Juizhaigou National Park, China

Quickly wrote this, still needs some tweaks

Juizhaigou is like China’s Yellow Stone with gorgeous multicolored lakes and pretty waterfalls. This was my first real chinese tour, saved by 3 guys who spoke English! Also, I was in an earthquake and also had the worst experience of my life!

WEATHER – 4/5 stars
Well, we went up into the mountains. It was cold and I had my first snow fall of the year (for the chinese tourist, it was like there first snowfall ever). It was still nice weather overall.


Ok so Juizhaigou is 8-10hrs from Chengdu and you can only travel during the day because the road is too dangerous at night. It is also still winter season so most hotels are closed and the only hostel right near the entrance of the park was full. The hostel offered a 3 day tour that included transport, ticket cost, a second park hotel and most meals. However, it was a chinese tour. This meant chinese only speaking guide, chinese type meals and accommodation and also, all chinese tourists. The guy at the hostel was trying to talk me out of booking the tour. He said it would cost more for me, that I wouldnt like the food, that I wouldnt understand anything. So the price (almost double for foreigners, no clue why) was still cheaper than doing it by myself. The food, I said I’d bring snacks. And for speaking only Chinese, I said, thats all of China. So I booked it. I then went grocery shopping and took screen shots of all the useful google translated phrases I could think of. I also had a pen and paper ready so the guide to write down the return times to come back to the bus.

Day 1:
We had to leave at 5:40am to get to the bus. I met Rookie (his english name) that morning who was also taking the tour. He spoke english and gave me his email so that he could help me if I had issues (I dont have a phone). Turns out, we were on the same bus so I was very happy to know that I would have someone who could translate. When we got in the van, I met a french couple. I was again happy to know that I wouldnt be the only foreigner. Lucy also had blonde hair, so they would bother her more :)
So the van dropped us off on the side of the road where tons of buses were. He gave us a number of the bus to get on. In total, we were a group of 6. I was glad we were with chinese people because the bus didnt come for hours. I laughed watching people run and push and shove to get on buses as they arrived. Rookie explained to me some of the culture differences that I will write out below. We got on the bus at like 7:45am. Some woman was screaming at the guide that now we wont have time for the park. The roll call on the bus was by cell phone number, said in chinese. Well, not only do I not speak Chinese, I dont have a cell phone number. Rookie said the guide will call him if we are lost so we had to stay with Rookie. That was already my plan so I didnt mind. After all of this, we left at like 8:30am. About 20 minutes later, we stopped next to another bus and they were splitting our group up. Again, with the phone numbers. It took us a bit to learn that the hostel listed their phone number for us and that we were all being moved to another bus. Before this, Rookie was being sent to the other bus and strangers on the bus were fighting for us to keep us together so he could translate. It was big mess and so inefficient. As we all got on the new bus, people waved and smiled. The guide on the other bus also seemed happier and friendlier so I was glad for the change.
I didnt know this about Chinese tours but you dont get to just sit on the bus. The guide talks almost the entire time. I couldnt understand a word and I couldnt sleep because the speaker was right above my head and so loud. I just looked out the window. Rookie translated some. He was surprised how much I knew already just from body language and context. Like I understood most of what was happening with the mess earlier. The guide, apparently very funny based on laughs, said he loves me. He wouldnt let Rookie translate everything he said but he said that he has a girlfriend but wants 4 wives. Apparently, men having mistresses is a very common thing in china. So also on the tour were two other guys who spoke english pretty well, Oragnje and Ocean. I laughed because Rookie and Ocean are taller than the average American guy which made them easy to spot in China. We talked so much on the bus about culture and both sides asking questions about the other.
Rookie applied for grad school in America and was waiting to hear back. Orangje loved European culture/history but said it is too difficult and too expensive to actually go. But he sure knew a lot and asked a lot of questions. These three guys and the french couple made this trip so much fun. I also realized that I am forgetting English because they would ask me how to say something in english and I would have to say, I dont remember. Occasionally, I would have to translate from french accent to plain english so the chinese would understand and visa versa. The guys were teaching me basic chinese, like how to count to 10 on your hand. I asked because I saw a lot of people using hand signals and one in particular looks like a cell phone or the surfer sign. It apparently is how you show “6″. Also, Rookie loves MMA, WWE and the NBA. So we had tons to talk about right there.
When the tour stopped for lunch, a small crowd gathered interested to see if the foreigners could use chopsticks. The meals are family style meals and mostly just veggies and rice.
Due to our late start and apparently a vote on the bus, we skipped the park and instead stopped at an ancient village that was… you guessed it… walled in. It was an ancient military post of some sort. I saw minority women in their outfits and headdresses. Other than that, nothing special.
We were traveling in Tibetan culture areas and the architecture of some of the cities was very interesting. Like caveman meets wild west meets mountains. I saw tons of flags covering mountains sides and Rookie told me that each color means something different. They were praying for good luck (red), good harvest (green), good weather/skies (blue), health (yellow), etc. I saw yaks with their long hair (looked weird to me).
Rookie told me that in China, most people have two phone because out of the 3 mobile companies, none of them do cell and data well so its best to have a phone for each. So he gave me his spare phone in case we got lost.
The area of the park used to be run by all women. Women in this area used to be allowed to have more than one husband (more for poor reasons than anything else). My kind of place!
The scenery was gorgeous with snow capped mountains and forests. We drove along rivers and lakes and this area seemed so remote and different than the smog crowded cities. Our bus apparently saw a wild panda on the way but it was on the other side and I missed it.
We arrived and went straight to the Tibet BBQ dinner. People were dancing around the fire and they put a scarf around your neck as you entered. We crammed into a room sitting at low tables already set with some food. They poured wine and made a bunch of toasts, done by dipping your finger in the wine and flicking it into the air or at your friends.
I was so hungry I just devoured all the food in front of me. I forgot that it was supposed to be a BBQ and that the meat hadnt even arrived. People were talking, dancing or singing while we ate. It was like a mini show. They kept shouting, Yahso, Yahso, ya ya so… followed by a bunch of other stuff. It meant something like good, I want more or something. The host picked two guys from the audience sitting where her parents should be seated. They then became part of the show and “got married”. They brought out a full cooked goat which was the BBQ and showed everyone. When we were served it, I didnt like the smell and only had a little (I was so full from cabbage and potatoes). I learned that you eat everything with chopsticks except the meat, that is with your hands. After dinner they were forcing people to dance around the fire. I was too full to want to be jumping around spinning a circle with a bunch of people.
We then went to the hotel which served a second dinner, saying that we already paid for it. I took one bite and said, I really cant eat anymore. There was one other girl that was alone so I was sharing my room with her. I met her in the van that morning and she only spoke a little english. She was so tiny and sweet though. She brought me my shoes and made sure I had everything (in china, every place gives you flip flops to wear indoors). I was so cold being in the mountains with no heater that I just climbed in my blankets and went straight to sleep.

