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And for now, something completely different. Away from the big cities and the shopping malls, to Sichuan province with a lot of beautiful nature.

Tuesday 31.07.2012

At 04.30 am it was time to get up to catch the morning flight to Jiuzhaigou. As the travel agent had suggested that we should leave for the airport at 5 am, we asked the receptionist in the hotel the day before to check if a transfer to the airport had been arranged. Yes, we would be picked up at 5 am and the hotel would also provide us with breakfast boxes, great!

So, at 5 am we were all packed, checked out and waiting for our transfer carrying our breakfast boxes (with enough food for a whole day!). At 5.15 am there still was no car …. At 5.30 am Hilke went to call the agent: Oh, you are on the morning flight … yes but there is no car to pick us up …. oh, so sorry, this is a misunderstanding … so we need to take a taxi …. no, take the airport shuttle, it leaves from the hotel around the corner …... Again a reminder that we have to double check all the information. While walking to the shuttle bus several taxi drivers offered to take us to the airport for 120 Yuan …. the airport shuttle cost us only 52 Yuan …. Very late, but still in time we arrived, checked in and could board immediately after that.

About 1,5 hrs later we arrived at Jiuzhaigou where a driver was waiting to take us to Songpan. All our drivers can hardly speak any English but they are friendly and are excellent drivers. And we were very glad that we brought our fleece jackets and rain coats. It was COLD (15 degrees) and raining!!

Songpan ( is a lovely but loud town (cars using their horns every chance they get) with interesting shops (and even more interesting translation of the shops´signs, see photo's) and a lively atmosphere, but no electricity! The first thing to do was to check in at our hotel, a really old place and not very well maintained but with the best beds so far …. By this time we have developped a nasty cold: from the rain into the sun and combined with the heat in the streets and freezing hotels, this was bound to happen.

We strolled down Main Street to Emma´s Kitchen, a place recommended by the Lonely Planet (LP) for its good food, nice people and travellers´ information. Emma is, besides being a nice person, a real entrepreneur and can arrange everything for you. We decided to go horse trekking the next day but had to find out how to get enough cash first. No electricity means no working ATM … Emma assured us that there would be electricity after 7 pm and wrote us a note to give to the people at the bank to check if there would be enough money in the ATM by then. So along we went, further down Main Street. Strangely enough there was electricity at the bank …. but still no functioning ATM. Later the afternoon we should come back and check again.

In the meanwhile we had a funny kind of teasoup (actually, we have no idea what is was made of and maybe that is for the better :-), walked around the town and Paul even played some Chinese Chess with the locals but had to give up …. the moves of the pieces are similar to chess as we know it, but the rules appeared to be different!

Enough time had gone by …. the ATM did its job and now we could book the horse trekking. After that we had a nice meal at Emma´s and drank a few beers. We ended up chatting with Daniel, an English teacher, studying the Chinese language, working and living in Beijing for 8 years, but who was now on the road as travel writer to update the China-edition of the LP. We talked a lot about travelling, languages, cultures and gave him our feedback on how we think LP could improve both their printed as well as their digital editions. Will be interesting to see if they will do anything with that in the future. Anyway: we enjoyed a great evening!!

Wednesday 01.08.2012

After a rough night (very noisy Chinese neighbours in the hotel and not feeling 100%), but at least in a verygood (read: soft) bed, we packed our daypacks for the horse trekking. Not after having a nice breakfast at Emma´s kitchen first of course!

Paul was still in doubt if he would go horse trekking or not, but finally decided to go after all. We met our horses, quite small, in front of the “Happy trails horse trek company”. We wondered what would be so happy about it … and met the rest of our group, several Chinese girls, a family from Kansas and a girl from Germany, a nice international collection. First we walked a couple of hundred meters to get away from the main road, and each got his/her own horse and we started our trek. After a few meters we went off the road into the mountains, our destination: a Tibetan Monastery just over the mountains. It turned out to be quite a climb for the little horses, but they managed well. And also today we reached our highest point (on land) ever, 3150 meters above sea level.

The ride was wonderful, well not the ride itself, that was a bit painful due to the fact that our saddles were made out of wood ... but the views were wonderful. After almost 2 hour riding we arrived at a small village, mainly inhabited by monks. A nice place with very friendly monks. They wondered what Paul had done with his hair and why he has such a big nose and started to compare themselves with Paul to see who was the tallest. After visiting, we had a delicious soup for lunch in a cowshed and went back again. Very glad we had decided to go on this trek.

Once back we had a rest in the hotel. In the evening a nice dinner, yes at Emma's again, and went to bed early. Luckily our noisy neighbours had left. Tomorrow morning our driver will pick us up and take us to our next stop, Huanglong, home of one of nature's beauties. What, you might ask … well, you will read it in a few days.

Enjoy our photos