Archive for the ‘Hanzhong’ Category

Drive from Hanzhong to Ya’an

Thursday, October 29th, 2015
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After simple breakfast at our lodging hotel, at 7:30 am, October 6, 2015,  we leave the cozy and green city of Hanzhong (汉中) driving through the main street and Han River Bridge in patchy fog and drizzle. Today we spend most of our daytime driving on route, a 600km and 7-hour long haul G5 (Jingkun Freeway ) from Hanzhong to Ya’an, entering Sichuan Province at Guangyuan (广元), known as the northern gate to Sichuan and further going southwest and passing by Mianyang (绵阳), Deyang (德阳) , Chengdu (成都) and getting to Ya’an (雅安), our final destination today. The screenshot below gives you a rough idea of our traveling route today.

Hanzhong Ya'an Travel Map Screenshot

Hanzhong Ya’an Travel Map Screenshot

The roads between Xian and Chengdu which we are driving past so quickly, dating back to in the Warring States (481-221 BC) period, the Qin (221-206 BC) and Han (206 BC to 220 AD) dynasties, were collectively known as “Shu Roads” (蜀道) or “Hard Roads to Shu”. Chengdu is officially abbreviated as Shu (蜀) and Shu was an ancient state in modern Sichuan.

The ancient “Shu Roads” were built connecting both north-south sides of the mountainous barrier formed by the Qinling (秦岭). “Shu Roads” served as a bridge linking Chang’an (长安), near present day Xi’an in the north and Shu (蜀) in the south, the present day Chengdu in the Sichuan plain. Some of the roads have been preserved and maintained, even consolidated up till today while others have faded away. “Shu Roads” also bridged the two most important historical “Highways” in China history – the southern trade routes such as the Tea and Horse road to Tibet and northern routes such as the Silk Road to the west.

When we are passing through the Qipanguan Toll Gate at Guangyuan (广元), formally entering Sichuan Province, we see the banner hanging above says “Welcome to Jianmen Shudao (literally Shu Roads ) at Mingyue Gorge Tourism Area”. People haven’t forgot the hard Shu Roads and the local government has developed Shu Roads ecological and historical tourism routes.

Guangyuan Toll Gate

Guangyuan Toll Gate

In the course of driving, we are still amazed by the high-quality building of the flat and wide freeway framed with charming Chinese traditional paintings of the clouds and mountains. For an urban dweller, driving fast though the mountainous areas is definitley a luxury rewinding experience!

A framed Chinese traditional Paintings

Framed Chinese traditional Paintings

We take a break at Jianmen Pass Service Area.  Jianmen is a county under Guangyuan City.  This county is well known for its Jianmen Pass, the strategically located pass and the endless Shu Roads. Here you can view the magnificent scenery, but also have the chance to look for  the traces of the historical site of the Three Kingdoms and more. But we have to say goodbye to the intriguing Jianmen Pass and Shu Roads and go on with our dream focused on the West Sichuan.

Jianmen Pass Service Area

We take a break at Jianmen Pass Service Area.

When We’ve reached the city of Ya’an driving all the way from Hanzhong (汉中) along the expressway G5 (Jingkun Expressway), it is getting darker. The city looks neat and bright with Qingyi River (青衣江) winding past cutting the city into two parts. Actually the city of Ya’an is built on the two sides of the valley of Qingyi River. We are pleasantly surprised at the solemn beauty of the largest covered bridge (Langqiao) I’ve ever seen just across our lodging hotel – ibis downtown Ya’an.

Ya’an has long been well known for its “three most famous” – Ya Fish, Ya Girls and Ya Rain. Tasting Ya fish is a must for tonight. Just forget Ya rain, as Ya’an is noted for a city of rain, the most rainy city in Sichuan Province and hopefully we’ll have a sunny and bright day tomorrow. The girls in Ya’an are said to to be beautiful, so we’ll see!

Our growling stomach reminds us of the need to have dinner first upon arrival at the pretty city.  Ibis downtown Ya’an suggests us have Ya fish at the time-honored Ganlaosi Ya Fish Restaurant ( 干老四雅鱼饭店), a ten-minute drive from our hotel. This is a chain restautant and we go to its flagship restaurant – Ganlaosi Ya Fish at Sha Wan ( tel: 035-2821584 Add: No.236, Shawan Road, Yucheng District, Ya’an 雅安市雨城区沙湾路236号).

We order a Ya fish braised in soy source with red peppers.  It tastes soft, delicious and melts in our mouths. The Ya fishes live in Zhou Gong River, a branch of Qingyi River.

Ya fish caught alive and cooked freshly.

Ya Fish

Ya Fish

The cooked Ya fish tastes delicious and melts in our mouths.

