Jiuzhai Valley- Huanglong Scenic Area

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My final day in the Jiuzhaigou area was a full one since my flight out of China wasn’t until 2130. I decided to hold off on seeing the Huanglong Scenic Area for this day. Huanglong is located about a three hours’ drive from Jiuzhaigou, and you actually pass the airport on the way to the area. Considering how long, tedious, and at times harrowing, the drive from Jiuzhaigou can be, I didn’t want to make it a day trip on my third day, and spend around six hours on the road.

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So the very helpful front desk manager at my hotel booked another day taxi for me. The cost for a day trip to Huanglong with a drop off at the airport on the way back cost me 600 yuan. Yeah, that is pretty pricey, but ultimately it was worth it for me, because it allowed me to go at my own pace and set my own independent schedule and stop off at the airport when I was done.

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Like I mentioned, the drive there was a bit tedious and at times, gut checking. The main roads in this part of the country are wide enough for two vehicles, maybe a bit wider. But the curves on this roads are numerous and at times, very windy. There also seems to be a very free wheeling attitude toward rules of the road. Truthfully, I don’t know what the rules of the road are in China, but judging what I experienced through a Western driving prism, I was often tense and at times afraid for my life. Passing on all sides of the road seemed de rigeur, passing on tight curves happened all the time, along with passing on narrow, mountain roads with a very steep drop off on one side, so more than once I imagined myself dying or being seriously injured on this trip. I hoped that my driver was skilled enough to avoid all that (even if his driving often scared the crap out of me), and thankfully he was.

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We left Jiuzhaigou around 0700 so we arrived at Huanglong around 1000. Thanks to him passing every bus and slow moving vehicle we found ourselves behind, I beat the tour groups. Sure there were people on site already, but the lines were very minimal. Admission fee for Huanglong is 210 yuan, plus an additional 80 yuan for the cable car up. Purchasing a ticket for the cable car is purely optional, though I elected to do so, and am glad I did. Sure you can walk up and down the Huanglong Valley, and I saw many groups do so. However, I wasn’t really in the mood to walk up 3.6 kilometers in the valley in that altitude, so I took the cable car up the mountain.

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To get to the cable car, you take a shuttle bus about 10 minutes away. Since it was still early in the morning, the line for the cable was nil, and I was able to immediately ascend the mountain. The cable car lets you off about 2.2 kilometers  from the Huanglong Valley, and it is an easy walk from the cable car station. Like everything else in the national parks in this area, the trails are well benched with wood planks and the trails are easy to walk. It makes for a very pleasant stroll to a beautiful lookout of the Huanglong Valley and the surrounding mountains.

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Once I arrived at Huanglong, I walked further up the path to the apex of the trail which overlooks the Multi-Colored Pond. This was another set of travertine pools, very similar to what I saw at Fairy Pond Scenic Area. The water were shades of blue and green set among the golden travertines. The clouds were gray and overhead this day (though thankfully no rain), so the colors weren’t as bright as they would be on a sunny day, but they were still beautiful nonetheless.

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The trail down the valley is 3.6 kilometers and is another wood planked trail. The path heads downward and it passes some local temples and even more travertine pools. The trail is filled with viewpoints to stop and stare at the nature around you.

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The calcium deposits built up more and more as you descend the valley, and towards the bottom, it starts to resemble the Gold and Silver Beach at Fairy Pond.

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Waterfalls also become more numerous, with the most unusual looking waterfall to be Flying Waterfall very near the bottom. The waterfall reminded me of some of the waterfalls I saw in Jiuzhaigou National Park, such as Shu Zheng Waterfall .

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I took my time walking down the valley, since I had plenty of time and I was on my own schedule (the benefit of paying for independent travel rather than going with a tour group). Even then I had so much time at the end. My taxi driver dropped me off at the airport on the return journey, and the airport is about an hour’s drive from Huanglong.

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I think Huanglong is a must do when visiting the Jiuzhaigou area. If forced to choose between Fairy Pond and Huanglong, I recommend Huanglong, just because there is a bit more to see. If you choose to travel to Jiuzhaigou, I recommend staying no less than three days, which will allow you two full days in Jiuzhaigou National Park, and a trip to Huanglong. This will give you the greatest opportunity to see the astoundingly beautiful and unique nature in the area at a leisurely pace.  Also if possible, I recommend taking a late flight out of Jiuzhaigou, and there are plenty of opportunities, since there are about 23 flights a day to various Chinese cities during high season (basically spring through fall). This will allow you to visit Huanglong on your leaving day and go to airport on your way out. But if you love beautiful nature, this place is not to be missed.

