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Sichuan 2019-20 Day 3

Glaciers and AMS

snow -5 °C

Had some good noodles and bao for breakfast. I realise that Chinese bao (meat filled bread) is much oilier than the Singapore type, which is really just steamed bread. I wonder what the difference in the cooking is.

Drove the short distance to the Hailuogou entrance. Took the bus up to 5th stop (last and highest). The guys bought some warm yak meat for 50y , then we did a little hike up to a viewing point. About an hour or so. It was nice, if very cold. Turned out that it was considered a very cold day for that region. The locals felt cold in their own homes, and that’s saying something. As we climbed the stairs we did get warm and shed layers.

There were some cute squirrels (or chipmunks?) that came up pretty close, obviously looking for food. Super cute. But also, they've had too much human interaction, methinks.

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There were monkeys too, probably Tibetan macaques? From what my 2min wiki research tells me. I was admiring one of the big ones that scampered on the railings towards us, and I realised only just in time that he was aiming for S who was packing his bag. I yelled a shout and he quickly grabbed all his stuff, moving away from the railing. The macaque, caught in the act, scampered back from whence he came. Later we heard explosive sounds, turns out they were lighting firecrackers to scare the primates off. Not good for business if they steal tourists' stuff, eh.

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Went back and took the cable car up to the glacier. The cable car crosses the lower part of the glacier and it's an amazing ride. It's so much bigger than what I saw in New Zealand. Fox glacier, I think, was the size of Glacier 1 only, which is what we saw from the final platform. It was freezing. Later I found out it was -10 degrees or so. You could see Mt Gongga in the distance, at an astonishing 7556m in height! The tallest mountain in China, with more deaths than summits. There's a bunch of Tibetan temples you can walk to, spots of bright colour amidst the austere beauty of dark frosted trees. I wanted to see the red rocks but they were sadly obscured by the snow.

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View from inside the cable car

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The Tibetan temples

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Red rocks lie beneath that snow

Took the bus back to pos 3 and walked around there. It's a pathway built over the lower Glacier, so you feel like you're really there. (only in China can you get that close). S got out his drone and we took a bunch of cool photos. It was snowing too, our hair was all so pretty with the flakes. We were the last group there, and then we hurried onto the last bus down, which leaves pos 4 at 5pm. Then car back to rest in hotel.

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A number of Chinese women turned up in gorgeous traditional costumes to take fun photos

Overall hailuoguo was very nice, but I wouldn't recommend going in winter simply because it's cloudier and there's snow cover. Take note that it is a little expensive, because on top of the entrance fee you also have to pay bus fee and cable car fee. The bus fee is non-negotiable (not allowed to drive in, and it's at least a 40min drive to the top), while you can just not do the cable car if you don't want to.

Much of the day I'd been feeling slightly sick. No biggie, there was a bit of phlegm build up, that's all. Probably the food. But I knew something was coming. What I didn't expect to get was AMS. It was 3000m high, yes, but I thought it would be bad at Siguniang. About halfway through the day I started to get a headache and nausea. Just felt bad. Later after resting a while I gave up and asked B for diamox, but it took a long time to kick in. At dinner I almost puked at one point, but after drinking a whole bunch of fluids (yay for soup) I felt better.

We had a lesson from profs B and W on how AMS and diamox works, which I will not repeat here, but I think what exacerbated the altitude issues was how little I drank and urinated. Generally I'm quite dehydrated, but when it's cold I drink even less. So gotta learn to not to do that.

J and I had an early night, while the guys went out for a few drinks, including one called 今夜不回家 (not going home tonight). It's a mix of two alcohols which is then lighted up. S had three. I think they had some heart to heart talk, about which they would not share with us!

123y Moxi accommodation (2 nights, double bed) 海螺沟一念时光旅舍
160y Hailuogou entrance
135y Hailuogou cable car
30y Hailuogou bus
50y yak meat (to share)
66y dinner

  • *All nice photos were taken by W. Anything not as nice was likely taken by me.*
  • *Unless otherwise mentioned, all listed prices are per person*

Posted by seaskimmer 01:10 Archived in China Tagged nature glacier china sichuan reserve yak macaque ams Comments (0)

Sichuan 2019-20 Days 1-2

Flights and pandas

rain 8 °C

In that moment he felt more tired than he ever remembered feeling before. He was thinking once again of his comfortable chair before the fire in his favourite sitting-room in his hobbit hole, and of the kettle singing. Not for the last time!

- Tolkien, The Hobbit

*Disclaimer: most photos here taken by the talented W. I didn't really bother with photos this time, so if any photo doesn't look as nice, it was probably taken by me and added in just to show you what I'm talking about*

Day 1

We flew off after some delay. In the final hour before lift-off, at the gate, we were madly researching, downloading apps, and creating accounts. In the end, I think the important apps would be: Wechat for communication with all the vendors (and Wechat pay to pay for most things), Didi Greater China (like Grab), a Chinese map app like Baidu Ditu, and a VPN app for accessing the normal things. To a lesser extent, Alipay, as it’s accepted in less places than Wechat pay. Please note that you need to get your Wechat verified by someone who’s already on Wechat for more than 6 months, so ask around and don’t leave it too late. You also need an international/China bank account like Youtrip. I tried to use my local bank account for Alipay, but after the initial charge in, it can’t actually pay out on the spot.

Phone-wise, some of us borrowed China SIM cards, while some of us bought China SIM cards online. The ones we bought were really good, and affordable ($10 - 7GB 8 days). ICC China SIM card on Qoo10. I didn’t need a VPN for Whatsapp, Telegram, Spotify, or Instagram. It’s data only, so no calls, but China connectivity is insanely good. I had 4G everywhere that tourists would go, including random roads, tunnels, and the top of Hailuogou glacier at 3000m (just not Siguniang mountain itself). The borrowed local China SIMs could only call if the phone itself was also a certain type (for example, all phones bought in China work with it, while I believe most Xiaomi phones bought outside China should also work).

