A Travellerspoint blog

Frozen Peddler Paradise

Are we at the next hotel yet?

It's funny how industrialization is both a gift and a curse. The Tibetan people still try to give this illusion that they have been unaffected by the tourism that travels through here but you see it in the down jackets they wear and the iPhones they twiddle away on. It's weird that so many things remain the same yet here they have iPhones. Haha

Anyways, today was basically a travel day intermixed with the infamous Chinese tour shopping sites and freezing indoor places. None of us quite understand how all these places we went to today are colder indoors than outdoors to the point of eating with my Northface jacket on and still shivering. As the tour goes on, I've learned to eat as much as I can at meals where I can bare the food even if it's just one dish, so before leaving the Sheraton I loaded up on boiled eggs and noodles. I think for the first time ever I no longer look forward to meals (extremely shocking I know) but looked forward to returning to my hotel room to use the bathroom. So we left the hotel and headed to a "mineral museum" which is basically code for a gemstone jewelry store that tries to sell you expensive things. The great thing about being so American is that the second you only talk English, they tend to ignore you and walk away. We next went to a Tibetan tea house. We learned about 3 different teas: one was bitter and was supposed to cure your aches like headaches and the water you drank afterward was deliciously sweet, another was an oolong tea that had a flowery sweet aftertaste, and the last one was some Tibetan rarity that was supposed to cure high cholesterol and obesity and basically everything. We were locked in this room until enough people either bought the tea or refuses thoroughly enough.

After dealing with the peddlers, it was pretty late in the day but we made one last stop at Zhaga Waterfalls which is apparently man made and the soil below is yellow. Tamara thought he had said it was a 3 mile hike but luckily it wasn't because you can barely breathe at these altitudes. Despite being manmade, the waterfall was pretty awesome. We then left to our next hotel which apparently is the best in the area but that fact is not that reassuring. The bus ride back was quite possibly the most nauseating and life threatening ride. We basically forced ourselves to sleep through it praying we would make it here in one piece. Hopefully tomorrow is more eventful. Here's to losing weight until I get to Beijing. If you're reading this, send me McDonald's.

Tea ceremony
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The 3 kinds of tea we drank
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mmm tea that went straight to our bladders.
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Zhaga Waterfall
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Tamara lifting me above Zhaga Waterfall
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Posted by E.M.N 05:42 Archived in China Tagged waterfall starving zhaga Comments (1)

Jinzhai Valley National Park

"A fairytale land" in Jiuzhaigou

[It's easy to appreciate how much I have in the states when I see the desolation and poverty around Jiuzhaigou. You forget how luxurious your life actually is compared to the rest of the world. ]

Jiuzhaigou derives its name from the nine Tibetan villages around the area and the Tibetan influence is vast and well represented. Today, we traveled to Jinzhai Valley National Park which is well known for its amazing aquamarine turquoise (hard to describe unless you see it in person) lakes and waterfalls. The park is one of the biggest in China and is between 6,529 feet to 15,630 feet above sea level.

I was pretty excited after looking at pictures online. Our tour guide said that March was slower season (October being the worst) and if today was slow season, I never want to witness busy season. The masses of Chinese people all around me terrified me today. The park is so sprawled out that you really need to take buses to get around to each part but the trouble with this is that for some reason Chinese people do not really understand the concept of personal space or patience. The line to get to the initial bus was ridiculous and apparently children have been trampled to death after falling and I witnessed firsthand how that would be completely plausible. There is no rhyme or reason to the lines and it's basically a free for all for the buses so that whichever tour guide and tour group that is the most aggressive wins. I cannot count the number of times today that I was completely sandwiched, shoved in the gut and back, and slapped in the face. I'm pretty sure now I've developed claustrophobia, specifically of people. If you ever visit this place, be forewarned that you are in for a huge cultural shock and possibly the loss of your limbs. (Video proof: the horrors!)

