Looking for the most beautiful place on earth? You need look no further than UNESCO site, Jiuzhaigou. Jiuzhaigou, located in Sichuan Province literally means, "Valley of Nine Villages," and is named such because of the nine Tibetan villages located in the area. Fortunately we had the privilege of talking to some of the local Tibetans there, a very nice and hospitable people. Since the area is environmentally protected, agriculture is no longer practiced there, and the local population relies heavily on tourism to support their living.
Why the green color?
After taking a look at the lakes in Jiuzhaigou one can definitely come to the conclusion that these lakes are indeed special. They have a tint of green in them and the water has a high concentration of calcium carbonate, giving it the color. Depending on the lake, the water can be very clear, and even have fish swimming in them. We ate some of the fish the first night staying at Jiuzhaigou, really delicious.
Nuorilang Waterfall (诺日朗瀑布)
One of the most spectacular sites was Nuorilang Waterfall . It was a wide waterfall that felt so nice because of the mist it generated on that hot day. It is supposedly the widest highland waterfall in all of China.
Getting to Jiuzhaigou
We took the hard way. This involved taking a bus from Guangyuan straight to the mouth of Jiuzhaigou (the town right before the site). Because of the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, the road was BUMPY... and I mean in the worst sense. People were carrying and passing around black plastic bags puking the whole way there. Luckily we could all handle the ride. For the traveler with a little extra cash, I would suggest buying the plane ticket in. But then again, you'll miss the cool towns and scenery along the way.
The Jiuzhaigou Experience
From interacting with an interesting local culture to seeing breathtaking views of unique lakes and landscapes, this was a trip that will definitely never be forgotten. Luckily Yeonchang suggested we go there, as my original plans did not account for it. How lucky to have had him make the suggestion. Getting off the train from Xian to Guangyuan was something else. Since Guangyuan is the main town where tourists catch the bus to Jiuzhaigou, hordes of people are waiting for you to give them business outside train station. Don't be frightened though, for the most part the people of Guangyuan are very hospitable, and if you don't go during peak season, you can find real bargains in the area. Be ready to practice your Mandarin though, and believe me, the Mandarin of the Chinese in Guangyuan is difficult to understand. The journey to Jiuzhaigou sucked, I'm not going to lie. But the memories surely didn't, and the good by far outweighed the bad. Give Jiuzhaigou a try, you'll never forget it.
Lonely Planet: China
Below is the Lonely Planet Guidebook for China. I would highly recommend this as I often used this as a reference for a wide range of things from finding places to sleep to transportation to eating, and more. The important thing about traveling in China and most of Asia in general if you are on a budget is to get to know the prices of things. Guidebooks like Lonely Planet do a pretty good job at telling you approximately what price things should be so that you don't get ripped off. Click on the image and it will take you to amazon.com where you can purchase your own copy of the book.