When I woke up the final time (I woke up at least three times, not due to the cold this time but due to our roommate’s snoring. I actually considered risking some sort of international fiasco just to throw something at her to make her roll over and stop snoring. No, I didn’t actually throw anything. Don’t worry; I was very well-behaved on this trip) I knew it was going to be cold. From what I heard, I expected really frigid conditions, so I basically wore all the clothes I brought with me. I didn’t want to bother with the breakfast they provided, so I drank some instant coffee that I had brought with me and hauled bum to the bus.
Deborah informed me once I had boarded that our fellow passengers were not very pleased with our tour guide because they thought he cheated them. The scenario’s like this: the Tibetans eat yak. Han Chinese want to be “educated” in things Tibetan; Chinese want to try yak meat. Tibetans and tour guides sense a way to make big bucks. Tour guide offers big meat at big bucks. Chinese pay tour guide big bucks. Chinese expect big meat, but waitress implies otherwise when it arrives: “Here’s your la – oops, your yak meat.”
In case you missed it, the waitress gave the customers reason to doubt they got what they paid for. So, it seems, they had gotten LAMB meat instead of yak.
I’m surprised they didn’t beat up the tour guide.
The bus ride was only a few hours, and one of the first things I noticed as we were getting higher in altitude was that it was snowing, which made me excited as I really love snow.
The time we got off the bus was during the snow’s intermission. We were met with a dilemma: we were given only two or three hours to walk around the park. This seemed unfair to me at the time, but after hearing other people’s experiences with Chinese tours, today’s two or three hours of wandering was generous, and yesterday’s six hours or so of looking around was flat out miraculous; some friends who went on a Chinese tour of the Three Gorges along the Yangzi River had only ten minutes to have a look at the different scenic stops, and that was actually after haggling for time:
Tour Guide: Okay, we’re here. You have only five minutes before you need to get back on the bus.
Laura, etc: Only FIVE minutes? You’re kidding!
Tour Guide: (impatient sigh) Fine! Ten minutes! But ONLY ten minutes!
So, you see, we apparently had a fairly generous tour guide, which was a good thing considering he might’ve cheated almost everyone with the whole yak meat incident.
Two hours though are just not enough to walk up the entire length of Huanglong.
Huanglong, by the way, is in a mountain valley. The translation of it is “Yellow Dragon,” referring to the shape and color of the ancient mineral deposits as it “flows” down the valley, which is actually still going on. There were signs everywhere saying in Chingrish the equivalent of: “Please don’t step off the path or touch the scenery – it will take about a century for the damage you’ve done to be naturally repaired.”
To actually see the Huanglong valley, you have to walk up a mountain, which can take about two hours, or so I’ve heard. Since we were a little short on time, we decided to take the easy way up – via gondola – which took twenty minutes or so.
Even after going to Jiuzhaigou, Huanglong seemed absolutely surreal. And the snow made everything seem beyond terrestrial as all you could see in the sky were snow clouds and… snow.
I cannot think of anything to compare to the pool formations of Huanglong to give you an idea of what it’s like standing there looking at it or walking through it. Definitely, I can say that these pools were many beautiful colors. Most of them were fairly small, perhaps the size of a Jacuzzi.
It was very strange seeing vegetation growing in these pools. Again, this seemed just beautifully surreal, and I cannot seem to come up with an apt description of what this park was like.
I am very glad I'm in Sichuan.