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July 22, 2004

Jiuzhaigou: An itinerary

Pictured above is one of many stunning waterfalls at Jiuzhaigou.

After a few days of reflection on my tour to Jiuzhaigou, a nature reserve and national park in northern Sichuan province, I have decided that the best way to explain my experience is with a tour itinerary. Not just any regular old tour itinerary, but an itinerary of what actually happened.

Day 1:
7 am: Board bus in Chengdu. Bus looks as if it should
be carrying school children. Is tastefully decorated
with leopard print seat covers.

9 am: Still in Chengdu picking up other tour group
members. Unfortunately you will be the first person in
a 26-person tour group to be picked up from their
hotel. Realize that every other person on the bus is
Chinese and that the perky tour guide does not speak

12 pm: Sit in traffic near the Chengdu nature reserve
only 70 kilometers outside the city. Every other
vehicle on the road (all 3,000 of them) is a tour

12:15 pm:See city that has been evacuated by
government because government is building another
enormous dam that will create a lake "10 times the
size of (Hangzhou's) West Lake."

3 pm: Eat lunch with your group. Introduce yourself to
woman sitting next to you who eats her entire lunch
(half the food that's on the table) in approximately
5.2 minutes. Promptly nickname her "the piranha."

5 pm: Stop for photo op at the site of an earthquake
that killed 6,000 people.

5:15 pm: Bus is hit by falling rock. Luckily rock is

5:16 pm: Bus almost hits heard of sheep.

9 pm: Check into hotel with slightly dirty sheets and
squat toilet. Eat dinner consisting of a few
vegetables and fatty pork strips.

10 pm: Go to sleep.

Day 2
5:50 am: Tour guide, who you thought was a nice
person, wakes you up.

6:30 am: Eat breakfast (pickled vegetables and steamed
bread) and prompty get on bus, where you will fall
asleep while the guide talks non-stop into a
microphone with the volume turned up way too high. Fear
you may be deaf by the end of four-day tour.

9 am: Arrive at Jiuzhaigou. Get out of bus and realize
there are 20,000 people in the park. (It would be
more, but the park does not allow more than 20,000
people in each day).

9:30 am: See first "sight" in Jiuzhaigou,
magnificently clear turquoise pools, with alpine
mountains in the background. As you focus your camera,
tour guide leading mass of people wearing matching red
baseball caps blasts out information with a bull horn.

10 am: Take park bus all the way to the end to another
lake. There are even more people there than you
thought could fit in 3,000 tour buses. Forge your own
path to side of lake with no people and sit in silence
for a short time before joining the crowds again.

12 pm: Push and shove your way through the line at the
dining hall. Eat.

1 pm: Find path that has been blocked off, jump the
barricade, and find some peace and quiet where no
Chinese tourist dares to go.

4 pm: Realize that the path goes on and on forever and
that you might actually be stuck. Park ranger spots
your friend's red jacket and gestures for you to jump
over a barricade. Ranger turns out the be the nicest
man in Sichuan and gives you a tour of the park as he
drives you to a bus stop, letting you get out along
the way to take pictures.

6 pm: Eat without the group. They are at a dance
performance you were too cheap to pay for.

7 pm: Go to second bad hotel. This one has water
stains on the carpet and the bathroom smells, but is
definitely a step up from the first night. Guess it
might actually have a star rating.

11 pm: Sleep.

Day 3:
5:50 am: Guide wakes you up with thunderous knock to
door. You begin to hate her.

7 am: Get on bus, thinking you're going to Huanglong

9 am: Realize bus has stopped at a yak meat store. 200
other tour buses have also stopped there.

12:30 pm: Arrive at Huanglong, after stopping at two
other tourist stores. (You stayed on the bus and pretended to
sleep so you did not have to go look at overpriced
things you would not buy. Tour guide begins to hate you
because she will not get a commission out of you.)

1 pm: Realize that there is no way to escape tourists
at Huanglong because there is only one path up the
mountain. Enjoy the crystal clear pools formed by limestone anyway. Watch people buy mini cans of oxygen
and actually use them for their "altitude sickness."

4:30 pm: Get in bus again for five hours of hell.
Driver has turned into the devil, and drives
unreasonably fast over the dirt roads that twist along
steep mountain passes. Hope that one) driver does not
drive off cliff, and two) rock does not fall on bus.
Three passengers throw up during course of five hours.

11:30 pm: Arrive in strange town where your hotel is.
Group finally eats dinner. All of you are beginning to
plot against the guide and driver for starving you.

12:30: Sleep. (Finally.)

Day 4:
6 am: Wake up to the sound of a rooster and loud
noises coming from the air shaft, which your hotel
room faces. Tour guide was supposed to wake you up,
but didn't.

6:30 am: Eat yet another breakfast of steamed bread
and pickled vegetables. Stare in disbelief as college
aged girl on your tour gobbles up pickled cabbage like
it's the best food she's ever had.

9 am: Stop at tourist shop. This one specializes in
items carved from yak bone.

10 am: Stop at honey stand.

10:30 am: Stop at tea store. Pretend to sleep, but
this time actually fall asleep because you have only
gotten five hours of sleep for the last three nights.

11:30 pm: Begin long journey back to Chengdu.

5 pm: Arrive in Chengdu. Give tour guide nasty looks
because she wouldn't drop you off at your hotel.

5:15 pm: Realize you will never sign yourself up for a Chinese tour again.

Posted by Christina on July 22, 2004 10:53 PM
Category: Sichuan
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