“This had better be worth it”.

The thought crossed my mind more than once. The road to Jiuzhaigou was paved with excrements, urine and other bodily fluids. Luckily I’m the kind of girl who LOVES a good culture shock – OK sometimes not exactly while it’s happening but ALWAYS when I look back at it afterwards – and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing if I were to do this trip again. And on top of that, the views made me forget about this sensorial ordeal in an instant!

CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park



I came from Langzhong, a godforgotten town where even the receptionist at the hotel didn’t speak English. Well, a ‘town’ in China still has at least 80.000 inhabitants, so it’s all relative, but clearly all roads didn’t lead to Langzhong – nor to Jiuzhaigou for that matter – and getting from the one place to the other involved a couple of changes in our means of transportation.

It started with a 5 hours’ bus ride from Langzhong to Chengdu. It was a decent bus and everything went perfectly. Well, that is until the woman sitting behind me made her child pee and shit in the trash bucket right next to me. Just. Like. That. On top of an empty dried beef package that was still in there from the trip before ours…

After all the spitting and staring I’d already witnessed since my arrival in China, my first thought was that it was yet another local thing, but this – who would have thought – even the Chinese didn’t seem to appreciate it. A few of them even told the bus driver, who got up to talk to the woman about it. OK great, so than you’d think somebody would have picked up the damn bucket and thrown it out of the bus, right? Well, guess again… the bucket kept on stinking right under my nose during the whooooole ride. MMMMMmmmmmm!!!

CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park

Arriving in Chengdu 5 hours later with no sense of smell left, I started looking for a taxi to the airport. I hadn’t quite understood the way they indicate that the taxi’s reserved, so I first stood there for a while waving at all the taxi’s that drove by, not understanding why none of them stopped even though they were empty. Another Chinese thing, I thought… Well no, this time it was just Belgian stupidity 😉

Anyway, I finally understood how it worked and decided to walk away from the bus station, where I quickly found a taxi and about an hour after arriving in Chengdu, I was at the airport. Having more than 2,5 hours before my plane was planned to take off, I went to look for something to eat. It didn’t take long, the airport is tiny and the only place selling food was a KFC. PERFECT for a vegetarian! I ordered some french fries and for the sauce it was either ketchup or sweet and sour sauce. The sweet and sour sauce wasn’t an option – for reasons I guess are obvious – but you have to know I HATE french fries with ketchup and I think it would be time all Belgians gathered together to tell the world that French fries are supposed to be eaten with mayonnaise!!! And maybe it would be time we finally start calling them Belgian fries, too! 🙂

CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park

Anywayz, after this delicious meal I sat down on some of the only empty chairs near the gate, without paying attention to the fact they were close to the garbage bin. Because, well, nobody was going to shit in the garbage bin at the airport, right? There were toilets right down the hall! I hardly sat when the moment arrived.

You know, that moment where you thought you’d seen it all… but than you find out that actually no… you haven’t.

Let me start by reassuring you: nobody shit in the garbage bin… But it did turn out the spitting isn’t just an outside thing. Nope. It’s not. They do it inside, too… But not on the floor, no, that would be to gross. Nope, instead of spitting on the floor, they spit… right, in the garbage bin… And let’s be honest, what’s the use in spitting if there’s just a bit of saliva comming out? That’s just a waste of energy! No, it’s much better to go searching for that slimy stuff that comes from deep down in your throat, squirm and make loads of disgusting noises while digging it up and than chraa-puh spit it out, right next to that stupid Belgian tourist…

I was so disgusted I felt like vomiting my French fries and the ketchup right in that same garbage bin but I managed to keep it decent and luckily we found some other free chairs far away from everything that looked like a possible spitting/shitting/peeing place. Although in China, apparently you never know…

Jiuzhaigou national park, China

My plane was delayed more than 4 hours due to bad weather and I seemed to be the only person from the whole plane that managed to stay calm and just stay seated. I was also the only European… Coinsidence???