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Jiuzhai Valley- Fairy Pond Scenic Area


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I made the deliberate plan to stay in the Jiuzhai Valley area for four full days, or basically four full days since my flight out was at 2130 at night on my fourth day in the valley. Since I had my activity planned for my final day, I had an open day for visiting something else in the area. When I was doing deeper research on the Jiuzhai Valley, I discovered the Fairy Pond Scenic Area, which wasn’t mentioned in my China guidebook. Upon further investigation, it sounded like a beautiful place to visit and an ideal day trip from the Jiuzhaigou village I was staying.

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The Fairy Pond Scenic Area is only about 49 kilometers (30 miles) from Jiuzhaiguou village, but it takes about 90  minutes to get there by car. It is certainly possible to take a bus to the area, but it honestly seems like more trouble than it is worth. So your two basic options to visit the Fairy Pond are to do a tour group trip, or hire a taxi on your own to take you. I chose the latter since it gave me freedom of movement and the ability to set my own schedule. Since I don’t speak Mandarin, the front desk manager was kind enough to book a taxi for me. She didn’t really speak English, but she spoke better English than I did Chinese, and combined with some basic phrases and Google Translate, we were able to communicate.

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So my taxi driver for the day showed up at the pre-arranged time (400 yuan for a full day) and we headed off for Fairy Pond Scenic Area. Even though the actual distance isn’t that far, it still takes a while to get there. The road is narrow and winding, and we had to cross a very high mountain pass (3604 meters or 11,825 feet) to get to the Fairy Pond on the other side of the mountain. We stopped for a few minutes at the top of the pass to marvel at the beautiful mountains below us. Some of them were laced with morning fog, and some of them were peeking out.

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Admission to the Fairy Pond Scenic Area is 100 yuan and then you are pretty much free to roam about. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the entrance area to the start of the scenic area. There are stairs on both side of the scenic area and you can walk up either side and walk down the other. At the base of the valley is the Gold and Silver Beach with is a wide trickling waterfall built up with calcium deposits and a blend of gold and silver colors, hence its name.

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I elected to walk up the right side of the valley so I would walk down the left side of it and get the most comprehensive view of the valley’s sights. As I walked up the stairs, I followed the gently flowing water. The bottom of the valley was a very wide, golden calcium carbonate travertine and the water rippled slowly over it and produced a delicate, beautiful shimmering effect.

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The first travertine pool was Jasper Lake and it was easy to walk among and over the lake via the wood planked boardwalk. These pools weren’t the first travertines I’ve visited (that would be Pammukkale in Turkey), but that didn’t stop me from appreciating their unique beauty. The calcium deposits were a delicate golden color and the water was an iridescent turquoise blue, and I marveled that such stuff can exist in nature, and took thousands of years to get to the point they are at now.

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The path was a wood planked set of stairs and kept going up and up, with occasional stops for different sights. The path itself is very easy, and the ascent is rather gentle with plenty of sights to see along the way. The lakes were beautiful colors of blue and green and they were so clear. I imagine the area would be even more beautiful in full overhead sunlight, but even with the smattering of clouds, Fairy Pond was still colorful and beautiful. Blue Dragon Pool was a beautiful blue and the still water was  a perfect reflection of the trees resting underneath the water’s surface.

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About midway up the stairs, the view stops at Multi-Lotus Reflecting Pools. The travertines were a beautiful contrast of pure white or bright golden calcium deposits and very bright turquoise blue water, all set among the green trees and looking out over the faraway mountains.

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The path ends up at the top of a colorful flag pavilion. It’s a small open air pavilion festooned with colorful prayer flags. The pavilion provided some shade and welcome coolness from the hot air and a good place to rest.

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The path downward was easy with more sets of stairs. This way allows you to see the same sights as the hike up, but on the opposite side to provide a different perspective.

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All told, I was at the Fairy Pond Scenic Area for a leisurely couple of hours. All the sights you want to see are clustered in this valley and the park is set up real well to facilitate an easy visit.

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Fairy Pond Scenic Area makes for a great day trip from Jiuzhaigou village. Now if you are only in the area for a few days, I suggest you spend two days in Jiuzhaigou National Park and another day at the Huanglong Scenic Area. But if you have another free day, Fairy Pond is very much worth your time.

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