My Independent Trip to Western Sichuan

During this late summer, my friends and I had a 9 day trip to the western Sichuan province. We chose a route: Chengdu – Rilong (Four Girls Mountain, Changping Valley, Double Bridge Valley) – Danba (Jiajv Tibetan Village) – Kangding (Xindu Bridge Town) – Luding County (Hailuogou, Red Stone Beach) – Ya’an City (Giant Pandas, Bifeng Gorge) – Chengdu. For more excitement and freedom, we prefered to travel independently, and there were 4 of us exclusive of the guide. This was an exciting, free, and more interesting trip than we had expected and the total traveling expenses worked out at less than 4,000 yuan per person. All of us thought it was worth it. The following is a summary of the trip.

This travel story is a little long as it includes all of the details and the noticeable aspects of the trip. Travelers planning to travel to western Sichuan Province can get help if read it patiently. 

Preparation: Recommendations for Renting a Vehicle

Considering time, bus tickets, and money, renting a vehicle was the best opt for us. We decided to rent private vehicles of local drivers because the local drivers were familiar with the roads. We could enjoy the beautiful sceneries on the way and stopped at anywhere we like and took photos. Travelers just need to connect to the owners of private vehicles in advance, reach an agreement on time and price. The expense of renting a vehicle for the whole trip is at 1,000 Yuan per day each, so we rented vehicles in different places. As for vehicles, Toyota Prado, the off-road vehicle, is good choice, a little expensive but it’s comfortable and safe. 

Day 1: Starting from Shanghai to Chengdu

We had booked the round-trip air tickets to Chengdu in advance. It cost 1,160 Yuan. It took us two and a half hours to Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport form Shanghai Pudong Airport. And then we went to the Youth Hotel near the Wuhou Temple in the center of Chengdu, 180 Yuan for a room with 4 beds in total.

Day 2-4: Visiting the Four Girls Mountain Area

On the second day, with the help of the front desk of the hotel, we rented a car to Rilong Town where the Four Girls Mountains stand. The road to Rilong though Yinxiu and Wenchuan was blocked by a landslide, therefore, we had to choose the road with more than additional 100 kilometers through Ya’an, passing over the Jiajin Mountian. The Mountain is 4,200 meters high and the sceneries on the way are beautiful. Generally speaking, the offer to rent a car is 1,100–1,500 yuan. It took us about 8 hours to Rilong from Chengdu.

The Four Girls Mountains

In Rilong, we found a hotel near the Changping Gully Entrance where there were many good and cheap hotels to choose from. Of course, these hotels cost more in season. After checking in, we set for the Maobi Liang (Cat’s Nose Ridge), a place where we could enjoy the full view of the Four Girls Mountain. Travelers can even take photos of the golden white snow-capped mountain if lucky enough. Expect that, it is suggested that travelers not do too many activities because the town is over 3,000m above sea level. On the first night in Rilong, travelers should avoid bathe, and particularly have a good rest. If the altitude sickness should be attacked, travelers should take right medicine for different symptoms: Danshen Diwan (Compound Danshen Dripping Pills) for lack of oxygen, Saridon (Compound Paracetamol Tablets) for headache caused by altitude sickness, sleeping pills for sleeplessness. These medicines often relieve the symptoms and travelers will feel better after a long night sleep.

Seeing the Four Girls Mountains from Cat’s Nose Ridge

We spent the whole third day in traveling the Changping. We ride on a sightseeing bus to the Lama Temple, and then stopped to walk into the Gully. Travelers could rent a horse from local people to visit the Gully, but we didn’t for some personal reasons. It took us about two hours to walk about 3,500m to the Kushu Tan (Dead Trees Beach). It was in May, but it’s still cold here. The weather was really amazing; one minute it snowed, the next it rained, and then the sun shined. The scenery in the Kushu Tan (Dead Trees Beach), including snow-capped mountain, forest, and lake, was so great, fantastic and picturesque that it was out of the world. We continued to walk for an hour, and then we stopped to return. On our way to the hotel, we were happy to find that we were really right to travel by foot instead of riding a horse. The travelers who ride on horse were cold because of sitting still on the horseback. In addition, travelers should not walk too much in case of altitude sickness.