All the Chinese people were standing around the desk, nearly agressing the stewardess who was just trying to keep everybody informed and give us some food. Most of them stood there for the whole 4 hours, pushing and screaming. Another Chinese thing, I guess…

I landed around midnight and it was freezing! At this time, of course there were no more busses, so I had to take a taxi. It was still a 1,5 hours’ drive to my hostel near the entrance of the park and I finally arrived there at 1.30 am, after a crazy ride. You know, one of those where you tell yourself “maybe now would be a good time to call my family to tell them I love them, just in case…”

CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national parkCHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park



The next day, I got up early, because that’s what the guidebook said. “Get to the park as early as possible to avoid crowds”. Well it turned out the guidebook was wrong. The busses full of Chinese tourists get there early, too, but I found an extremely simple way to avoid the crowds once inside the park. Keep on reading, I’ll tell you about it right away!

Jiuzhaigou national park is located in the Min mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Himalayan Plateau, at heights between around 2000 and 4700m above sea level. Jiuzhaigou literally means “Valley of 9 villages”, because there were originally 9 Tibetan villages in the valley. Today, 7 of these villages are still populated by a total of around 1000 people. What makes it so magnificent is the multitude of bright colored lakes, impressive waterfalls and breathtaking views.

It is without doubt one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park

The valley covers a surface of over 700 km², so it’s impossible to see everything in one day without taking the bus for some parts of it. There’s a road from the entrance in the north to the visitor center in the center, that crosses Shuzheng Valley (around 15 km) and then splits up in 2 sections. The bus actually stops before the visitor center and you have to walk a bit from there. It’s beautiful but there’s so many people all you can do is just follow the crowd as they slowly walk on.

Click here for a map of the park.

From the visitor center, I decided to take the bus to Long Lake in the southeastern section first. This section offers less view points but the ones at the end of the road were worth a visit according to our guide book. The guidebook wasn’t wrong this time! Five-colored lake is gorgeous and its name is definitely well chosen!

Jiuzhaigou national park, ChinaI took the bus back to the visitor center and continued to Virgin Forest, which is the final point of the southwestern section, at about 18 km from the visitor center. I walked back as far as I could towards the visitor center from here and managed to get almost halfway. This seemed so logical I didn’t even have to think about it, but it actually turned out to be the best strategy to visit this magnificent place. Because you know what?

Chinese people don’t walk…


They just hop on and off the bus and only visit the 4 or 5 view points along the road! There’s a wooden path so you don’t even need a map, just follow the path as it takes you along the most breathtaking places – and feel like you have them all to yourself! Seriously, we did not see more than 10 other people during the whole time we were walking…

I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here. I left the park just before closing time, so it’s absolutely doable in 1 day. If however you want to do more hiking, a 2 days’ stay would be better.

CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE - Jiuzhaigou national park

If you want to read more travel stories from China, check out this article about how I almost got stuck at the border or this one to see what it’s like to be a local super star 🙂


59 thoughts on “BREATHTAKING VIEWS AND A BUCKET FULL OF SHIT – Visiting Jiuzhaigou national park, China”

  1. Pingback: Survival guide: Culture shock in China - part 1

  2. Pingback: ITINERARY: 20 days in China - Lili's Travel Plans - Travel Blog

  3. yikes! sounds like a nightmare bus ride haha. i went via chengdu as well a couple years ago and i remember the loooong like 10 hour bus ride being super hilly and super uncomfortable. but the beauty of jiu zhai gou makes up for it all right???

    we stayed in the creepiest hotel too where i swear there were ghosts. but man i would do it all over again just to see jiu zhai gou and capture it properly on film! it’s so out of this world beautiful 🙂


  4. I knew it would be a good one by ‘Bucket full of shit’ and WOW, there are some seriously amazing photos in there. I have never been to China, but if I wasn’t intrigued before then all this spitting and pissing in public has got me sold 🙂 Also, yay for another travelling Veggie! Just went full time since the start of the year. 