After surviving that first (but not the last of the day) line, we rode on a bus up to Arrow Bamboo Lake and en route, there were collective ooohs and ahhhs. Natural wonders of the world never cease to amaze me and pics don't quite do them justice. The lakes are this fantastic color that changes with the depth and composition of the lake. The water is extremely clear as well so that you can peer straight into the heart of the lake. The color is mainly attributed to the high concentration of calcium carbonate from the limestone as well as the biosphere of each lake. Even though it was about 30 degrees out (the irony that I tried to escape Albany's frigid weather does not escape me), looking at this water felt like I was in a tropical oasis. The entire day all I wanted to do was touch the water and swim in it which both are completely prohibited. :( Waterfalls always also amaze me and the ones from today didn't disappoint. The current caused by the splashing of the falls created a bluish greenish hue as well. We did miss the half frozen waterfall and our group was pretty disappointed. If you can survive the 11 hour bus ride and the craziness of the people, I would recommend coming to see these lakes and waterfalls for yourself. The other wonderful thing about this area is that you can see the Tibetan influence everywhere. Tibetan flags were everywhere and many of the Tibetan people live in the national park as well as take care of it.

We had dinner at a local restaurant and Tamara, Ami, our dinner mates (who 1 is Asian Amercian and 1 is Caucasian American and don't understand Mandarin either), and I all agree that we have now met our quota on vegetables for the entire year. Each meal thus far has pretty much been vegetables galore and my mom would be in vegetable heaven. Also, it seems that there are only the same vegetables available throughout the mountains. At least tonight, the meal was pretty tasty.........well until the after dinner plans. After dinner, we went to a local Tibetan house? (I'm not sure what to call it.) The tour calls it a "cabaret". Basically after having stuffing my face at dinner, our dessert was a traditional Tibetan meal filled with none other than my least favorite meat - lamb. It was hard being so disrespectful to our Tibetan hosts but there was no way I could eat any of the meal because 1. I was full and 2. The bits I tried made me gag. The women in the family of this place sang Mandarin and Tibetan songs which concluded with us asking for an encore ("Ya So, Ya So, Ya Ya So. Oh Yea!"). The white guy jinxed himself prior to this saying he was surprised there hadn't been more jokes about him on this tour and throughout the hour, the women teased him and our entire tour group married him off to one of them in exchange for 10 cows a person. It was pretty hilarious while moderately bordering the line of awkward. Poor Chris. Then we finished by dancing around a fire which is when I realized the Psy's Gangam Style transcends all cultures. Oppa Gangam Style!

Oh the joys of random cheap Chinese tours. Haha

Now I'm beat........so here are some pics from today.

Five Colored Lake
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I love that you can see the branches and trunks so clearly under the hue of the water.
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The part I liked the most of Pearl Shoals Waterfalls. I used a longer shutter for a "motion" type effect.
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Shuzheng Waterfalls
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Shuzheng Lakes
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"Stufa" at the entrance of Shuzheng Village (a Tibetan Village). You are supposed to turn each of these gold items and pay our respects for a wish and goodluck. I love the vibrant colors of Tibetan flags.
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The typical practically vegetarian meal I have repeatedly been having. The slivers in the middle are not ginger but a weird potato that isn't as good as a russet. NEVER try the bracken root which is purple and disgusting.
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Posted by E.M.N 07:58 Archived in China Tagged waterfalls lakes nature tibet jiuzhaigou jinzhai Comments (3)

Ride to Jiuzhaigou

Apparently, this tour company thinks we have bladders the size of marbles......

