I’m officially starting my travel with this trip. This trip I will go to Southwest China Province, Sichuan. I will fly into the the capital city of Sichuan, Chengdu. Other than Chengdu, I also will go to Aba Tibetan & Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, or Aba Prefecture, for short.
Actually, I never have any planning to go to China, but after I stumbled across a blog which a blogger share her experience traveling to Chengdu, Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong. I became very interested to learn more particularly about Jiuzhaigou. The photos online is such an awe and mesmerizing, so long story short, I will go this 1st September.
Travel Date and Flight
When is the best time to travel to Chengdu? Jiuzhaigou? Huanglong? Dujiangyan? This is the first question I type in the google search. Since I start researching this trip around May and I plan to go before October, the best time will be September. It is the beginning of the autumn, after summer which most posts I read does not advise traveling this time due to raining season. Then September it is.
But which date? In Malaysia, we will celebrate Hari Raya Aidil Adha in the third week of September, so automatically it is NO GO. End of September will be excellent since autumn will start to be at its peak, but it is Chinese National Holiday on 1st October. Most people does not advise to travel during this time, as many Chinese will start to take early holiday. The other significant reason is AirAsia flight ticket is expensive at this time. So after some discussion, we decided to go on 1st September and fly back to Malaysia on 7th September. The flight ticket is decent price and most accommodation prices still affordable.
According to weather forecast, September will have few day with precipitation but it is not as heavy as in July and August. So still need to prepare the raincoat or umbrella.
Before I purchased the flight ticket, I start doing the itinerary, the basic one. Where I want to go, which transportation to use, where to stay and so on. It is not easy to find all information about China but there is one website have almost everything, TravelChinaGuide.
After I purchased my flight ticket, I start to booked accommodations. I used Booking and Agoda to book the hotel/hostels. I used both apps to compare the price, and I read all the reviews. I used few factors to determine which hostel to book; price, location, public transport, reviews. I prefer to stay at room instead of dorm, since I need a space for pray, prepare foods and some privacy.
Itinerary and Budget
I do both of these together since it is related. I discussed with my traveling partner, L, the places we want to go. Actually for this trip, there is only two of us, means it is easier to plan. The main attraction is Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area and Huanglong Scenic Area.
For both Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong, it is located at Aba Prefecture, northwest of Sichuan Province. There is two mode of transportation from Chengdu to Jiuzhai Valley; airplanes and bus. We choose to ride the bus since obviously it is cheaper, but the traveling time will take around 10-12 hour. Those who have extra money, can choose to fly, coz it only take 45 min. Both of transportation have its own pro and cons. So return ride also will be by the bus, hence we need to spend 2 days just to travel in and out of Jiuzhai Valley. So for Aba Prefecture alone, we will spend 4 days; 2 days bus ride (in and out), 1 day in Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area and 1 day in Huanglong Scenic Area.
This trip is from 1st Sep till 7th Sep, but we will take night flight that will touchdown in Malaysia by 4:30am on 8th Sep. Minus 1st Sep since our flight 6:15pm and arrive at 10:40pm, basically we only have 6 days to travel around. 4 days allocate for Aba Prefecture, so balance 2 days, will spend in Chengdu.
In Chengdu, we identified few places to go, Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Jinli Street, Wide and Narrow Alley and Chunxi Road. After some research, I read about Dujiangyan Irrigation System. This place seems nice and not too far away from Chengdu City, some more there is bullet train straight to Dujiangyan Station. So, we will include this in our trip, a chance to ride bullet train.
We are quite lucky as Chengdu Subway Metro Line 3 start operating in 31st July 2016. We can ride the metro straight to Panda Avenue station and it is only 5km away from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. I also study a bit about the bus route.
The challenges that I will and currently facing is that, in China, Google is blocked. Means no access to Google map etc. The current map, I believe is not up-to-date, since there is no Line 4 subway station. So of cos, also no Line 3 subway station. But still, current map is very helpful for me, as I use it to find direction to few Halal Restaurant.
While I do this itinerary, I also do some research regarding the cost of transportation. This time, I have prepared three mode of transportation; bus, metro and taxi and included inside the budget. It is better to over-estimate budget than under-estimate it. It also helps, in case due to traffic, weather etc if we cannot take public transport or vice versa.
Inside of the backpack
As before, we will only carry backpack and do not check in any luggage. Means, we cannot brings to many clothes or any other items as it will make our backpack very heavy.
Back to weather forecast, in Chengdu, the temperature will be around 26-28°C during the day and 21°C at night. While in Jiuzhaigou, it will be around 20°C during the day and 18°C at night.
It is no too cold but I will still bought 1 jacket, in case the temperature drop.I also bring 1 raincoat in case it is raining. I don’t bring a lot of clothes, since I plan to wash them there. Washing the laundry will help greatly to reduce your backpack weight. To bring variety to my attire, usually I mix and match the shawl, so it will give different total look to your outfit of the day. Don’t forget the socks, very important. You need to take great care of your legs if you want to keep walking.
I will bring some foods, not only because it is quite difficult to find Halal Food but it can help to save your budget and time while traveling. But traveling to other country and not taste their foods make it feel your trip lost some flavor. So I search and found few Halal Restaurant, therefore I only bought few foods only. I always pack instant noodle, instant rice, bread, tuna, nuts, chocolate, milo and coffee. This time we will share all our foods and only bring minimal, to save up space. We also bring thermos, so anywhere we go, we can have hot coffee or milo.
I always have my ready-to-go bag consist of tooth brush, tooth paste, soap and shampoo. I read few review that most hostel don’t prepare towel, so need to look it up.
This is one of very important aspect. We totally forgot during previous trip to Seoul and Jeju. I only brings medicine such as panadol, muscle ache spray and totally forget to bring first aid kit. One of our friends fall and her leg hurts and swollen. Luckily I am driving in Jeju, so we can easily moves and buy bandages from pharmacy. So, for this trip, we will bring basic first aid kit minus the iodine, panadol, muscle ache spray, motion sickness medicine. I also read that tourist are advised to take altitude sickness pill called Diamox or Tibetan traditional medicine.
I tried to find Diamox in Malaysia, but one of the pharmacist told me, I need doctor prescription to buy Diamox. Lucky, I found one pharmacy sold Acetazolamide (trade names Diamox) in Subang Perdana.
I will be wearing my sport shoes and bring one spare slipper.
Inside small backpack
Hahaha…. I will bring another backpack, but it is smaller and I will carry it anywhere I go. I will stuff all my documents in here; passport, boarding pass, travel book, maps etc. I also put my camera, selfie stick, chocolate in here. I will keep all important documents in one pocket, it will make the boarding process much easier and hassle free.
We will carry quite a lot of cash since most hostel/hotel required payment by cash only. So, what we do, since there is two of us, we divide the responsibility. L will take care all the money for our lodging, I will keep the money for entrance fee and transport. For foods and souvenir, we both keep our own money. It’s better like that.
I still not yet convert Ringgit to Renminbi, maybe this weekend. L have exchange her money with rate 100 Chinese Renminbi = 60.45 Ringgit. Hopefully I can get better rate or at least the same.
Currency in China called Renminbi (RMB) or yuan (CNY), both can be used. When L changed her money, the employee at money changer advise us on the counterfeit money, usually for 50 and 100 note. If you search online, there is a few blog write about this and what is the difference between real and counterfeit money.
Be smart in keeping your cash, don’t put all your cash in one place.
Last but not least…
I learn during last trip, bring few papers around is not that productive. This time, all information, hostel address, name, itinerary, restaurant, maps etc, I print out and paste inside the small notebook. Instead of carry few pieces of A4 papers, I just need to open this book and find what I need to know. If there is any amendment or additional info, I just wrote it down. Don’t forget to bring pen, in case you need to jot down any information.
Before this, I really rely on my smartphone, what happened, both phone and power bank dead and I’m lost. It’s not wrong we go back to analog in this digital world. At least we have back up. I also put all information inside Evernote apps. Now we play it safe.
Hopefully I have covered most of the preparations. In next post, I will share the experience in Sichuan Province.
Feeling excited, a bit scared, but mostly excited.
15 days to go….