Breathless at Huanglong

After Jiuzhaigou, our next stop was Huanglong. The altitude at Huanglong was extremely high – 3200 meters above sea level at the foot of the mountain!

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The walk up the mountain was however rather pleasant, on paved boardwalks. However, we had to take it slow as given the high altitude, it didn’t take very much activity for us to start to feel breathless.

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As much as I would have liked to say that I made it all the way to the top of Huanglong, sadly, I gave up after visiting the Guest Welcome Pools, the first of several sightseeing points along the way.

The Guest Welcome Pools is a series of tiered shallow pools, formed naturally (of course), and filled with turquoise-coloured water.

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Pretty? Yes. Awe-inspiring like Jiuzhaigou? Not quite. After being slightly underwhelmed by the Guest Welcome Pools at Huanglong, and realizing (after some quick googling that the other sights further up the mountain basically consisted of pools and more pools, I beat a hasty retreat down the mountain, to enjoy my first proper meal in days, at the fast food restaurant at the foot of the mountain. :p

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Exploring Jiuzhai (Nine Villages) Valley

We took a family trip to Sichuan, China recently, and Jiuzhai Valley, or Jiuzhaigou as it is known in Chinese, was the star attraction of the trip.

The journey to Jiuzhaigou was long and arduous, beginning with a flight from Singapore to Chengdu, followed by an entire day’s bus journey from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou.

Off we go, into the glorious sunset (and to Chengdu)!

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Enroute to Jiuzhaigou (probably to break up the monotony of the long bus ride), we stopped at Pingtou Village, a village inhabited by the Qiang people, one of the ethnic tribes in China.

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It was interesting to view the motifs on the exterior of the buildings, and to learn the reason why the villages place white stones on their door frames and window frames – because they worship the deity of the white stones. However, I could not help but feel that Pingtou Village is a sanitized version of a typical Qiang village for tourist viewing, or the tourist dollar has really brought about great prosperity to the village, as all the houses looked new and extremely well-maintained!

Motifs on the buildings.

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White stones on the window frames.

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Very new-looking statues and wall art – See what I mean about the village prospering from the tourist dollar?

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By the time we reached the vicinity of Jiuzhaigou, it was too late to visit the National Park, and we had to wait for the next day for that.

It was drizzling slightly as we headed into the Jiuzhaigou National Park, but I thought it enhanced the experience, as it made my first glimpse of JiuHaigou look even more dream-like, with the mountains shrouded in clouds.

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Once we entered the nature reserve, we were treated to a delightful, and seemingly endless array of beautiful scenery. Being an urban kid, having the opportunity to come so close to such natural beauty was awe-inspiring.

The majestic Nuorilang Waterfall.

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The surreal Mirror Lake – check out the reflections on the lake!

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The deep blue colour of the Long Lake, and the low clouds hanging over the mountains was breathtaking.

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The unreal turquoise waters of the Colourful Pool and the Five Colour Lake.

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The Pearl Shoal, a series of gentle cascades which eventually lead to the Pearl Shoal Waterfall.

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Shuzheng Waterfall and neighboring Shuzheng Lakes.

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Although a visit to Jiuzhaigou is by no means a walk in the park because of the high altitude (between 2000 to 3000 meters above sea level, depending on which part of Jiuzhaigou you are at), the breathtaking (pun unintended) views make any discomfort worthwhile.

Would I visit again? Probably not in the next few years – I shall wait for my memories of the beautiful scenery to fade before I re-visit. Also, hopefully, by the time I visit again, the quality of food and toilets in that region would have improved.

Tips for travellers:
– The best time to visit is in October, when fall comes to Jiuzhaigou. However, it will be crazy crowded, especially during the China Golden Week. do check the China public holiday calendar before booking your trip.
– Be prepared for lousy food – think oily, salty and/or weird (or all of the above). Pack lots of snacks if you are a fussy about food.
– Be prepared for third world toilets – some without doors, some with only a half door, and some with doors but without locks!

Borobudur

A couple of weeks ago, B and I took a short weekend trip to Yogyakarta, to visit Borobudur. I have always wanted to visit Borobudur, and as a friend later pointed out, Borobudur was probably never far from my mind as it was the school trip that got away from me years ago – I had completely forgotten how miffed I felt about missing it until my friend mentioned it!

As we wanted to catch the sunrise at Borobudur, our visit began with waking up at 3 am, to get ready for our 3.30 am pick-up to head to Borobudur. Instead of catching the sunrise from a vantage point near Borobudur, we were going to experience sunrise inside Borobudur itself, which meant that we enter the temple grounds through one of the hotels surrounding Borobudur, and make our way up to the top in the dark, to wait for daybreak.

First glimpse of Borobudur.

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As we headed up to the top of the temple complex in the dark, the pre-dawn air was brisk, and it was tranquil and somewhat eerie, as we could only make out the shapes of the structures, but could not see any details. Add to that the shadows cast by the floodlights at the foot of the temple grounds, I couldn’t help but feel that I was in some kind of twilight zone.

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And of course, I also had to watch where I was going carefully, since I am quite a klutz. So, you can imagine my relief when the skies lightened, and I could actually see properly. My first proper view of Borobudur as the sky lightened was that of the famous bells. In the early morning mist, they looked mystical and majestic!

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As the sun started to emerge over the horizon, we were also treated to the sight of the sky awash with pink and orange hues.

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And against a backdrop of a more purplish sky (though sadly, that is not really evident from this photo), the colour of the bells changes.

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After about 10 minutes of watching the colour of the sky (and the structures around us) changing, we finally see the sun! It was somewhat misty, and objectively not the most beautiful sunrise, but where I was standing, within Borobudur, surrounded by ancient temple structures, it felt right.

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Shortly after the sun rose, the mist was melted away, and the colours of Borobudur once again changed, taking on a golden hue.

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I must (shamelessly) say that the decision to catch the sunrise inside Borobudur was an inspired one by us, and I would highly recommend this option. It’s pricier, but worth every cent. Not only did I get to witness Borobudur reveal itself in all its glory as daybreak arrived, I also got to experience the many changing colours of Borobudur. And as an added bonus, we managed to avoid the searing heat and humidity of the day, as we were done by 8.30 am, and avoided the hordes of tourists who were streaming in as we were leaving!

Guess the saying that the early bird catches the worm holds true in this particular instance, as we even made it back to the hotel for breakfast, and could relax and nap before our spa!

Time to chillax!

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Eating our way through Bali (Part 3)

A favourite of ours in Bali that we have visited time and again is Lia Restaurant at Jimbaran.

Lia Restaurant is one of the many beachfront BBQ seafood places at Jimbaran. On all our previous visits, we have never managed to catch the sunset, as we tend to forget how early and how fast the sun sets in Bali. On this trip, we made it a point to set off from Seminyak early, so that we arrive in Jimbaran in good time for the sunset. And we were rewarded with this view upon arriving at the restaurant.

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Upon securing a table, we headed to choose our seafood, at the selection area near the entrance of the restaurant.

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After selecting our seafood, we headed back to our table to enjoy the sunset, and await the arrival of our barbecued seafood.

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And here comes the food – juicy, tasty grilled seafood!

Grilled snapper.

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Grilled jumbo prawns and squid.

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The seafood was also served with vegetables (but no photos cos we were too eager to tuck in!).

Lia Restaurant
Jl Permalisan Agung
Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia