Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Jiuzhaigou

On my first trip to China many years ago, I decided to avoid the coastal regions, but I wanted to see a combination of urban and rural China. I chose Sichuan as my destination, with Chengdu as the urban area I would visit (it is considered the Beijing of Western China), and Jiuzhaigou as the main rural area I would visit.

Jiuzhaigou is a long valley with 9 villages spread through it. The 9 villages were isolated until 1971, their very existence unknown to the rest of the world. Being that I was born in 1971, I found this fact very cool. And, since I was in my early 20's when I visited, that meant that Jiuzhaigou was a fairly new and untouched place to visit. In this sense, it is on the opposite end of the spectrum than Zhang Jia Jie in Hunan, which was the area first set aside by the Chinese government for preservation as a national park.

When I went to Jiuzhaigou, it was a very rugged trip. We were told it would be an 18-hour journey by bus, but it was quite a bit longer. (It was stretched into an even further journey on our way home when we got held up by a landslide.) I have heard that the trip is much easier and much smoother now. Jiuzhaigou has changed a good deal since I was there. (1971 is a long time ago now!) Better roads and transportation make for a much easier journey than it used to be. And hotel standards have gone way up. But one thing has not changed, and that is the natural beauty of the place, as you can see in photos like these. Jiuzhaigou is often called a fairyland because of its idyllic beauty, and that is a very apt description. There were so many quiet, beautiful moments that I experienced in Jiuzhaigou, and they have stayed with me as very vivid memories.

One thing that the photos you see of Jiuzhaigou today really highlight to me is that there are so many tourists there now. This was not the case when I traveled there. I don't know how this might have affected the surroundings, but I can guess. I suspect it has had a two-sided effect. On the one hand, I am sure it is more cluttered and dirtied with the usual trappings of human traffic. On the other, I can only imagine the significant upgrades its meant for hotels, transportation, and important facilities like public toilets.
And trust me... that's a good thing.



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