Day 2:
The guys forgot my room number but wanted to share their duck and chickens feet with me (I had said I would try it). Breakfast was rice porridge, a bread type thing (like a motzaball) and food that we had from dinner to add in for flavor. My favorite was something that was like a carrot but not and super spicy. We then headed to the Juizhaigou park. It was crowded! Because it was winter, the closed a lot of the paths and made you take their buses between spots. This was very inefficient and made you always have to fight crowds. The pushing and shoving to get on the buses was intense (and of course someone always gets hurt). I dont know how old people manage (though they seem to be the biggest shovers). Luckily the guys were with us to tell us which buses went places and when to get off.
The park was gorgeous with super clear lakes in purple, blues and greens. I could just imagine how it would look in the fall when all of the trees add their colors. The waterfalls were pretty and very wide. It was lightly snowing and very cold in the morning. The park reminded me a lot of Yellow Stone.
The lunch this day was not included in the tour so everyone brought foods. I brought bread and chips (the only foods I knew I’d like and would last). The people on this tour brought all sorts of other things that clearly shows our difference culture. People had pigs nose, rabbit, yak, pickled eggs, meat floss buns, dried dates, sweet/sour dried plums, etc. For example, Rookie’s favorite food is pig’s intestine. The guys also asked me if eggs or milk were considered meat or a vegetable. I said neither, milk is dairy. It took me a bit to understand what they were really trying to ask which was, can the french couple, who were vegetarians, have eggs or milk. Then it got more complicated trying to explain vegetarian and vegan and exceptions.
After lunch the crowded thinned, also because more trails were available. It was nice to actually be able to walk the park! We came to a frozen lake with the mountains behind it and the French couple said it looks like the Alps. People were posing with snow as they had never seen it. I immediately made a snow ball and threw it at the guys.
The guys pointed out every foreigner they saw, as if we all knew each other (there were maybe 5 others in the park). Rookie than said how foreign guys always choose old ugly chinese girls. This sparked the topic of what is beauty in china (more details below). It was a hilarious conversation as Rookie was so honest (and specific). This then led to rating girls we passed on a scale from 1-10. The first few that Lucy and I picked out he rated as a 2, very harsh.
We kept getting on and off the bus so much that one time, I jokingly just said, “get out!” in response to one of them saying “we get off here”. They were confused because they said, “isnt that rude”. I then had to explain that yes, it was joke. Then it started the conversation on other phrases, are they rude, etc. They were very interested in learning “normal” english. The wanted to know if what they had been taught is normal speaking language. Rookie wanted to know pick up lines (after I told him thats what they are called). Oranje was asking and comparing things to China. He kept asking me about fruits and I ignorantly finally replied, “we dont have weird fruits”. We laughed and then I corrected my statement. Lucy said she did the same yesterday talking about vegetables, saying “normal vegetables”.
At night, because the foreigners paid more, a tibetan show was “included” in our price. Before the show, every girl seemed to be taking selfies. This is very common (and weird) throughout China. Its never just a one and its never quick. They all make the duck or fish face while taking the photo and all of them seem to have the selfie pics as their lock on their phone. Seems very vein to me but as we are laughing about it, the girl next to Marco starts to take one but making him in the background. After about 8 photos, he finally posed for with her. But she didnt stop. The he took one on his phone. She still didnt stop. It was ridiculous. The show was interesting. It was very different from a show in America. There was basic, repetitive dancing, some singins, a voice over and music. Occasionally, some singers. The most interesting thing was how many outfits they had. I think they were dressing like different tribes in the area. One lady behind us ran up on stage and put her scarf around the singers neck. I couldnt believe they let her do that. Then of course, throughout the show, others did it. Right in the middle of some head twirling pony tail dance, it felt like someone shook my seat. People behind us freaked out, the lights came on and everyone ran out. We were like, was that an earthquake? Knowing that about 10 years a major earthquake hit this area killing thousands of people. As we were rushing out, I started laughing because you’re always taught that in emergencies to walk, not run, and dont push, orderly make your way out. China pushed and shoves normally so in an emergency, it was just crazy. Our guide was waiting for us outside already and we got on the bus trying to confirm that it was an earthquake but no one understood us. When I got back to the room, I asked me roommate and she very excitedly repsonded, yeah, earthquake!

Day 3:
The next morning as I was checking my bed for remaining items, I discovered a very large brown spider that had been in the bed with me. I would have freaked out more had I needed to get back in the bed but since I was leaving and had no bites, I found it amusing. I really didnt want more porridge so early in the morning.
On the bus back, Rookie gave me some wifi so I could check emails/texts. I had no place to stay that night so I had asked my mom to book me somewhere so I needed to know she did that. Also, they guys told me a bomb went off in Manhattan which freaked me out and then I learned it was just a gas explosion on the upper westside (thought it was terrorism). The ride back was bit scary on the windy roads with no a dusting of snow.
We stopped at a local tibet village to get a tour and learn a bit. It was interesting and they were dancing in an open area (probably just for warmth). Now, people in China stare at foreigners but when you are in remote areas, they really stare. And take photos. Unfortunately this doesnt stop at the bathroom door. Lucy went to use the toilet which was just a squat trough with no stalls. A woman was just staring at her, I guess to see if she did it differently. Later when we were walking to the bus, we literally were mobbed. People grabbed us to take photos, shoving cameras in our faces speaking chinese. The only english was, beautiful. Once a couple did, the crowds ran over. Rookie had to come rescue us to tell them to leave us alone and direct us to the bus.
We hit primetime lunch hour at the rest stop so we were stuck for a few hours in a traffic jam of buses. I needed to use the bathroom and it cost 1Y. It was the worst experience of my life and I paid for it. I walked through shit and piss, past people taking shits and pissing and get to one of the few actual stalls (was not going to go with people watching me), to use a trough with even more shit and piss in it (imagine a really shallow porto) to try to keep my balance and squat over this thing where so many others had obviously missed. I was so grossed out by the visuals and the smells. I used so much sanitizer after and still will not touch the bottoms of my shoes. I dont know the laws about pissing in the woods but that is what I would do next time.
When we arrived back in Chengdu, we all went out to dinner which was nice because Rookie could order for us.

