Archive for the ‘Ya’an’ Category

Most Beautiful Sky Road in China

Friday, October 30th, 2015
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Ya’an (雅安) is our transit springboard to further explore the West Sichuan. Our today’s destination is Hailuogou Glacier Park ( 海螺沟冰川森林公园). We are supposed to reach Moxi Town (磨西镇) from Ya’an by noon, an approx. 300 km drive and then start up our visit to Hailuogou Glacier on the same day. Moxi Old Town is the gateway to Hailuogou Glacier and Mount Gongga (贡嘎山). Moxi is a town in Luding County in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan.

Before setting off for Moxi Town,  I stride to a viewing spot protruding a bit into the wide Qingyi River (青衣江) where I snap a clear picture of the huge covered bridge not far from our ibis downtown hotel Ya’an. It is a wide bridge topped by 2-3 storey buildings with typical roof tile eaves of Chinese traditional architectural style, a seemingly busy city hub for dining, shopping and recreation.

Ya'an Covered Bridge

Ya’an Covered Bridge

Still intoxicated by the beauty of the bridge and the layers of buildings cascading down the hillsides on both sides of the river valley, I hear Mr. Chen calling my name urging me to get on and go.

Mr. Chen takes most of the driving  on our West Sichuan trip. He tells me that today we”ll drive along Yaxi Expressway (雅西高速) which is lauded as the most beautiful “Sky Road” in China! Really? Why “Sky Road”? Feeling I’m still skeptical of the “Sky Road”, he suggests me searching online for Yaxi Expressway.

Oh, my God! A good amount of information on “China Sky Road” instantly appears before eyes. Yaxi Expressway starts from Ya’an and ends at Xichang (西昌),  a section of Beijing-Kunming highway, 240km long and a ladderlike road “leading to the sky”.  The “leading to the sky” here has two meanings – 1) The 240km expressway is made of 270 viaducts,  an elevated roadway that stretches 240 kilometers, designed to minimize impact on the environment and driving on the numerous viaducts makes people feel like driving in the air; 2) For driving each kilometer, we ascends by 7.5 meters along the expressway. There are also 25 spiral tunnels used to reduce the effect on mountains. The construction of Yaxi Expressway took 5 years and opened to traffic in April 2012.

The “Sky Road” is really a boon on a seemingly monotonous drive from Ya’an to Moxi Old Town.  We don’t drive the whole Yaxi Expressway and we will get off  Yaxi expressway at Shimian (石棉县), then turn to the north along the provincial highway S211 to the direction of Moxi Town.

Drive from Ya'an to Shimian

Drive from Ya’an to Shimian

While still overjoyed at the timely blessing, I’m kindly advised by Mr. Chen to the effect that among the 300km drive, for the first 200km, we have the luck to experience the so-called most beautiful “Sky Road” in China, but for the rest of the 100 km, we”ll face the tough challenge driving past narrow mountainous roads sided by risky and steep cliffs with the possible falling stones and rocks. It looks like both a gift and ordeal from God to test us. So let’s go!

Overcast, we have a gloomy morning, without white clouds and azure sky, but not too bad, it allows us to have the effect of viewing Chinese paintings in black and white framed on route.

viewing Chinese paintings in black and white framed on route.

Viewing Chinese paintings in black and white framed on route.

Driving along the elevated highways high above the valleys and through the tunnels, we are excited and thrilled at the pristine beauty of the scenes flying past. The famous Dadu River (大渡河) accompanies us snaking parallel to the highway for most of the drive trip.

Yaxi Highway

Drive on the elevated highway

Nearly all Chinese know about Dadu River due to the famous heroic legend “Seizing of the Luding Bridge” in the course of the Long March in May 1935 and we will talk about it later. Dadu River is 1062 km long, the large tributary of Min River (岷江) which is in turn the largest tributary of Yangzte River. Within Dadu River basin, there are rich tourist resources including the historical site of “Seizing of the Luding Bridge”, Mt. Emei, Hailuogou Glacier and Mount Gongga.

Dadu River

Dadu River (大渡河) accompanies us snaking parallel to the highway

The 25 tunnels on Yaxi Expressway have greatly shortned the drive distance in the mountainous areas. The tunnels are deep and long. For example, Nibashan tunnel has a depth of 1,650 meters and a length of 9,962 meters on the left line and 10,007 on the right line, lit brightly and driving safe.

Yaxi Expressway Tunnels

The 25 tunnels on Yaxi Expressway have greatly shortned the drive distance

The relaxing and leisure 2-hour drive ends at Shimian Service Area (石棉服务区).  We take a short break in the service stop, relaxed and recharged, ready for next leg of the mountainous trip – Driving along S211 and getting to our destination today – Moxi Old Town ( Hailuogou Glacier ). So we get off Yaxi Expressway and enter S211 ( a provincial road ) leading to Moxi Old Town.

Shimian Service Area

Shimian Service Area

Any questions on ” Sky Road”, just drop  a line.

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.

Ya’an Night View

Monday, October 26th, 2015
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Situated 136 km to the southwest of Chengdu, Ya’an (雅安) is a jump-off point to further travel to Hailuogou Glacier, the West of Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet since it is located at the intersection of Sichuan-Tibet Highway (G318) and Sichuan-Yunnan Expressway.

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 caught alive and cooked freshly

Ya fish caught alive and cooked freshly

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

The cooked Ya fish tastes delicious

The cooked Ya fish tastes delicious

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Local people are seen singing and 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 light bridge in Ya'an

The light 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.