anyone who has been to jiuzhaogou - the valley of nine (tibetan) villages - will sure to extol the splendour and beauty of the place. many of my singaporean friends who frequently visit china have been to jiuzhaogou. i had expected to meet someone i know or at least hear these words 'so clean like s'pore' uttered when i was there for the two full days. however, i did not see anyone who looked or who spoke like a singaporean except for the singaporeans in my group.
we had reached our hotel at 4.00 a.m. in the morning as our flight from xianyang was delayed by 12 hours because of the inclement weather. when we landed at jiuzhai huanglong airport, our pre-booked taxi was waiting for us. fortunately, our accommodation was the one nearest to the jiuzhaogou park. when i got up at 6.45 a.m., there was already a queue outside the visitors' centre.
jiuzhaogou is well-known for its multi-tier waterfalls and colourful lakes. the best time to visit jiuzhaoguo is mid october when it is most beautiful but it is also the time when it is most crowded. you must be prepared to tolerate the 'survival instinct' of the local people. there may be more than enough buses to cater to the huge crowds of visitors but the way the local people push to board the bus would give you the impression that 'that was the last bus to heaven'.
i would dare say that the park is better maintained than any in singapore. at any one time, there is an army of cleaners going around picking up litter from the ground and even from the water. the only thing that mars the cleanliness of the place and the water is the sputum from the local visitors.
it is not just the lakes and waterfalls that add to the beauty of the place. the autumn foliage in its various hues also makes the whole place scenic. although the digital cameras are handy and in vogue, you still see quite a number of serious photographers lugging their huge single-reflex lens camera and their telescopic lenses.
those who have done their tour planning will normally take the bus to the 'top', where the long lake is, and make their way down. on the second day, you could start from the primeval forest and cover the other side of the 'y'. for those who like to trek, there is a trail, with extensive boardwalks, that leads all the way from the top to the entrance gate, a distance of some 30km.
most visitors to jiuzhaogou would combine a visit to huanglong. it is a good idea to start with a visit to huanglong because if you have already seen jiuzhaogou, then huanglong is not going to make much of an impact. the attractions are quite similar except that those at huanglong seem less spectacular.