When we landed it was dark and we had to take a shuttle to the arrival hall. It was surprisingly not that cold (9degrees). Spent quite a while trying to book a cab on didi, but couldn't figure out the pickup point, and despite the app showing many cabs in the immediate surroundings, every time we tried it was a 10min wait. In the end we got one of the touters to send us to chengdu center for 100rmb.

Meanwhile, J was already in the hostel and informing us that the 7h bus from m Chengdu to Hailuoguo was full, meaning our plan to take the bus and then just didi cabs for the rest of the trip was screwed. In the end we returned to our other plan of hiring a driver for the full 8 days, although we had to pay for his accommodation and food too. J haggled it down to 200sgd per person, excluding accommodation and food.

After arrival we showered and spent a long time ordering food due to some payment complications. It took another half an hour to arrive and in the interval I was falling asleep on my bunk bed. By the time the food came it was 2am. The warmest tabled area was back at the reception counter, so we trotted through the cold and disturbed the counter guy who was packing up. We had a hongshao noodle thing each plus dumplings. Supposed to be non-spicy, but this is Sichuan, so it was mildly mala. Still quite nice. It came in cool packaging. Normal bowl type plastic, the soup is below, but the noodles in a tray fitted to the rim of the bowl. Tip the tray over and voila. Then tumbled into bed.

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Hostel was not bad. We had a 6-person dorm with the last bed empty. High ceilings so it was comfortable to sit upright and even walk about up top. The corridors and toilets are open air so pretty cold. The warm water is good. Window open a crack with a heater-aircon. Set it to 26 degrees, so in the middle of the night I threw off my blanket, content with my open jacket and 3/4 pants.

In the morning I woke up confused because it was still dark. Thought the personal bed curtains were fantastic, before realising it was just really overcast outside. I guess that’s winter for you.

There was also a cute cat.

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S$443 Round trip flight SIN-CTU on Silkair
25y cab from airport to Chengdu Mrs Panda Hotel (per person)
27y noodle and dumpling supper
35y Chengdu Mrs Panda Hotel (1 bed in 6-bed dorm, 1 night)

Day 2

Slow morning and pack up. Met our driver Zhe xiansheng, nice dude, we got one of those big vans (2-2-3 formation) with the big comfy single seats in the middle row. We packed as much stuff as possible in the boot which still left us with 2 biggish bags to dump in the middle (my 45L backpack and J’s 25L duffel)

Shifu (all China drivers are called Master, which sounds hilarious in English but works in Chinese) suggested changing our itinerary, because he has a different route in mind for Hailuogou to Siguniang that avoids Ya'an. So we cancelled Ya'an accommodation. Fortunately managed to do it for free. On the way back he suggested visiting one of the local tribes.

Had some zhajiangmian at a famous local restaurant. I had clear soup which was still thick and yummy, while the one with chilli is basically the hongyou we had last night. Later I realised that basically all their food has hongyou (red oil) or red powder (mala-type).

The change in itinerary meant we could move up Bifengxia to today. I fell asleep in the car amidst flat farmland. When I woke up we were already in the mountains on wet, sharply curving roads, winding through the winter mist. A drizzle was falling on the windscreen, and later we had to get out all our rain gear.

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We paid 85y each for the panda tour only. I wanted to do the full tour to see all the other animals like the jaguar but it was cold and drizzly and unlikely they would be doing much. Managed to see some pandas, mostly just eating. I loved it when they take an entire branch and start chewing on it. Cute. In the kindergarten, one of the little ones pooped out white poop right near where he'd been eating not long ago, contrary to our earlier hypothesis that they'd find somewhere further away. There was a panda in a tree too but it was obscured and hard to make out what he was doing.

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There was an elevator down to the bottom of the gorge. Yes, an actual elevator built into the side of the gorge. At the bottom, there's a river, and pathways along the side of it. A lot of waterfalls to see, including one that's called a pancake. J and I crossed the river on a bridge that for some reason was made out of suspended movable planks. Why would anyone design it like that? We made it across by holding the steel cables from which the planks were suspended. Froze my hands so badly, having to touch that deathly cold metal! But we made it across, while the guys decided to go the long way to skip the bridge.

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Bought some dried Songrong (Matsutake mushroom) from one of the stalls to bring home to cook. One pack of about 150g for 60y. On hindsight it was a mistake as it was probably low quality mushroom being sold in a tourist place for a high price.

Drove on to Moxi. It turns out just how everyone says it is - a tiny wooden town. Our hotel is also with wooden inner and outer walls. The mattress heater is a godsend but only heats the middle of the bed. Chilled a while til 8pm for dinner, although we were still full from 3pm lunch.

Guys wanted rabbit so we went to the BBQ stall. Everything is hongyou and red powder coated. Mushrooms so good. They had barley beer which was OK. Wheaty. 'Fresh soya milk' turns out just in a jug like how we'd buy 'fresh milk'. Guys didn't want it at the start, because they had beer, but once they started on the zhongla (medium spicy) whole rabbit they were desperately calling for the milk. Rabbit was OK, like chicken. A bit chewier is all.

9y 4.5L water
10y zhajiangmian breakfast
85y bifengxia entrance (Panda exhibit only)
15y shuttle
60y songrong (dried Matsutake mushroom)
25y lunch zhichar
29y dinner bbq
138y whole rabbit (actual price)

  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all listed prices are per person*

Posted by seaskimmer 00:51 Archived in China Tagged nature cat china mushroom panda sichuan rabbit cold naturereserve Comments (0)

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