    1. Aaaah that’s great!!! I’ve been veggie for more than 18 years now 🙂 I haven’t eaten any meat since I was 15 or 16, except for that time some guy made me eat ‘escargots’ and told me they were mushrooms instead! I promise you he didn’t pass a good night after that 😉 And aaaaaaaaaaaah again, because of your comment on the photos 🙂 THANKS!! 🙂 These are all taken with my old cheap compact camera and I just bought my first ‘real’ decent camera last month so I’m in this phase where I think all my old photos really suck haha 🙂 

  5. Such a great post! you made me laugh and I felt like I was back in China. I seriously regret not going to Jiuzhaigou when I went to Chengdu for a week, but there was so much else to see and do. Well, I guess I  have to go back 🙂 Thanks for the heads up on the walking. I was always overwhelmed by the mass of Chinese tourists and – living in Beijing, missing the opportunity to be in nature and not surrounded by a concrete jungle. Thanks for sharing this fun story about your adventure and an insight to Chinese Behavior 101 🙂 Cheers and happy travels!

    1. Haha thanks Maria! 🙂 Don’t regret it, I bet you saw plenty of other things, there’s so much to do in China you just don’t know where to start. I went to Beijing, too (well actually from Hong Kong to Beijing with different stops) and had exactly the same feeling about the huge amount of Chinese tourists and all their typical habbits like pushing when waiting in line or not waiting in line and just skipping it instead… You gotta love a good culture shock 🙂 

  6. It looks absolutely beautiful but I don’t think I could put up with all the spitting and pooing in public! Sounds disgusting!

  7. Patricia - Ze wandering frogs

    Great photos and had me laugh. planning on going to Chengdu next year so gives us a good idea. As for the customs, well, China keeps it interesting 🙂

  8. It’s possible that mainland Chinese develop respiratory problems, hence the spitting. My Dad worked in Shanghai for a year, and he said that had he stayed longer, he’d have lung problems for sure.

    1. Oh I can totally believe that!! Half of my pictures – especially in the big cities – are ruined because of the smog. It’s horrible, even after a few days you feel it in your eyes and lungs! Thanks for dropping a comment! 🙂

  9. I was eating lunch at the start of this article, had to put it aside for a few minutes.  It’s so interesting what is acceptable in some countries and what isn’t in others.  I remember working at the front desk of a hotel in Banff, Canada and all the Chinese tourists would push and shove to get back on the bus in the morning, only to take the same seats they took for the whole trip. 🙂 Great pics as well!

    1. Haha oops, sorry 🙂 It really is interesting, I think it’s one of the best parts of going to different countries! Haha yeah the pushing, that’s another one of their favorite things, but I’ll keep that story for one of my next stories 🙂

  10. I had to laugh so hard, even though I know how frustrating it must have been at the time.  I went to China for the first time this past May (but stuck to major cities).  Even there it was culture shock!

  11. Love this post, Liesbeth! Your usual funny self shines through again. If I only looked at the pictures, I would say, “wow, you went to paradise!” But of course I read your no-holds-barred narrative so I know what you had to go through to get those amazing pictures. 😛 I’ve never been to China but I’ve heard similar stories to yours. Still couldn’t believe it, though. But don’t want to experience it first-hand either. So I’ll just travel to China vicariously through your funny accounts. 😛

    1. Haha thanks Liz! 🙂 I don’t know if it exists in English but in Belgium we say you have to suffer to be beautiful, well apparently you have to suffer to SEE beauty, too 🙂 But that’s fine, I love a good culture shock every once in a while 🙂

  12. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

    Gorgeous photos! It does look like quite an ordeal to get to the park. The culture shock in China is real. I’ve only connected through the airport in Beijing, but my flight from NYC to Beijing en route to Bangkok was not as bad as your bus ride, but the spitting brought back “fond” memories! Good tips about escaping the crowds. Glad it was worth it in the end!

