Winter Morning in Dujiangyan
It was low season now in Dujiangyan. Front desk staff told us there would be no buffet breakfast due to low occupancy rate. But we could still have breakfast at the restaurant where only tangyuan or dumplings would be available. We weren’t really disappointed as our purpose to stay here wasn’t for fine dining in Dujiangyan but to use this base to transfer over to Siguniang Mountains.
So when we went to front desk at 7 am, we were told to head to the kitchen at the back of the hotel and tell the chef what we would like for breakfast. Once we reached the kitchen, we saw the security guard watching TV. We were surprised he doubled up as a cook on top of his regular job taking care of security matters in the hotel. We then told him to serve us a bowl of tangyuan and another bowl of dumplings.
Simple Breakfast at Dujiangyan Nine Point Hotel
After telling him, we entered the dining room across the kitchen. There was another guest waiting inside the dining room watching TV. We took our seats and soon, the chef came in with a bowl of noodle soup for the other guest. Later, he brought us our bowl of tangyuan and dumplings and asked if we wanted anything else. Since we noticed he served the other guest noodle soup, we requested a bowl as well.
The bowl of tangyuan came in smaller size balls with some peanut fillings. We prefer our own version back home. The dumplings however were very good. Another lady guest came in while we were eating. She was complaining there was nothing much to eat the previous day.
Soon the chef came in with our bowl of noodles which was very tasty. The dumplings were a good combination with the noodles too. So the breakfast was rather simple but at least we had some hot food during this winter morning. We didn’t come with much expectation so this breakfast was sufficient for us. For westerners however, this might not be the case.
Waiting for Transfer to Siguniang Mountains
With breakfast done, we returned to our room. After freshening up, we went to front desk to process check out. We left two pieces of luggage with hotel to keep where we would return in three days time after visiting Siguniang Mountains. There was no point bringing all our luggage up the mountainous area. We only packed a hand carry bag sufficient for our two nights stay at Siguniang Mountains.
While checking out, the driver Yun Xi Gu Guesthouse sent to pick us up called to inform us he would arrive close to 9 am. So we waited at the lobby after checking out. Looking out from the lobby, we observed some interesting happenings at the open area in the ancient town. There were some ladies chanting, singing and dancing in the open even though it was drizzling a little. The hotel staff told us these ladies were sales staff from a few stores here where they would gather every morning for some morale boosting sing and dance session to encourage one another to prepare to serve customers for the day.
Morning Scene at Dujiangyan Main Gate
Around 8.45 am, we took a slow walk towards the main gate of the ancient town. Some shops were getting ready to open where staff were sweeping the grounds outside their shops. It was still early so the ancient town was very quiet. However, workers were out cleaning up the streets to prepare this tourist attraction to receive visitors later.
At the main gate, I went over to the side to look at the river. The river flow rate was very high. It was quite scary and with the fast flowing water, I felt giddy taking picture of the bridge next to the main gate. It was a little cold and wet in the vicinity.
Shortly after 9 am, I received a call from the driver informing he would be arriving the main gate in a few minutes. So we moved outside the gate and waited near the road. Minutes later, a taxi pulled up. We were a little taken aback. We didn’t expect our guesthouse in Siguniang to send us a taxi.
Taxi to Siguniang Mountains
Inside the taxi, two ladies were already sitting at the backseat where the driver had picked them up from Chengdu earlier. So my dear wife sat with them while I sat in front next to the driver. Without wasting time, we left Dujiangyan ancient town where we enjoyed our evening dining and shopping when we arrived the day before.
Once in the taxi, the driver started chatting with us. We discovered the other two ladies were from Guangdong Province so we started speaking in Cantonese. The driver joked that he had become a foreigner in his own country. But we spoke mostly in Mandarin during our ride.
About 15 minutes into the journey, the two ladies requested to visit the toilet. So our driver stopped his taxi by the road and went into a local eatery for some breakfast while the ladies used the toilets. He ordered soya milk and also a piece of youtiao after hearing my wife wanted to try the youtiao here. My wife ate a few pieces while I had a piece but we still preferred our youtiao back home. The ladies then joined us and bought some snacks.
Leaving Cloudy and Gloomy Dujiangyan
Soon we were on our way leaving Dujiangyan behind. It was a cloudy day and drizzling while driving up on mountainous road. Like many Chinese here, this driver opened the window and spat out of the car a few occasions while driving. This is one of those unpleasant stuff we have to put up with while travelling in China. At least he didn’t smoke in the car. But he was quite friendly and chatty too.