People run to a bus because they want to get a window seat or to sit near the front. People run to trains so they can get a good spot to store their luggage.
I asked about people who sit right next you on an empty bus and learned that it is rude not to. I told Rookie the opposite is true in America. So later on the bus, Rookie asked to sit next to me and replied, dont be rude!

People on the bus that we werent even talking to or had met were sharing their food with us. It seems that if you have a snack, you need to offer it to those around you so I hope you brought enough for everyone. The good thing about this was that I got to try lots of things. I had some dried tomatoes, yak, rabbit and some other things.

Woman: Pale, crystal skin. Long, straight, black hair. Face not too wide. Big eyes (like foreigners). Big boobs. Tall. Doesnt talk a lot. Smart but not smarter. Good family background. And my favorite, does everything her husband says! Ha!
Men: Tall. Doesnt speak much but when he does its funny or smart. Smart. Has muscles but more lean/cut, not bulky.

I think if you visit China it is very important to know that they do not have this emotion or even a word for it. It doesnt exist. I find many Chinese people to very awkward. From the staring to the way they exercise or run to the way they just stand really really close to you for no reason. Marco, Lucy and I were laughing about this discovery, especially asking the guys about it. They said they have embarrassing. But thats not the same thing and more of shame type of situation.

So China is passing a law that allows this generation, if both parents were only children, to be allowed to have 2 kids, instead of just one. This is in an effort to help fight the killing of girl babies and a few other things. The guys said that the parents force marriage onto their kids. You have to be married before youre 30 and for girls, there is even more pressure. The parents also have to approve of your partner. If they dont and you get married anyway, youre disowned. Now I know this is probably not everyone but they said its the overall. I think this explains why a lot of men would have mistresses because forcing marriages, especially before you know its right, would cause a lot of loveless marriages. While getting divorced is allowed, it is heavily frowned upon. Most of this sounded like the 1950s to me in america.
In China, the guys put it best I think when they said, each generation strives to get money/house/car so that the next generation can enjoy it. But then the next generation also works their life away for the next.

We asked Rookie about his views on gays and abortion. He said he was pro man-man but against girl-girl, he doesnt want competition. Joking aside, his views are that he doesnt care. Same sex marriages are illegal in China but its not illegal to be gay (similar to most states in America). He think abortion is bad, putting the baby up for adoption is better. I asked if it is common for people to adopt babies and he said no. If its not your blood, its not your family is what people think. This conversation was from the restriction on the amount of kids you can have law.

There seems to be a lot of pressure on the young generation to have success by the time they are 30. I think this is because you would want a successful person to marry. Also, success seems to measured more on book knowledge than skill. Rookie said it doesnt matter what you can do with your hands, it matters about your mind. I said it should just matter what youre good at and if you can provide a good life for your family.

Overall, Rookie said I think like a Chinese person. My views are very similar in terms of expecting success and putting a big emphasize on family. I guess the difference is that I think dedicating my life to my kids starts when I have them. My year trip is for me and is selfish but I would have not done it had I had kids already. Chinese thinking, and maybe most people, think that it is all linear, that you must keep working on the same path to reach success with no detours or breaks.

BUDGET: March 12 – 14
Tour: 600Y
Bathroom: 1Y
TOTAL: $100