Tibetan Sichuan : Huanglong 黄龙 The Yellow Dragon
It's only around 135 kms (around 2.5 hrs drive) from the sublime Jiuzhaigou to Huanglong and yet many people don't bother to come here, even though the airport isn't that far away (56 kms or 75 mins from Huanglong), it'd only be a short detour and for most Huanglong, a beautiful UNESCO site of natural and historical interest, could be covered in a day.
Huanglong is something entirely different to Jiuzhaigou, surrounded by permanently snow-capped peaks rising to 5,588m. Uniquely Huanglong has hundreds of extraordinary multi-coloured travertine pools, formed by calcite deposits, most notably in Huanglonggou (Yellow Dragon Gully). Huanglong also has diverse forest ecosystems, snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and hot springs.
The area also has a population of endangered animals, reputedly to include the giant panda and the Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey, though you'd be extremely lucky to see either !
It should be noted that to make a visit here even easier there is a cable car to take you to the top and from there it's all downhill !
Oxygen However do also note that Huanglong's altitude ranges from 1,700m (5,577ft) all the way up to a breath depriving 5,588m (18,333ft) although the average elevation is from around 3,300 m (10,827 ft) up to 3,500 m (11,483 ft). The altitude can catch some people out so just in case here's a reminder that there's an Oxygen Bar some way along the long flat pathway (which is about 2 kms long?) from the cable car terminal to the main valley containing the pools. You can grab an oxygen bottle or two here if you require an extra gulp or ten of the 100% pure good stuff!
Birds Once into the main valley of Huanglonggou (Yellow Dragon Gully) you'll be entertained by the local birds, mainly Laughing Thrushes, Babblers and Tits.
If you were exceptionally lucky (and very quiet !) which may have proven rather difficult should there have been any Chinese tour groups around ! Then you may also have encountered such stunning birds as Golden Pheasants, Blood Pheasants, Blue Eared-Pheasants and even the star of the show a Himalayan (here called Chinese) Monal (simply stunning birds I've photographed in Bhutan, check out the bird gallery in the main website).
However you'll be almost certain to see the fearless Elliot's Laughingthrush (Garrulax elliotii) Pic, that'll trot over your boots if you keep still enough (they run around like the Compsognathus, the chicken-sized dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and also in packs ! Maybe I missed something there, hmm), Large-billed Crow, Chinese Wren-Babbler Pic, Grey-crested tit (Lophophanes dichrous) Pic, Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush (Garrulax sukatschewi) Pic, Grey Wagtail, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White Wagtail, Chinese White-browed Rosefinch, Rufous-vented Tit, Giant Laughingthrush (Ianthocincla maxima) Pic - a few of which entertained me from just 2m away, virtually ignoring me, Spotted Bush Warbler (Locustella thoracica), and numerous very cute Chinese cupwing or Chinese wren-babbler (Pnoepyga mutica) Pic. All of which were in clear view on the day I visited.
Those birds, where I have added Pic after the name, I have photos of I'll add to this post once the photos have been processed.
Accomodation Personally I now know better and if planning on visiting Huanglong I'd stay in Chuanzhusi (40 kms or maybe 60 mins way) and make the short commute by taxi (100rmb each way) as the hotels in Huanglong are pretty threadbare and the restaurants nothing to write home about either.
Whereas Chuanzhusi has a lovely town centre, way more eateries and a monastery ! it is certainly a place to include on your tour of the area and shouldn't be missed just because 'some' people claim it's just a smaller version of Jiuzhaigou, which I hope my photographs show it most certainly isn't !
My next post will be on Jiuzhaigou (three in total on this huge and amazingly beautiful UNESCO site) one of the very best, and most spectacular, sites in the whole of China!