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JiuZhaiGou  Day 1 (17th Sept)
  I can't wait. JiuZhaiGou's gate opens at 7:30am. I am there at 7am. 

JiuZhaiGou's sight seeing area of JiuZhaiGou is a "Y" shape with the bottom stem being 10 miles and the 2 arms being 12 miles each. If you are coming with a tour, you are supposed to get the job done in one day by taking buses that run along the routes. 

But I am not one of those quicky tourists. What options do I have if there is no accommodation inside JiuZhaiGou? I ask the ticket counter the question and they say I can pay $16 for each re-entrance on top of the basic $25 entrance fee. So if I am staying for 5 days, it would be $89!!!??? And I have to spend 1-2 hours going in and out of JiuZhaiGou each day!!!???? I can feel there is an evil force, like yesterday's evil tour guide, pushing me to spend more than I should.

Try me evil force. If there is no villager in JiuZhaiGou that welcomes me, I will sleep under a tree or something. I pay $25 and I step into the dreamy JiuZhaiGou.

I find myself in a sea of tourists at the gate. JiuZhaiGou is visited by thousands of visitors everyday. Record was set this past May 1st Labor Day holiday - 30,000 visitors!!!!

By the way, the altitude of the gate is 6,650 ft.

Hundreds of tourists squeezing themselves onto tour buses. Come on, what's the hurry? You are not going to work. You are on vacation. Poor guys.
  However, it's all different inside of the JiuZhaiGou gate. I walk along the main road alone. I watch all the tour buses that keep all the rumbling tourists away from me pass by and I smile. It feels more like the real JiuZhaiGou without all the people. 

A few minutes later, I see a running creek and I smell the cool air that accompanies it. Then I find a wooden trail built along it. Yes! I can tell paradise is ahead.

Nothing special? I know. This is the first PIC I take inside of JiuZhaiGou and I just want you to get warmed up.  

The "secret" wooden trail. It's not open yet and it's not on the map. I am all by myself.

See, it's really not open yet. But no one seems to be bothered by an "odd" tourist like me. So I walk on by.


JiuZhaiGou is covered with rain forest to provide plenty of oxygen. So even at high altitude, we won't get mountain sick.

Not quite stunning? The first section is simply creek on one side and forest on the other. There is no spectacular color nor breath-taking waterfalls.

But look close. Fallen branches and leaves are left alone to decay. Moss grows on dead wood and clear creek nurtures this community of green.

The cycle of nature gets completed here, again and again. I have never in my life see nature works in such harmony.

I step on a piece of soil of about 1 foot wide in between 2 rocks. Then I stumble hard  onto the ground. I realize what I stepped on was a super thick layer of moss...

I confess I have altered the rhythm of nature but on the other hand, I am happy. I can smell life everywhere.

There is a saying "come back from JiuZhaiGou, you don't want to see water any more." It's exaggeration but it's got a point - the water in JiuZhaiGou is stunning.

Where the creek section ends, the main attraction of JiuZhaiGou, lakes, starts. This is the Reed HaiJi.

  Lakes are called HaiJi [Sea_Son] by native Tibetans. They live in the mountains and don't know what seas look like. They thought lakes were seas and thus name them the son of seas. 

Without the reflection of the sky, I can't tell this piece of grass is below water.

JiuZhaiGou's HaiJis are different because the water of the HaiJis is crystal clear. So clear that you can't use what you see as a reference for depth. Also, these HaiJis are extremely colorful. It's colorful because of the clear water, because of what lies at the lake bed, because of reflections and because of ... it's JiuZhaiGou's HaiJi.

Staring at the clear blue water, watching entwining water grass and fallen tree trunks beneath the water, I sometimes think I am in a water palace and everything is unreal.

Normally, I can finish 10 miles in 2 hours. But by noon, I am only half way at the lower stem of the "Y" shape route (which is 10 miles long). I am staring at the HaiJis too much. But it's death penalty if I walk faster than 1 mile per hour in a paradise like JiuZhaiGou.

  I run into the Tibetan supervisor of the trail construction, Ga, and he invites me home for tea.

Ga in front of his house. Holy smoke, is this huge thing really his house? He must be a big shot or something.

These are prayer flags of Tibetan Buddhism. They believe that when these flags with prayer written on them are waving in the wind, their prayers are said.

Taking picture seems to be a sensitive subject to Tibetans. Ga says that the picture in front of his big house is his limit.

If he knew I take this picture of his kids ... Promise this is the last one. 


Power off.  

  Ga treats me with Tibetan's tea - suyoucha [Su-You-Cha]. Suyou is a milk product very similar to butter, and Cha is tea. Suyocha is the everyday drink of Tibetans', especially during the cold days.

Put suyou, sugar (switch channel please, this is English ), ZhenBa [(not sure of pronunciation. Power made from a highland wheat QingKe)] into the bowl.

DaCha [Big_Tea] (Pu'er tea or alike boiled over and over  in a kettle) is added. Stir and it's done.
Suyoucha is a must for Tibetans. They have to drink suyoucha in winter. When they have to work long days, they drink a couple of bowls in the morning and work straight till late afternoon. But Kam's southern tongue can't stand intense milk fat, and his southern stomach rock-n-rolls after receiving milk stuff like homo milk.