We passed several tunnels and were told there were altogether 14 tunnels to clear on the way to Siguniang. We were travelling on mountainous terrain now gaining altitude. Slightly after 11 am, the ladies needed to use the toilet again. So we stopped when roadside toilets were available. A small fee was required for the use of the toilets. We were told they were not dirty even though located in this outback area.
Stunning Mountain Views along the way
We soon moved on and the terrain became more exciting. The skies were no longer cloudy and gloomy but blue with white clouds and some sunlight. Trees were disappearing as we hit above 3000 m and the surrounding views were breathtaking. The snowcapped mountains out there were so awesome that we stopped to take some pictures. There were some clouds below but not much. The taxi driver had earlier shown us a video he had taken a week before where a sea of clouds was seen up here.
On the side of the road, a man was skinning a yak that was slaughtered earlier. He wasn’t very friendly as we approached to take pictures. Apparently, such acts are very common. We saw quite a few stalls selling meats along the road.
After enjoying the views up here, we continued our journey. It was more twists and turns up and down mountain roads. The skies over here were no longer cloudy but sunshine aplenty. Our mood was lifted as Siguniang Mountains got closer. Couple more minutes later after passing another very long tunnel up at this altitude, we reached the lookout point for Siguniang Mountains.
Siguniang Mountains Lookout
This lookout point is actually a small market place with locals selling fruits and other local produce. The open area is also a carpark with tour buses stopping here for visitors to take a break. Here is also a good place to visit the bigger toilets as well. The views of the surrounding mountains were gorgeous.
We had great sunlight at 12.30 pm. Looking down the sides further down the road, Rilong Town was there. Siguniang Mountains mean the Four Maiden Mountains. The eldest sister is the shortest mountain with the second sister on her left. The youngest of the four sisters is the towering snowcapped mountain basking in all its glory on the left on this early afternoon.
After this very nice stopover, we continued our journey down the mountain to the town. We were feeling great knowing our destination was coming up next. Driving into town, it was congested and dusty. Apparently, quite a lot of construction works were ongoing. Many more hotels were being built along this only road to the rest of the towns further west. Soon, the two ladies alighted at their hotel in town.
We then continued our journey further down the road. After another ten minutes on the road, we took a sharp turn off the road further down to the stream below. Our guesthouse was located down below the main road near a pretty flowing stream. The driver stopped the car outside Yun Xi Gu Guesthouse.
Yun Xi Gu Guesthouse
A young man and an old lady approached us as we got out of the car. The driver also spoke with them while we got our bag and entered the premise with a dog running towards us in a very friendly manner to welcome us. We were then shown to our room on the second floor.
The room was a little small but all that we needed was met. There is table and two chairs by the window. Views from the window were the front of the guesthouse looking out to the pretty flowing stream. The bathroom is small with a shower cubicle with a water heater tank mounted above.
The driver was actually waiting for us to return to pay him. I thought we would settle the bill with the guesthouse. We paid him CNY240 for this private transfer for two of us to Siguniang Mountains. The ride was pretty good and enjoyable with splendid views along the way. He then gave us a ride to the Twin Bridge Valley, one of the valleys we would be visiting over here. This attraction is further down the main road heading west to Xiaojin Town.
After travelling about 10 minutes, we arrived at the main entrance. We were thankful for this free ride here otherwise we would be stuck at the guesthouse for the afternoon. It was already 1.30 pm but we still hadn’t had lunch. Good thing we bought bread from the nice bakery outside the main gate of the ancient town in Dujiangyan the previous night. So this light lunch would see us through till dinner.
The main entrance into Twin Bridge Valley is very nice that blends perfectly at the base of the mountains here. There were some visitors loitering outside. We approached the ticketing counter and paid CNY80 for entrance fee and another CNY70 for the shuttle bus to travel within the valley. So all in we paid CNY300 for both of us.
After entering the gate, we boarded an awaiting shuttle bus. It was nearly full with domestic tourists speaking in their dialects. We managed to find two seats facing sideways and then waited for the remaining passengers to board the bus. Five minutes later, the bus was packed with standing passengers. We then left the main entrance.
Shuttle Bus to Fifth Station
A lady tour guide provided commentaries in Mandarin about the place here and the mountains and its eco system. We were told we won’t be able to see Siguniang Mountains from this valley. Names of different mountains and its unique characteristics and landscape were mentioned but we couldn’t remember them now.
