Friday, September 15, 2017

Travel Guide: Zhuo'er Shan

The moment I saw photos of Zhuo'er Shan online, I made sure to include the park in my itinerary during my return trip to China. Like most places in China, I had very little information about it in English, most of the details are in Chinese. Despite the potential setbacks, I still decided to go.


Travel Guide

I had little information about Zhuo'er Shan a couple of days before I planned to go. All I knew was i needed to get to Minle, and from there maybe get a taxi to the park. However, a chance encounter with a French guy and his Chinese girlfriend made it easier for me to get directions. I was with a guy from France and another guy from Morocco. We met the two during a trip to Mati Si; they offered us a ride back to Zhangye City, since they were heading in the same direction.

Here's a video of one part of the park:

video

We were talking about places to visit and Chinese history and politics, and some other random stuff that came to mind. I then mentioned something about going to Zhuo'er Shan. The lady then mentioned that there was a bus that left from Zhangye to Qilian Town, which was near the park. This piece of information made my day, since I no longer had to take multiple stops and an expensive taxi to get to Zhuo'er Shan.



The day after I set out for the bus station and boarded one bound for Qilian Town, the jump-off point to Zhuo'er Shan. They said it will take around 4 hours to get to the town; however, as time went on, it was longer than what the ticket lady said.


It took almost 5 hours to get to the town, but the bus took a scenic route. I'd do that drive again just for the views. We passed around mountains, drove through vast grasslands surrounded by verdant, rolling hills, and small villages where ethnic Tibetans lived.

After arriving I made the mistake of not buying a return ticket for Zhangye, which I will detail later. At the station I looked for a taxi to take me to the park. Thankfully, I spoke survival Chinese because the drivers I talked to didn't speak English or only knew a few words; the taxi fare was CNY 20 one way.



I paid the entrance fee (which was around CNY 80, including the transport to the viewing platforms). As the bus was driving to the platforms, I couldn't take my eyes of the landscape. It was beautiful, there's no other way to describe it. I lucked out with the weather, blue skies and sun. The rolling, verdant, green hills, mixed with a sea of yellow flowers. The snow capped mountains and the danxia landform were picturesque.



I couldn't believe my eyes as I walked around the viewing area, it seemed surreal, and I was the only foreign tourist during my stay there (at least that's what I thought). Most of the tourists there were locals.






The viewing platforms provided visitors with spectacular bird's eye views of the yellow rape seed fields spread all over the small town below.


I was under dressed, when I went to the park, it got colder as the sky started to turn dark. I was fortunate that I was already about to leave, when it seemed like it would rain.



The field of yellow flowers were a sight to behold! I visited at the right season, which was around July.

Here's another video of Zhuo'er Shan

video

Once I got back in town, I was surprised to find out that there were no more return tickets to Zhangye, sold out! I didn't prepare to stay the night in town, which I should've done. I was distraught, but managed to talk my way into getting on the last bus that left. I suddenly got better speaking and understanding Chinese (I was that desperate). I went back and forth with the bus driver, one of the guys in the station talked to me and the driver about getting on the bus before it left.

After an hour or so of talking about getting on the bus and not being let on because of certain overcapacity rules, I found myself on the bus bound for Zhangye (whew). The driver bent some of the rules for me to get on. On the way to Zhangye, we picked up a couple of other guys who were 'smuggled' into the bus; more money for the driver. Eventually, I had to sit on a stool while the other two extra passengers had to sit on newspapers, we were all sitting on the aisle. This reminded me of some provincial buses in the Philippines where buses were packed to overcapacity.

During the trip, the driver asked us to duck while the bus passed by a surveillance camera. He didn't want to get caught with too many passengers and had to pay a fine or something for the violation. Thankfully, I made it back to Zhangye; it was quite an experience.

How to Get to Zhuo'er Shan

Technically, Zhuo'er Shan is in Qinghai Province; however, it is closer to Zhangye in Gansu than Xining in Qinghai. From Zhangye, get to the bus station and make sure to get on the bus bound for Qilian Town that leaves at around 8AM, if you plan to do just a day trip, the next one leaves at around noon.

The one way trip costs around 4-5 hours, so I suggest to spend the night in Qilian rather than doing it as a day trip. Buy the return ticket to Zhangye the moment you arrive as these tickets sell out quickly.
Costs for the trip:

CNY 80 - entrance fee including transportation to the platforms
CNY 40 - round way taxi fare from Qilian town to Zhuo'er Shan
CNY 98.5 - round trip bus tickets from Zhangye to Qilian Town

Best Time to Visit

July to August (summer) is a good time to visit because you'll see the rape flowers in bloom.

What to Wear

Bring a jacket or an extra layer of clothes as it can get cold because of the high altitude.



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