Changping Gully

On the fourth day, we continued to visit the Shuangqiao Gou (Double Bridges Gully) on the tour bus. A ticket cost 80 yuan. The bus would stop at 5 different sights, leaving some free time for travelers to take photos. The scenery of Double Bridges Gully was different from that of Changping Gully but as beautiful as it. During our visiting, it rained; therefore, the tour bus did not stop at the other four sights and sent us to the farthest sight–the redwood trees area. It snowed heavily there and those redwood trees in snow were spectacular and perfect. Later, the snow stopped and the clouds dispersed themselves. On the way back to the hotel, the sun shined. The visit to the Double Bridges Gully finished in the afternoon and then checked out, fetched our luggage and left for Danba County. Travelers should pay attention to bringing their own food and water during the three-day trip, and particularly make an agreement with local drivers to rent a car to Danba in advance. Renting the vehicle cost 400 yuan in total.

Shuangqiao Gully

Day 5: Jiaju Tibetan Village and Xinduqiao (Xindu Bridge) Town

Danba County is about 130km away form the Rilong Town. It took us 3 hours to get to it because of its not good roads. Therefore, we arrived in Danba at night.
At the Danba Hotel, we happened to meet a Tibetan driver who lived in the Jiaju Tibetan Village and ran his chain of Dengba Youth Hotels. Immediately, we decided to rent his car to the Jiaju Tibetan Village for the fifth day at the reasonable total price of 600 yuan. When we were in Jiaju Tibetan Village, we were surprised to find that the Village was simply beautiful, which had been unexpected.

After visiting the Jiaju Tibetan Village, we moved to the Xindu Qiao (Xindu Bridge) Town which is regarded as the paradise of photographers. We had been told that the scenery in the distance from Xindu Qiao Town to Zheduo Mountain was best. Unfortunately, we got there early, only to find the trees and mountains were enveloped in clouds and mist. After that, we decided to advance to Kangding County by renting the same private car with additional 260 yuan and stayed there for a night.

(I do not specify the sceneries here because I think the beauty of them can not be described by words and it will be better for travelers to have a look by themselves.)

Day 6-7: the Peak of Sichuan Province: Mountain Gongga

We had been afraid that the next day it would be raining but it was a surprise to find that the sixth day was fine. We continued to rent the previous Tibetan driver’s car to Moxi Town because we thought that he was a kind man and friendly to us. The fare was 500 yuan in all.

On the way to Moxi, there were many beautiful landscapes, particularly the Hongshi Tan (Red Stone Beach). There was a stream without ice and many strangely shaped stones scattered on the beach were red, which looked spectacular. It’s said that there was a special species of algae living on these stones so that they looked red. If travelers were to touch it with their fingers, the fingertips would turn yellow for a while.

Moxi is a small and clean town and it is also the entrance of the Hailuogou. The Hailuogou ticket window is open from 7am–12.30pm and 3pm again. We arrived there at 1.30pm and could not enter the Hailuogou at that time. So, we profited by this time to find a hotel and go to the Gongga Holly Spring to have a spa. We rented a car for going to the Gongga Holly Spring and back at 80 yuan in all.

A ticket to the spring was 118 yuan, but the ticket offered by the hotel where we stayed was only 90 yuan. In addition, the price for dinner at the town was reasonable and travelers could have a good dinner at 30-50 yuan each.

We went to the Hailuogou on the seventh day. The ticket to the Hailuogou was the most expensive ticket compared with the other sights of the whole journey. It was worth 72 yuan. There is a preferential policy for older travelers: travelers aged 60 or above can enjoy a 10 yuan concessionary rate on the ticket; travelers aged 70 or above can buy the ticket at half price, and travelers aged 80 or above are free to travel.

