Staying with a Tibetan Family in Sichuan, China
Prior to our trip to China, my girlfriend and I had done our research on where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see and do. Top of our list wasn't the Great Wall or the Forbidden City in Beijing or the Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xi'an (although we did all those things and they were great!): no, top of our list was a visit to Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park. The pictures we saw online just looked out of the world and we knew we had to go there.
Where is Jiuzhaigou Valley
Getting to Jiuzhaigou
Although there is an airport near Jiuzhaigou that is popular with tourists visiting the national park, we were on a backpackers budget so we took the bus from Chengdu which took a total of 11 hours. By now the new road may have opened which has been built to reduce the journey down to around 6 hours. But still, it's hard not to be tempted to fly when flights from Chengdu leave daily and only take around 40 minutes. The bus journey is interesting though, with lot's of nice landscapes and scenery. One of the most interesting, yet eerie sights, presents itself as the bus winds its way through ruins and remnants of towns that were wiped out in the Great Sichuan Earthquake of 2008 that measured 8.0 and killed 70,000 people with a further 18,000 people never found. A bridge still partially stands as a reminder to the damage that was caused. But what will have some people scratching their heads is that the Chinese are building new towns here and building tall!
We'd already made contact with our Tibetan family and arranged to stay with them in a little village about 15 minutes away from the entrance to the park. It was arranged that we would be picked up from the bus stop and taken to the house along with anyone else who had arranged to stay that night. We ended up staying with a lovely Japanese guy as well as a French couple and an American couple who both worked out in China and who were travelling together.
Accommodation in Jiuzhaigou Valley Park
The French and American couples were leaving us after the first night as they had somehow made arrangements to spend a night inside the park, staying with a Tibetan family in one of the villages inside the park boundary. I don't know how they managed this or if it worked out for them but we had been advised that stays inside the park were strictly forbidden. Anyhow, we were more than happy in our lovely Tibetan house and our beautiful surroundings in the Minshan mountains.
Traditional Tibetan Cooking
All of our meals were included in our stay as well a near constant supply of Tibetan tea which was also on the boil on the stove that seemed to heat the whole building. Our host was fantastic. She didn't speak many words of English but she was very charismatic and genuine in her hospitality. Evening meals generally featured bowls of rice, cured Yak meat (with spices), vegetable stir-fry dishes and lots of other traditional Tibetan fare. We never went hungry and were always being offered more.
Tibetan Village, Jiuzhaigou Valley
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The house was basic but was decorated in all the Tibetan prayer flags and colours that we'd seen so much of when we visited Nepal the previous month. There was such a lovely charm and sense of ease and calmness in the village. It was a joy to wander around and take in the majestic landscape and appreciate how fortunate we were to have the opportunity to be in such a place. We were also fortunate that we had such good company with us. During the day we went to the Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park (which made us very tired) but when we returned to the house we had new guests staying with us - this time a group of three girls from England and young chap from Ireland who was travelling the world alone for two years!
Dinner at the Tibetan Homestay
What are your thoughts on visiting Tibet?
Taste of Tibet
This was a great experience for us to be able to stay with a real Tibetan family. We had originally planned to include a trip to Tibet on our trip but when we looked into it it seemed that it may present some visa problems for onward travel through China. It's a shame but hopefully one day we will get another opportunity to visit Tibet and we'll do it. And if I ever get the chance, I will certainly return to Jiuzhaigou and stay here again.
In the heart of China's Sichuan province, amid the terraced hills of the Yangtze River valley, lies the remote town of Fuling. Like many other small cities in this ever-evolving country, Fuling is heading down a new path of change and growth, which came into remarkably sharp focus when Peter Hessler arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer, marking the first time in more than half a century that the city had an American resident. Hessler taught English and American literature at the local college, but it was his students who taught him about the complex processes of understanding that take place when one is immersed in a radically different society.
Yak, outside Jiuzhaigou Valley
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