Ya Fish in Sioy Source

Ya Fish in Soy Source

As a Chinese saying goes “One hundred steps of walking after dinner make you live to 99  years old”, we take  a short stroll after supper,which is said to be good for health. The walk along the river bank turns out to be a joyful experience! The walkway along the river bank is partially made of synthetic tracks and paving stones. Sporadic river bank parks are set attached to the walkways, making a stroll along the banks pleasant and comfortable.

The walkway along the river bank is partially made of synthetic tracks.

Ya'an River Bank Walkway

The walkway along the river bank is partially made of synthetic tracks.

The concrete guardrails are lit outside with their reflections on the river, prettifying the river sides.

Lit Ya'an River bank

The the concrete guardrails are lit outside with their reflections on the river

The night views of the bridges straddling Qingyi River are astonishedly beautiful with coloful lights and shades.  This is Qingyi River Bridge lit brightly with a fishing boat on the river.

The brightly lit Qingyi River Bridge

The brightly lit Qingyi River Bridge

The largest covered bridge I’ve ever seen spans Qingyi River in Ya’an city, brightly lit.

Ya'an Covered Bridge

The largest covered bridge I’ve ever seen spans Qingyi River

Local people are seen singing and dancing leisurely and happily at the riveside park, a pleasant city for slow life and a mecca for retirees.

a'an Evening Dancing

Local people are seen singing and dancing

More bridges are built to connect the two sides of the river in Ya’an city.

The brightly lit bridge in Ya’an

The brightly lit bridge in Ya’an

If you are planning Chengdu tour,  you are highly recommended to have a side trip to Ya’an, a sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of Chengdu. Any questions,  just drop a line.

Drive from Zhengzhou to Hanzhong

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
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Mr. Chen Weixiang and his wife Chen Ya came up to my hotel early this morning, picking me up and placing my personal luggage onto the trunk of his white High Lander ( 4x4w) and starting off for the long driving journey. Driving up to an overpass leading to G30 Expressway, we are soon leaving the city of Zhengzhou far behind.

Drive from Zhengzhou to Hanzhong

Drive from Zhengzhou to Hanzhong

Situated 136 km to the southwest of Chengdu, Ya’an (雅安) is the launching pad to further explore the West Sichuan Province.  But Ya’an is about a 1330-km drive from Zhengzhou. Tonight we decide to put up at the city of Hanzhong (汉中) in Shaanxi Province, 753 km from Zhengzhou,  approximately 9 hours driving. For the 753 km drive,  we first go west from Zhengzhou to Xian for about 470km along G30 Lianhuo Expressway (连霍高速), then run south along G5 (京昆高速) from Xian to Hanzhong for the rest of the distance.

On the route from Zhengzhou to Xian ( G30 ).

On the route from Zhengzhou to Xian

On the route from Zhengzhou to Xian

Mr. Chen and I drive the white horse in turn. It is my first long-distance self-drive experience, a kind of challenge for me, used to drive slowly in the congested Beijing city. I’m excited with much expectation. It is a 4-lane expressway from Zhengzhou to Xian. The convenient service areas along  the expressways make our self-drive trip much easier. They offer a range of services –  toilet, dining, hot water, local products, gas station, auto repairs and more.

Sanmenxia (三门峡) Service Area is our first stop among plenty of service areas on our 6000km round trip to the West Sichuan Province. A huge signboard points to Sanmenxia Service Area reminding you to drive off the main road to the roadside stop area.

A huge signboard points to Sanmenxia Service

A huge signboard points to Sanmenxia Service Area.

The city of Sanmenxia in Henan Province borders Shaanxi Province on the west. The picture below is the main building of Sanmenxia Service Area.

The main building of Sanmenxia Service Area

The main building of Sanmenxia Service Area

The buffet at Sanmenxia Service Area offers a wide range of food and dishes.

The buffet at Sanmenxia Service Area

The buffet at Sanmenxia Service Area

After Sanmenxia it is my turn to rev the white horse onto the expressway and roll it towards Xian. Pre- and post- my starting  the engine, Mr. Chen takes one stereotyped picture of me to imprint the important moment on my memory.

A stereotyed photo of me by the white horse.

A stereotyed photo of me by the white horse.

A stereotyed photo of me by the white horse.

At Xian we branch off G30 Expressway and diverge to G5 Expressway down to the south running into the northern Sichuan Province.  Between Xian and Hanzhong ( our today’s destination ) lies Qinling Mountain Range ( 秦岭 Qin Mountain ),  a major mountain range located mainly in the southern province of Shaanxi, in China. Qinling Mountain is the most important climate dividing line between northern and southern China. The north side range is prone to cold weather while the south side enjoys a subtropical climate due to the physical barrier of the mountains with the rich and fertile landscape and a wealth of wildlife and vegetation.