We were told there were five points of interest here where we could stop and then take the shuttle bus within the valley to proceed to the next attraction. However, this bus would bring us all the way into the innermost attraction first and then we could proceed from there and spend as much time as we like at each attraction. Timing for the last departure bus was given.
It was a very nice and sunny day here in stark contrast to the gloomy, dreary and wet weather back in Dujiangyan where we started our journey. But due to sitting in the bus sideways instead of facing the front, I felt uncomfortable and nauseous as the bus made twist and turns at time moving up the mountains. In addition, some domestic tourists, mostly elderly, were talking so loudly so it was a little unpleasant, especially the smell from some of them. It could due to their diet or personal hygiene. My wife was having a headache too. We were transported from an altitude of 500 m in Dujiangyan not long ago all the way to 3800 m here in Siguniang Mountains.
The scenery out there was really awesome and we couldn’t wait to get out to explore. We saw lakes and flowing streams and mountains full of trees with fading colours where autumn had just passed as well as snowcapped mountains along the way. We saw some small frozen waterfalls too. The ride took nearly 45 minutes. When the bus finally stopped, we alighted at the last attraction deep into the valley.
The moment we stepped foot on the ground, we felt giddy and a little breathless. The lady guide advised that we do not engage in rigorous activities here and walk slowly due to the high altitude in the valley. Actually, I felt much better after alighting from the bus no longer having to rock sideways during the journey here and to endure the smell on the bus.
There was so much open space here in the midst of tall snowcapped mountains. Many stalls were set up here selling food, snacks, drinks, fruits, local herbs and souvenirs. So we embarked on our first taste of this alpine activity snapping pictures of this beautiful place.
The sun was beating right overhead so it wasn’t too cold this winter day with no howling winds blowing our way. The air was crisp and fresh and we liked it here. With plenty of open space in this beautiful site, it was such a relief and the tiredness of travelling from Dujiangyan was completely erased.
Since we arrived a little later than planned with the driver picking us up at 9 am instead of our desired time of 7.30 am, we didn’t have a lot of time to spend here in this beautiful Twin Bridge Valley. Having snapped enough pictures, we hurried to another waiting shuttle bus that was departing soon.
We were glad after boarding this bus leaving that bunch of noisy domestic tourists behind still taking their time out there admiring the scenery. This bus was less crowded and the domestic tourists on board were better behaved younger crowds not talking so loudly.
Four Maiden Shrine
The bus left and not long after, we alighted at the next stop. Over here, the main attraction is a shrine in an open area in the midst of snowcapped mountains. Wooden walkways positioned nicely here made it so much easier for visitors to move around up the slightly elevated attraction. This reminded us of the Shika Snow Mountain in Shangrila we visited two years ago where we walked along such wooden platforms up on 4500 m on top of the world. We would be back there in December with the children this time.
We then boarded the next departing shuttle bus. The bus was less crowded now with quite a lot of seats as many visitors were spending time walking up the shrine and enjoying the site here. We were much more comfortable now although still breathless at this high altitude location. After some turns on the road, we arrived at another attraction.
This time, the valley is a beautiful lake with tall tress in the midst of all these gorgeous mountains. The area of this attraction is very large where we could spend hours here walking around the perimeter of the lake. It was so calm and peaceful here. The tranquility was only momentarily disturbed by some overly excited visitors rushing to scenic spots to take pictures and selfies.
We wished we had come in the morning to take in the sights here. It was simply heavenly to soak up this fantastic scenery etching every moment into memory the time we spent here. Of course, snapping more beautiful pictures to bring home helped recap this happy time spent at this awesome place. Having had enough indulgence taking in fresh air with easy steps to prevent fainting, we boarded another waiting bus.
River Rafting Station
Soon we departed and were on our way to the next stop not far away. The guide on the bus mentioned that this stop was for those who wished to float down the stream on rafts to the next stop. Only a few alighted from the bus. Since we won’t be returning to this attraction anytime soon, there was no harm going down for a look. As soon as we all had alighted, the bus left with the rest of the passengers on board.
We then went down to the stream. The operator of the raft service told those who wished to take a raft down the stream they would not get wet. The cost for taking this river ride would be CNY80 per person. Not many took up the offer. We spent some time exploring this site while waiting for the next shuttle bus to show up. Toilets are available here too. This place is still beautiful surrounded by mountains on an empty road junction.
