So you maybe you have heard about Jiuzhaigou or perhaps you haven't. I had never heard of it before I came to China. After having been asked 1000 times if I had been before by other Chinese, I threw in the towel; This magical fairy-land must have been worth the schlep across the country to see. So it did it. I broke my own rule. I accepted travel advice from a Chinese citizen ignoring further research and made a trip to see it for myself. Tonight I am happy to report to you the aftermath in this post about what I have learned from my trip to Jiuzhaigou.
Whats this nonsense rule you speak of?
So I have learned a ton over the last few years about the cultural differences between the East and the West. Besides all of the stereotypical cultural differences, one of the more interesting things I learned is that Chinese people generally have different tastes when it comes to traveling. The few times that I have taken advice from Chinese people about where to go has ended in a disaster! China is literally bursting at the seams with history. I am sure that there are well experienced Chinese travelers out there with great advice. However us laowais (a common term for foreigners in China) tend to value history in its original state and the Chinese absolutely love to see history that has been re-created. History that is built from the ground up to be even, bigger, better, and cheesier than ever before. So I present to you my #1 rule about traveling in China; Don't rely on Chinese citizens for travel advice without first doing your homework!
How about Jiuzhaigou?
Oh man where to start. I met some other travelers en route to Jiuzhaigou that had heard somewhere else that it was possible to sleep inside the park. I had to investigate; after all I had read that this was one illegal and two not possible at all according to the LP. After spending a whole day asking around the town I found something out that is not listed in ANY guides or anywhere on the Internet.
You can sleep in the park with one of the tibetan families that live in the park! 100 yuan and you get dinner, bed, and breakfast, and free 2nd day admission to the park. Most of the families that can host you are located at the Shuzheng village not to far from the entrance. You can stop here using the busses inside the park. My first concern was that this was definitely illegal. So I asked around and pretty much everyone in the town mentioned that the people living in the park have relationships with the park rangers who just look the other way. We were not looking for legal trouble, and it was hard passing up such an experience but we ended up leaving early because of time constraints. Our experience at Jiuzhaigou was held up because of rain, but doing it again I would have done Jiuzhaigou completely different. Let me show you how its done.
The best possible plan for Jiuzhaigou
- Upon check-in to your hostel or hotel ask the staff if they have any contact information to stay inside the park. (If you are unable to get contact numbers prior to entering Jiuzhaigou, you can head directly to Shuzheng village when you enter the park and directly ask locals)
- Obtain a few contact numbers of people living inside the park and make reservations to stay .
- Head into the park first thing and drop off your belongings with your "home stay family" first thing in the morning.
- Spend two days for the price of one and maximize your 330 yuan daily park ticket.
Why is Jiuzhaigou so insanely expensive?
WHAT?!?! 330 yuan you say? This was my biggest gripe with Jiuzhaigou. Yes we can afford the steep entrance fees. But guess who cant? 99.9% of Chinese citizens. So the vast majority of China cannot afford to see something that is naturally found in the wild. Seems a little ridiculous to me....
After some thought I came to a conculsion about this. Economics - Supply and demand; Even at this extremely high price the park is flooded with Chinese tourists pushing and shoving to get their chance to click away with their DSLR cameras. As long as park attendance is high, the price will forever remain sky-high.
So was Jiuzhaigou worth the schlep?
You see the problem was not the park itself, the high ticket prices, or the insane amount of competitive tourists. I had been building up expectations of this amazing fairy-land for the past two years based on others experiences. I was literally expecting to see something that defied explanation; literally Unicorns or 3D explosions of colors that don't exist. As with any place in the world you should always make sure to form your own opinions. This is one time that I learned this first hand. Jiuzhaigou was great, but it is what it is. Just some amazing natural scenery and in my opinion much less cool than many, many other places even in the same province of Sichuan. One time was enough for me.
Until next time.......
If you have any questions about Jiuzhaigou you can always contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember to spread the word about backpackinchina.com if you found this to be useful.