  13. Haha–loved this! There’s always a culture shock when visiting a new place, but thankfully, most don’t have so many bodily functions involved! The views at the end were worth the rest of the spitting and other unsavory things that you had to deal with–at least I’m prepared for when I visit China in the future. 🙂

  14. I love China…all of these horrible and gross experiences make it just so much more fun…My friends already think I am bunkers for always coming back to china…wait till you see the baby peeing onto the sleeper on the train…I know why I always want the upper bunk, there are never kids -.- But back to your post,I have to confess I haven’t even heard of this park yet, but I already added it to my list…thanks for sharing this absolutly delightful post =D

  15. Ahhhh, you make me LAUGH! I was already cracking up from the KFC vegetarian anecdote, and then later with the spitting and staring. Spitting is a serious (and very gross) issue across Asia. I’m so sorry you had to deal with literal shit, but HOLY MOLY! The Shuzheng Falls and Long Lake are insanely beautiful. Need to go there asap. Preferably by helicopter.

    1. Hahaha if you can afford it, it’s not a bad plan 🙂 Don’t be sorry, I was all grossed out while it was happening but I actually loooove a good culture shock 🙂 And indeed, the place was sooooo worth it!!! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  16. I actually had a good laugh reading this – love your writing style! I have a friend who had a pretty horrible experience in China – it basically ended with her sobbing in the middle of the street because she was SO grossed out, couldn’t find anyone who spoke english and spent hours trying to find her hotel without any luck! At least your day ended with some pretty gorgeous scenery!

    1. Thanks Courtney! 🙂 Your friends story’s indeed less funny… It can be so frustrating lost in a country where nobody understands you. And I can imagine with all the staring of the Chinese, it was even worse!! 

  17. Okay, I have been completely grossed out by your unfortunate travels but I did have to laugh at the same time. By looking at your photo’s though as disgusting as these spitters, use anything for a toilet people and possibly sitting on a seat that has been pee’d on the beauty of the land almost makes it all worth it!

  18. Sooooo….you literally meant a bucket full of shit when you said a bucket full of shit. Ugh, that is horrible. I already feel like gagging when the person behind me is throwing up in a bag so I can’t imagine just how I would handle this situation. Nonetheless, it seems to me that your destination got you to forget such an unbelievable start to this trip so that’s great!

  19. 1.)  I love how you write.  2.)  My husband also has gross stories of poop and urine smothering 80% of China.  3.)  What a beautiful place!  And it’s true, Chinese tour groups (in the USA) rarely walk too. We’ve watched them all load back onto tour buses to go half a KM.  For realz. 🙂

    1. Thanks Rob!! 🙂 I don’t wish any kind of bad things to your husband but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one 🙂 And the taking the bus for half a km is soooooo recognizable too 😀 Thanks for dropping by!!

  20. Ha ha. I have lived in China and visit often and say I have a love/hate relationship with the country. Certainly you have to cope with the spitting, urinating, shitting etc. but it is a beautiful country.

  21. Pingback: Ultimate Guide: 100 Resources for Living, Working and Traveling in China

  22. Amazing..Images are really eye catching that everyone tends to go there without asking any question about Jiuzhaigou. This place was extremely beautiful. Really thanks for sharing your post. Please update more blogs like this. I am looking forward for your future posts.

  23. Amazing… The images are really awesome. China is a Wonderful Country and it has many places to visit. Please visit India also its an awesome Country and has a lot to see.

  24. First off, amazing photos! We could truly see how much you must’ve enjoyed the beauty of nature as you pair it with good photography skills! This nature reserve is truly astoundingly surreal and breath-taking! Beautiful green mountainous terrain, blue-green rivers, clear waterfalls, wonderful scented oxygen rich air, and more! Thank you for sharing this wonderful trip with us! I hope we could be also there soon!

  25. Hi Lili, Thank you for sharing your experience of your vacation. I wish you to have good health this time of pandemic for more beautiful places you visit. I will try to visit all the places that you have is listed. Thank You!

  26. Jiuzhaogou is Sertse deku in Tibetan language is one of most beautiful valley and it has crystal clear water or forest …. with unique cultural and religion in this area.

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