Jello from almost 10,000 feet above sea level! As I write this, I am slowly realizing how tired and kinda lightheaded I feel......Today, we were not anticipating the 11 hour bus ride we had to endure. It was a long day with a very talkative but less than informative tour guide. I forget how pushy these tours can be when it comes to selling things. It's hard to tell if you are getting ripped off when you don't have access to more information. Anyways, we traveled around the mountains to Jiuzhaigou. Our bus stopped about every 1-2 hours for bathroom breaks/"sightseeing spots" (if you could call them that). Haha I decided to forego the bathroom until we got to our hotel this evening. Tamara and Ami say the bathrooms were not worth visiting. The food today was mediocre. But we did see some yaks and definitely indigenous mountain folk in the town of Songpan. Songpan apparently was a trading center between Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and Tibet. Like a melting pot of flavors. It's kinda awesome how much culture and environment is ingrained into people. You can immediately tell who was indigenous by their darker skin color and style of dress. My bus ride was pretty productive considering I have now finished the Divergent series........unfortunate that I know no mandarin and can no longer stand my tour guide's voice. At least it's all hiking tomorrow!

Here are some pictures to keep you entertained:
mmm delicious rotten meat.
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"American breakfast" (actually this was the best meal of the day.)
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Yak meat anyone?
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A stolen photo of the white "COW" (as tamara kept calling it). I did not pay for this photo of this yak o_0 haha
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Some rando lake on the way
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Songpan Bridge
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Tibetan monks on the bridge (I actually have no idea if they are Tibetan)
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Another stolen yak photo on one of our million rest stops.
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Posted by E.M.N 14:44 Archived in China Tagged bus ride long jiuzhogou Comments (1)

ABC

Finally in China.

I'm currently sitting in Beijing international airport waiting for my connecting flight to Chengdu. That's what immigrant patients must feel like. I will just point at the thing I want or make gestures or say words and hope it means something. If they don't seem to understand, I'll just nod and agree in submission. Terrifying that that happens in healthcare. I forgot how foreign being Chinese is to me. It took quite awhile to make sure that I had done everything correctly to get to this gate and as I sit here I'm too self conscious to try and figure out the vending machine. Also for some reason, I'm not allowed to have any wifi here unless I have a local mobile number. Hopefully, my hotel has Internet so I can do vsas tonight. Can't wait to meet up with Tamara and Ami to actually have a convo with people today and to finally sit down and figure out what I'm doing for the next two weeks. Haha

UPDATE:
Finally have arrived in Chengdu after much trouble and anxiety (Tamara felt responsible for me if I somehow got lost in the scramble) It was pretty much the shadiest pick up from the airport. Some random dude with my entire name printed out threw me into a taxi and told the driver where to send me. I enjoyed the ride for about 10 minutes and realized I needed to pray that he would get me there and somehow I would figure out how to find Tamara.

Excited to actually start the rest of the trip. Pictures to come.

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Had basically 3 of these "delicious" meals.

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The family friendly entertainment on the plane.

Posted by E.M.N 06:00 Archived in China Tagged beijing chinese chengdu american foreigner born Comments (1)

Tower of London

We headed to the Tower of London today. We recommend this visit o anyone planning to go to London. You could easily spend the entire day here. The Yeoman Warder, or Beefeater, tour was cancelled due to the rain, so we opted for the audio guides. We were really glad we did because the tower is a lot larger than it sounds and the guide was super informative. You hear about a lot of the stories, truth or fiction, about people like king henry Vii and Anne Boleyn. We skipped seeing the Crown Jewels though because it was just way too crowded and we were running out of time.
We left the tower finally and split ways. Alex really wanted to see the Natural History Museum so he headed there while Elayna and Jen headed for the Tower Bridge.
The Tower Bridge exhibit was entertaining because there were films along the tour and the view from the walkways was superb. It also gave us a place to hide while it poured outside. We finished the tour in the engine room where we saw how the bridge's bascules were lifted. 
We headed to the City Cruises included in our London Pass and saw the city on the River Thames. It was a pleasant ride considering the rain had stopped. We also walked around Southbank Centre which was like a mini Santa Cruz beach boardwalk and the festival hall had a vibrant musical and dancing atmosphere. We then headed tithe Waterloo station where we split a Cornish Pasty. It was delicious, warm, flaky, and very hearty.

We met Alex for dinner much later and ate somewhere not worth mentioning.

Bus tour tomorrow! Rain rain please go away!

Posted by E.M.N 10:34 Archived in England Comments (0)

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