To be polite, I close my eyes and swallow whatever in the bowl. "Thanks for tea. Bye!" I hit the road again.

  Mouth keeps dropping open in the afternoon ...

" Fur Ox" lives at high altitude. It's named the "uncontaminated livestock". This fella was probably released into the wild for some reason and now it's living on it's own. When I pull my camera, it's right in front of me. 20 seconds later, it's that far away. Very shy animal.

First sign of a waterfall. But we are just getting warmed up here. More gorgeous waterfalls ahead.  

Water flows from the top of the "Y" towards the gate of JiuZhaiGou. At times, the water is slow, at times it's rapid. However, it's always beautiful. 

This is the ShuZheng [Tree_Straight] Waterfall. Another warm-up waterfall. The village at the back is ShuZheng Village.

One of the description of JiuZhaiGou is "tree grows in the water". On a no-wind day, when water is smooth like a mirror, this tree would look as if it hadn't fallen.

When I say HaiJis are EXTREMELY color, you think I am exaggerating ...

This is the Rihno HaiJi. Trees fall but their spirit live on through other trees that grow on their bodies. See, "tree grows in the water" again.

More underwater trees.

The color of the HaiJis touches my heart. This one has nothing fancy in the water but I spend an hour staring at it.

I am not sure if I can do this 10 miles in a day...

May I call this see-thru lakes?

At around 5pm, I come near the intersection of the "Y". Here sits one of the 2 big waterfalls of JiuZhaiGou - the LuoRiLang Waterfall. This is just a small part of it. More PICs tomorrow.  
  Time to be honest. The color in these pictures are only half as good as what I see with my eyes. I did not bring along a circular polarizer (a camera filter) that cuts down reflection. As a result, the reflection of the sky, the reflection of hills and trees (greenish) have covered up some of the colors and 3D-ness of the HaiJis. Sigh. But even the discounted colors give all of my friends wide-opened eyes.
  The LuoRiLang Waterfall is a major attraction at the intersection of the "Y" sight-seeing route and it's where the exclusive wooden trail meets the main road. Here, traffic is extremely heavy. For every photo spot in front of the LuoRiLang Waterfall, there are about 50 excited tourists waiting to pose for their I-have-been-here PICs. "Here, here, over here. I want that tree in the PIC." Blah, blah, blah ...   

That is fair. But these tourists don't have the courtesy to stay out of my view finder when it comes to my turn to PIC. I waited 30 minutes for about 5 PICs. Just when I think I got one, I notice there is a head at the corner of the PIC. My ma ma.

  About 6pm, I am at the ZeChaWa Village located very close to the "Y"'s intersection. When I start worrying about where to stay tonight, I run into a pair of Beijing friends. They came in the same bus with me. "You've been walking all day? I saw a single guy walking along the road this morning and it's you!" says Xing [star], the guy of the pair. "Got a place to stay?" asks Juan, the lady of the pair.  And before I want to shout YES!!!, they are already leading the way.

I've seen this big house before, haven't I? These villagers are
doing better than Kam for sure.  
After dropping off my 10 ton backpack, I take a walk in the ZeChaWa Village before it gets dark. I am trying to make my already long day even more worthwhile.
I meet this fella picking Chinese medicine. The spiny little things' seeds is what he is going after. He picks about 4 loads like this one per day and is making some $3 out of it.
I got poked by these things while I walk through the bushes and it hurts. What about sitting on this little ball of spiny medicine? Ha ha ha.  

Still living off the land while having a satellite disc on their roof. Some Tibetans are living the past and present decade at the same time.
  This is a regular Tibetan house with no inn attached. They plant plenty of veggies near their houses although they buy most of their food from outside of JiuZhaiGou

Since I don't see many of such "pure residential" houses around, I figure I should try my luck and see if I can get an inside look at this house. Luck me, the Tibetan woman in the house says yes.  Since I can't take PICs inside the house. I have to describe what I see by words.

The main floor of the house is lifted from the ground. Going up the stairs, I see the woman's mum is working on something (it's that spiny medicine!) on an outdoor platform. On the other side of the platform, a monk in full costume is sitting and saying his prayer. He has all the serious worshipping articles on a table in front of him and looks like he is in the middle of a ceremony. I figure he is the man of the house but devoted to Buddhism. Then into the living room. A young lady, probably the daughter of the house, is preparing dinner (oops, my stomach is complaining) and she seems a bit shy when she sees me. Obviously, there aren't a lot of visitors to the house. Then another woman is sitting on the sofa swing a Tibetan prayer drum in her hand while watching TV. 

Adding to what I saw in Ga's house this morning, I find that there are more than 1 woman in Tibetan houses (3 in Ga's) but only 1 man.  But in a place where I am not even allowed to take PICs, I am not stupid enough to ask what I want to ask? Ha ha.  

So they tell me what they will do at night is to gather and have dinner, watch TV together and go to bed. The TV program they watch is pretty much what the city souls would watch in big cities like Guangzhou. I am invited to dinner but I feel uncomfortable staying in a house which I can't take PICs and can't ask questions. I flee after thanking them for letting me in.

  It's a long day and I still haven't recovered from Mountain Hua's fatigue. Lights out at 9pm while hoping for an even better tomorrow. Like a pig.

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