Soon a bus arrived and we boarded the bus after some passengers had alighted. We would be heading to the next beautiful spot. Not long after, we arrived and most of the passengers left the bus. Here was another very picturesque site, another attraction with plenty of picture opportunities.
Long Zhu Cuo
Over here is another lake surrounded by beautiful mountains. The interesting thing about this lake was trees were protruding out of the lake. These tree trunks in the lake provided very pretty reflections on the water with the gorgeous snowcapped mountains as the backdrop on a canvas of a clear blue sky. We saw some professional photographers patiently positioning their equipment to take the best possible award winning shots. Indeed, this is a site worth spending time exploring.
Besides the beautiful lake with growing trees, wooden platform erected here provides visitors easy access to the edge of the flowing stream. Nearby was grazing ground for animals. Yaks were roaming freely here. We dared not approach too close to them in case they might chase us. We won’t be in a position to outrun them still feeling breathless on this high altitude valley.
After enjoying this another beautiful spot, we boarded a shuttle bus. There were more passengers on the bus now just past 4 pm. This is winter and most visitors would want to return to their lodging place before nightfall. The journey back to the main entrance took nearly 15 minutes. The bus just kept driving right out of the main gate. Everyone alighted and some went down to the basement carpark to get their vehicles.
Arrange Pick Up to Yun Xi Gu Guesthouse
There were still plenty of sunlight once we were outside the entrance. A young couple carrying a young child was nearby. The man was on the phone when we approached them. We asked them to help call the owner of Yun Xi Gu Guesthouse to come and bring us back to their place. When the man finished his phone call, he obliged and contacted the guesthouse and passed the phone to me to speak with owner. So our pick up was arranged.
Travelling in China, we found the young people pretty friendly and helpful and were quite willing to help make phone calls for foreigners requiring assistance. Our local sim card on our spare phone could receive phone calls but couldn’t make outgoing calls. We would have to top up credits but we don’t have WeChat and won’t know how to go about topping up our sim card. We would ask some hotel staff to assist us later during this tour.
After waiting for about 10 minutes along the road outside Twin Bridge Valley site, a very nice SUV pulled up. Two young men were in the car. One of them attended to us earlier when we checked in beckoned us to get in. Soon we were on our way back to Yun Xi Gu Guesthouse. Along the way, the car turned down a steep slope towards a stream off the main road and we were back to the guesthouse. The host’s friendly dog came running to meet us.
Back to Yun Xi Gu Guesthouse
Finally, we were back in our room where we only managed to spend a moment checking our room early afternoon before heading out to Twin Bridge Valley. So now we could settle down to rest a while. The window views looking out to the stream below were great, a very relaxing spot for us in the room. The bed was clean and sufficiently comfortable that came with electric blanket. Another electric heater is provided next to the bed.
Heating lamps are installed in the bathroom to keep the bathroom warm. Water heater is fixed above the shower cubicle. The room is not big but good enough for us in this outback area. This guesthouse certainly doesn’t look like any other accommodation in the area. The style is quite western in taste from the outside and some what the same indoor.
The lounge and restaurant on the ground floor however is not so western in style although the restaurant tries to resemble a little bit like a modern café. A sofa sitting area is there as well with shelves of necessities stored there and the whole place was a little messy. Anyway, the dog did come in from time to time and the owner has a young toddler who would play in this restaurant and lounge area.
The kitchen is further inside located in a corner while there is another toilet next to this kitchen accessible from the restaurant. So this place isn’t very big while it is still possible to chill out here but when occupancy is high, this place can become quite cramped. At least this is an indoor area other than our room where we could take shelter from the elements outdoor at an altitude of 3100 m.
Outdoor Scenery at Yun Xi Gu
We then spent some time enjoying the outdoor scene. While the scenery here wasn’t as stunning compared to the Twin Bridge Valley sites we visited earlier, it was nevertheless still rather refreshing. We walked along the flowing stream for a while and took in the sights of the surrounding mountains with the sun hanging far out about to disappear for the day.
There were animals out here as well. A man was herding his cattle on the other side of the stream. A horse was also nearby with the friendly family dog playing out in the open with another dog from one of the guests staying here for the night. Besides human inhabiting this place, animals spiced up the ambiance here which was great.
So this place was pretty cool and we were happy to be here. We could have stayed in town with better access to restaurants and other amenities but having passed through town earlier, those amenities didn’t seem to be very attractive. Besides there were ongoing construction works and the whole place was rather noisy and dusty. At least here we had fresh air, albeit thin air where we had to move a little slower than normal.