I cannot supress my excitement over the physical touch on the mountain range which has been long lingering in my mind  dating back to my high school when I was educated to learn the name of Qinling in China geography lessons for the first time. Qinling Mountain Range looks more vivid and interesting than what we’ve learned from our geography book. Numerous tunnels cut through the mountains in the range extending over 100 km! What a human feat! Salute to the road builders!

Driving through Qinling Mountain Range.

Driving through Qinling Mountain Range.

Driving through Qinling Mountain Range.

Running through numerous tunnels dug through the mountains extending over 100 km.

Running through numerous tunnels

Running through numerous tunnels

Take a break at Qinling Service Area 1311 meters at sea level.

Qinling Service Area

Qinling Service Area

When we get to the city of Hanzhong, it is getting dark. Hanzhong is a small, but clean and pretty city with Han River passing by, one of the tributaries of Yangzte River. Lying on the south side of Qinling Mountain Range, it has a rich and fertile landscape.  Settled down in a nice hotel by the city square where local people sing and dance like other cities in China, we begin to look for something to eat.

Dancing at Hanzhong Square

Dancing at Hanzhong Square

Searching online, we get to know a back street north of the square, where we are supposed to find the local flavors or snacks. “Remianpi”(热面皮) is a local snack, literally meaning “Hot Flour Skin”. Putting a bowl of liqid flour onto a steamed grid, a thin skin of Remianpi is dipped with soy source with hot peppers and bean sprouts, sotft and delicious.

The making of hot flour skin

The making of Remianpi

The making of Remianpi

A bowl of hot flour skin

A bowl of Remianpi

A bowl of Remianpi

The night view of Hanzhong City.

The night view of Hanzhong City.

The night view of Hanzhong City.

Hanjiang River winds past the city of Hanzhong.

Hanjiang River winds past the city of Hanzhong.

Hanjiang River winds past the city of Hanzhong.

Any questions, just drop a line.

West Sichuan Self Drive Trip Starts from Zhengzhou

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
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Our 20-day self drive tour of  the West Sichuan Province (  the historical region of “Kham”) kicks off at Zhengzhou (郑州). A year before I’ve planned this great trip joining one of my former college classmates – Mr. Chen Weixiang’s couple team for a self-guided drive tour from Zhengzhou to the Western Sichuan Province covering such dreamy places as Daocheng, Yading, Kangdi, Danba, Hailuogou, Siguniangshan and more. 

Yesterday afternoon I took the 3-hour high speed train from Beijing West Railway Station to Zhengzhou East Railway Station. The first class cabin was quite spacious with two soft and large seats for one row, quiet and less crowded.

The first class cabin was quite spacious

The first class cabin was quite spacious

Taking advantage of the precious 3 hours to cram up for travel and geographical knowledge for this long trip, I flipped over the related pages of the travel guide book “Lonely Planet” and the newly bought “West Sichuan Tourist Atlas”.

cram up for travel and geographical knowledge

Cram up for travel and geographical knowledge

Arriving at Zhengzhou East Railway Station, I interchanged for Subway Line 1 and got off at the station of Green City Plaza. At the exit I was met expectedly by Mr. Chen Weixiang and Song Yuan, the only two former college mates in the city. My hotel was just a ten-minute walk from the subway station, not far from Mr. Chen’s residential block.

After a quick check-in at our lodging hotel in Zhengzhou, we soon found us at a nearby Sichuan food restaurant, very clean and a bit noisy, a typical Chinese restaurant. Mr. Chen brought a dozen of canned beer from home. Life was so beautiful with two of my former college classmates sitting before me, eating, drinking, talking about the past, present and future. Do we have future as a man over 50? Just forget the question and enjoy the present life!

Cheng Weixuang and Song Yuan

Life was so beautiful with two of my former college classmates sitting before me.

It was a dinner for the former classmate get-together, a dinner for wishing the success and smoothness for our coming self-drive trip starting next day. We hated to part for the night, but  there is no never-ending feast. A little bit dizzy, I walked back to my lodging hotel and fell a sound sleep. 

Waked up by the sunrise glow coming between my hotel hotel window curtains, I feel lucky at the site of the beautiful sunrise in a city often shrouded in smog. The sunrise glow is possibly a good sign for our coming 6000 km round trip to the West Sichuan Province.

the sunrise glow coming between the hotel window curtains

The sunrise glow coming between my hotel room window curtains.

Follow us to explore the West Sichuan Province. Any questions, just drop a line!