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JiuZhaiGou  Day 4 (20th Sept)
  Today, I am doing the left arm of the "Y" alone. Weather is from drizzle to overcast. How come there is so much rain in late Sept.? Because of bad luck I guess.  

This is a comparatively boring route. There is the biggest HaiJi, the Long HaiJi, at the end of the route. Then the 5-Color Pool just before it. There are 2 dried up HaiJis on the way but they wouldn't even count them as attractions. Maybe because there is nothing much to see, no trail is built for this route.

7:30am, when the tourists are squeezing themselves onto tours buses at the gate, I catch a van at the "Y"'s intersection. Just when I am wondering why there is a van running at this time of the day, I find that all the passengers on the van are Tibetans. The answer is: this is a staff van. Anyway, they haven't reacted in any way and I ride on (they must think I am a fellow Tibetan ).

I don't want to miss anything on the route. But since I don't have a window seat, I keep sticking my face into the territory of the woman sitting next to the window. Am I not supposed to do so in Tibetan rules?

Suddenly, the van stops in the middle of the road. The woman takes off her hat with one hand and draws circle above her head with the other. I can see she is holding something in her other hand. Other Tibetans start to react as well. Ahhhhhhhh, forgive me, I promise I will not look outside of the window for the rest of the trip!!!!!!!!!!!

Then they all open the windows and throw piles of little color paper into the air. I ask the woman what is going on and she says they are worshipping the mountain god. Ooooookay, I will keep looking out of the window then.

  The Long HaiJi has an attitude of 10,237 ft. and an area of 10,100,000 sqr. ft. It's doesn't have the signature features of JiuZhaiGou HaiJis - touching crystal clear water and trees growing in the water, it should rather be appreciated as a simple, beautiful and peaceful lake.

No climbing please - the mountain in the mist should be over 13,000 ft.  

Signs of worship at lake side. On the ground, I see the little color papers that the Tibetans threw out of the van. I guess it shouldn't be counted as pollution as the native Tibetans are part of the ecosystem.

The Long HaiJi could be as colorful as the other HaiJi. Maybe it's just the weather.

Yes, it could be the weather.
  Toilets in China is notorious. But there is exceptions.

You may think I am nuts but I got to take a PIC of this memorable experience.

Shortly after I take the first PIC, my intestines are rebelling. It's last night's chilli. I hate to do it in the public ... toilet, I mean, but you know I am not in charge anymore. So I jump into one of the plastic box public toilets.

To my surprise, this toilet doesn't smell at all! The automatic ventilation turns itself on once I close the door. And there is electric air freshener and help bell in case I faint in the toilet. Most amazing, the environment friendly plastic cover retracts into the bowl when I stand up from the toilet seat. I don't even have to flush.

I am too happy I spend 20 minutes in the cabin doing what I should be doing plus checking out the facilities. When I come out of it, a toilet attendant is waiting outside in case I fainted in toilet. Of course I have to chat with him about this super toilet. I am glad to learn it's not imported, it's made in ShangHai.  

Gee, what am I doing writing about a toilet in my trip log?  

  Just a couple more on the Long HaiJi. At the Long HaiJi, you can get PICed in Tibetan costume and on Fur Ox back.

ZhouMa's family keeps a Fur Ox here. I run into her mother who is watching the ox. "Can I pet the ox in the head?" "No, it recognizes people." Ok, I don't want to get into a fight with the ox.

As tourists start to rush onto the scene. I better go else where.

A Tibetan washing her Fur Ox. Probably need some shampoo for the head.
  I decide to take a macro tour at the Long HaiJi. It's rained and I am sure the plants are greener and livelier than usual. A few minutes down a stone trail, I venture into the woods. I stop after 20 ft. Within a 1-setp radius, I see all these:
Amazing, isn't it?

I continue to walk into the mountain on a barely recognizable muddy trail...

Soil is black, moist and loose. It's so fertile here if I stand too long on a spot, my feet will grow roots.