Soon, lights were fading in the vicinity. It was getting cold with a soft wind blowing outdoor. The gentle sounds from the flowing stream could still be heard. It was time to head indoor.
Dinner Time in Yun Xi Gu
We didn’t really have a proper lunch today so we went into the restaurant and took our seats. When we came earlier, we were told the lady owner had gone marketing in town. It then dawned on us the scarcity of the resources here.
A simple menu was given to us and having checked with the lady owner who turned out to be the chef as well, we realized quite a number of dishes wouldn’t be available. Some would take a much longer time to prepare like BBQ meats and so on. Since we were hungry, we ordered something simple, fast and easy to cook. We ordered a plate of sliced pork with fungus and also fried eggs plus a vegetable soup.
Power Failure in Siguniang Mountains
It was getting dark outside. While we were waiting and the lady owner busy in the kitchen, there was a power trip. The whole place went dark. The old lady looking after the grandson began setting up some lit candles to provide light in the restaurant. The young men went about trying to get the generator started.
One young man who was the husband of this lady owner went to the kitchen to help holding his cell phone with flash light turned on. The elder lady also entered the kitchen from time to time to help in between taking care of the young toddler. What a scene!
Our dinner finally came while the rest of the guests who came in later had to wait a lot longer for their dinner to be ready. The sliced pork dish was pretty good but the fried eggs were too oily. Since there was pandemonium during the power failure, we told the lady owner to cancel our vegetable soup dish. This would lighten her work load and we didn’t have to wait a lot longer as well.
While having dinner, power came back on and everyone was glad. But this didn’t last long. We descended into darkness again soon after. By now, there were some candle lights in the restaurant and sofa sitting area. It was such a gloomy sight, really pathetic and sad. Our hearts went out to the lady owner having to fight the battle in the dark kitchen. We just hope she won’t get hurt in the process.
Managing Power Failure in Yun Xi Gu
We got our dinner over eventually and returned to our room. Power came back on again and we were glad. We were quite worried how to endure the night without electricity. It would be freezing cold up here 3100 m above sea level. We turned on the electric blanket and the electric heater in our room. So we were pretty comfortable.
Unfortunately, our comfort soon turned into despair. Darkness blanketed the guesthouse again. The young men were frantically trying to restore electricity to the guesthouse using their own generator. We had already slipped into bed without even showering because my dear wife was unwell at this high altitude having to deal with a bad headache. One of the young men came knocking on our door.
He came in and apologized he had to turn off the electric heater in our room as well as the water heater in the bathroom. The generator couldn’t support the massive loads so at least basic services like lighting could still operate here. We were told electrical cables were damaged in town and it was too late for the authorities to repair them during the night.
Awesome Star Lit Skies at 3100 m
Well, there was nothing much we could do under situation like this. At least we still had the electric blanket in bed to keep us sufficiently warm. During this chaotic time, while my wife was resting in bed, I sneaked out to walk a little further away to look up into the skies.
With power failure and no light pollution here, the night skies were an awesome sight. It was so bright up there full of stars shinning in a blanket of darkness. It was an exhilarating feeling as how often would I have such opportunity to go star gazing, especially up on 3100 m! But it was cold out here.
Having sufficient enjoyment of the night skies, I returned to the restaurant. By now, the other guests were having dinner. They ordered more dishes than we and with lights restored, the mood here was not so somber anymore. The guesthouse owners however, had yet to eat their dinner. It must be tough on them and probably quite exhausted. The little boy was fast asleep on the sofa.
Eventful Day from Dujiangyan to Siguniang Mountains
So it was an eventful day for us coming up from Dujiangyan ancient town all the way to Siguniang Mountains. We ascended from 500 m to 3800 m within a few hours. Without properly acclimatizing ourselves, it was really a challenge.
The journey was great with amazing views. Twin Bridge Valley really made our day for the sights of those stunning snowcapped mountains and pristine lakes. We wished we had the entire day to spend there.
Yun Xi Gu Guesthouse was pretty good if not for the power failure which wasn’t their fault. The calm and peaceful scenery here would no doubt have added points to this accommodation we chose to park ourselves up in this mountainous area.
We would be visiting another valley the next day and expect more exciting time and splendid scenery to make our journey here worthwhile. So we tucked ourselves in bed without taking showers hoping for the best there won’t be any more power trips during the night.
Continue to Day 4 …