A tour bus ticket here is 80 yuan and a cable car ticket is 150 yuan. The travelers aged 60 or above can enjoy a 10 yuan concessionary fare. The cable car is highly recommended because travelers cannot get to the best place to enjoy the beautiful view from Gongga Mountain, the highest peak of Sichuan Province with 7,000 meters above sea level. We were lucky to see the rare complete view of the mountain in fine weather, without too many clouds and mist in the sightseeing area. We took many photos and then climbed down to see the glaciers and found out what the “grey stone” was. Finally, it was amazing for us to see that the so-called “grey stone” was just was a big chunk of ice. Actually, it’s dangerous for a traveler to climb down to the lowest of the glaciers and it’s also difficult for a traveler to return after he climbs down to the glaciers. Therefore, we stopped to return to the sightseeing area after a short climb. On the way back to the sightseeing area, we were fortunate enough to meet two old men who were both aged 81. What brave men they were! Travelers cheered for them when they returned to the area safely. The scenery of Hailuogou was so great that all of us though it was worth it. When we descended in the cable car, the fog began to appear. Having seen this, we were glad to have come earlier.

Having considered the time factor and finished the visit to Hailuogou, we had a simple dinner at the town and then set off for Ya’an City in an agreed business car at 700 yuan in total (the Tibetan driver had had to go back because of his personal affairs). It took us four and a half hours to travel to Ya’an. There, travelers can choose to take a bus in the next morning at the price of 70 yuan each.

We got to Ya’an at 7.30pm and found the Yaxing (Elegant Star) Hotel near the Western Gate Station. The standard room of the hotel was large and comfortable but only cost 118 yuan per night. There were many coaches to Chengdu every 20–40 minutes in the station. The fare per person was 50 yuan. What’s more, there were various restaurants and snack bars offering different local specialties. We had the fish hot pot and it averaged out at 28 yuan per head. It was really great and cheap.

Day 8: Seeing Giant Pandas

We had planned to see the Giant Pandas and Bifeng Gorge so we set out on the eighth morning. We got to Tour Station by taxi for 5 yuan where there were many buses to Bifeng Gorge. The bus ticket was only 5 yuan per head and it was not necessary to rent a car because it would cost 180 yuan. Bifeng Gorge and the Giant Pandas were in the same place and travelers were allowed to visit the two sights with a 118 yuan ticket. What’s more, travelers aged 60 or above and travelers with a student ID card only needed to buy a 60 yuan ticket.

Travelers were advised to visit the Giant Pandas first and then Bifeng Gorge because there were many slopes on Bifeng Gorge and travelers would be tired from traveling through it.

An hour was enough for us to visit the Giant Pandas and the pandas were so cute and lovely that we loved them very much. There were golf cart-like vehicles giving trips but it cost 15 yuan. Travelers could buy some cheap but good panda shaped toys.

After that, travelers began to visit the Bifeng Gorge. The scenery of it was very nice and the waterfall was particularly great. It took us two and a half hours to visit the whole of Bifeng Gorge. In addition, travelers could wear cool clothes.

In front of the hotel where we had stayed, we met someone who was looking for travelers to share his fare to Chengdu in a business car. The price was 50 yuan each, the same as the bus ticket. He even promised to send us to the hotel, so we made a deal with him. After having the local famous specialty of Qiaojiao Beef (ox sweetbread hot pot), we left Ya’an and got to Chengdu at 5.30pm.

Day 9: Returning Shanghai from Chengdu

We returned to Shanghai on the last day. All of us were satisfied with this trip. It was good fun, greatly enjoyable and leisurely. We really enjoyed ourselves.

Cost

We did not buy too many things in Chengdu except for some of the old preserved pork. It cost us 30 yuan per 500g in the food markets but it would have cost more in the supermarkets.

General expenses

  • Transportation including renting a vehicle at an average per person: about 1,000 yuan
  • Accommodation at an average per person: about 400 yuan
  • Food at an average per person: about 500 yuan
  • Traveling tickets at anaverage per person: 780 yuan
  • Round-trip air tickets at an average per person: 1160 yuan
  • In total: 3,840 yuan per head

Questions and Answers About My Independent Trip to Western Sichuan

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Hi, I'm Lynn Ye
I updated this article on November 13, 2012
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