Whatever happens below the water of JiuZhaiGou happens above water as well - a tree grows on a fallen tree.
Some other plants I see in JiuZhaiGou. 

Help needed! If you know the name of any of these beautiful plants, please email Kam. But please make sure you can do better than something like "moss & mushroom". Thanks in advance.
  Out of the woods with muddy boots, I head towards the 5-Color Pool.

Yes, a pool. 5-Color is kind of small to be called a HaiJi. Unlike most other HaiJis, it's fed by underground water.

In the middle of the pool, there is a strip of intense blue. It's like a gem that lights up the whole pool.

And there is a pink spot at the very bottom ...

While I am taking the PIC on the left, there are about 300 tourists around me. I wait, and wait, and wait and take the PIC on the left.  

About that pink spot, it's not part of the pool, it's a tourist's cap!   

Ripple and moss dancing in harmony.
  And that is it for sight seeing up the left arm of the "Y". I take a bus back to the intersection. ZhouMa's family runs a souvenir shop near by so I want to drop by and say hello. When I am there, Xing and Juan are there already.

The intersection is a busy place at noon. Almost all tour groups come here for lunch. But traffic drops to near zero after 2pm. ZhouMa and Fa close the shop and we go back to the inn together.

It was so fun yesterday doing PICs that ZhouMa proposes to PIC in Tibetan costume today. How can I say no? 

More stove PICs.

2 in Tibetan robes.

This is not the costume for tourists at the Long HaiJi. This is the real stuff. Juan, on left, is overjoyed to be able to try the robe while ZhouMa is putting it on for her.

The hat.

Fur for decoration. I know a lot of people object to the use of fur. But I think there is a difference between people that live off the land to use fur on clothing than a city being showing off with an expensive piece of animal body. Only my opinion though.

The front of the belt. It's made of Tibetan silver and coral.

Rear view.

The total cost of this robe is about $1,000. In new year, when all the "add-ons" are attached, the cost could be tripled.

Now you know why this is not the kind of Tibetan costume you can pay a few dollars and get PICed in. 

The robe is generic. However, there is a different way of wearing it for the sexes. According to ZhouMa, if this is to be worn by a male, he has to pull up the foot of the robe and tie it to the belt.

  After another around of cultural exchange, the photographer needs a break.

I get myself a bowl of dacha and sit in the front of the inn. Steam is coming out of the tea, rising, and mixing with mist in the mountains afar. My eyes lose focus and the world freezes in this cool highland air. At the moment, there is nothing left in the world to worry about. I reach a state of total relaxation. Rarely I can be as relax. Maybe it's because I am not trying hard to get myself relaxed this time.

I hold the bowl tight so that I can feel the warmth of the tea; I sniff the tea hard so that I can remember the smell of this dacha. I hope that when I pour myself a cup of tea back home, it can remind me of this sublime moment.

  It's time for dinner. ZhouMa is making noodle pieces tonight.

From left, ZhouMa, dama [Da-Ma, Big_Mother More Detail (that's how northern people calll a friend's mother)], Juan and Fa sharing digital PICs using modern technology. I think they enjoy it.

Back home, when someone says "I'll make you noodle." I know that noodle will be something taken out of a plastic package. Instant noodle that is.

When I step into the kitchen. I see ZhouMa is doing it from flour. I feel so very grateful that something got stuck in my throat.

Tear up the strips and put into the soup.

Some veggie.

And done! This bowl of noodle pieces is more than just a bowl of noodle.  
The chilli paste on the right is self made. It tastes better than all the Chilli I've ever had.
  Xing and Juan is leaving tomorrow. I want to spend another day strolling the RiZe valley. So it's time to say goodbye.

Xing and Juan are from the north and thus know more about mandarin and the northern food culture. I have learned a lot from them in the past few days. Besides, Xing is a photographer and we have almost the same painfully slow pace when we sight-see. Good company but it's time to say goodbye.

  Sweet dreams.

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