - by Nicholas

In my two weeks at China, I was able to experience both the fast-paced aggressive city life and the beautiful countryside. These two completely unique experiences both had their own charm, but I definitely preferred my time in China’s premier national park, Jiu Zhai Gou (i.e. Nine Village Gullies) . As one of the most famous scenic destinations in all of China, there was no way our trip would be complete without our 2 day stop.

Five Color Pond on a Rainy Day
Rhinoceros Lake 
When we first arrived in Cheng Du, Sichuan, China, we were greeted by many family members from both sides of the family tree. From my mom’s side, my aunt and her family, and from my dad’s side, both his sister and brother, along with my cousin Xinyi. From thereon, our trip would consist of long, tiresome bus rides, only alieved by the chance to stretch one’s legs and fall in love with the beauty of Jiu Zhai Gou, a sharp contrast from the few smoggy Beijing days. Of course, Jiu Zhai Gou is most famous for its lakes. An unbelievably bright blend of green and blue, they were the cornerstone of the Jiu Zhai Gou experience. It is said that once you have seen the waters of Jiu Zhai Gou, all other water seems dull and uninteresting. How could it not, having experienced such a wonder? Based on this foundations, the waterfalls of Jiu Zhai Gou stand as a delightful change of scenery. The chaos of the huge, pounding waterfalls provides a fresh change from the serenity of the ponds. I am especially lucky to have seen Jiu Zhai Gou in her two moods, a testament to how fickle she is.
Pearl Shoal Water Fall
 On our first day in the park, we were forced through seas of people, rain dripping down our ponchos, slowly seeping into our shoes. Brief, infrequent staccato bursts of thunder could be heard, and the rain, while light and misty, obscured the high mountains in mist. Waterfalls raged stronger than ever while we tramped up the mountain. The Pearl Shoal Waterfall was the highlight of this day, a massive series of waterfalls stretching several hundred feet. In the security of the trees, we were able to capture the waterfall in its full strength. The second day, however, was the complete opposite. Arriving early at Jiu Zhai Gou, the atmosphere was bright, sunny, and delightful. Climbing down the mountain, the lonelier path we took had much less people than before. Lakes sparkled, illuminated by sunshine, and everything was at peace. Our leisurely stroll led us past marrying couples, a variety of different shades of butterfly, and other excited families, only adding to the joyful atmosphere.

Raging Water at Jiu Zhai Gou

Jiu Zhai Gou is a really amazing experience; one can fully enjoy the beauty of nature simply by walking the wooden paths.