Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area is called as such because from the air, the yellow long and winding landscape (shaped by the meanders and the scale-shaped water pools) looks like a yellow dragon.
Before we left on our trip, we have heard many people commenting on how tough the trip will be. I also did some research before the trip and found out that Huanglong is up in the mountains and it’s at 3000+ metres above sea level. Altitude sickness will be a problem for some.
Our tour guide recommend for us to take a Chinese/Tibetan herb drink called “紅景天” (Hong Jing Tian/Rhodiola Rosea). It’s meant to improve blood circulation so it can counter the effects of altitude sickness and fatigue. I took it and it seemingly helped (especially the counter fatigue part).
I’ve actually seen people who have puked on my way up and down the trail. There are also a few splats of puke on the trail. You need to be quite alert to see what you are stepping on. Also, according to other people in my tour group, someone fainted and had to be carried down. Altitude sickness is not something one should take lightly.
Also, Huanglong is a place where you keep asking people and yourself “are we there yet?”. There is no signage telling you how far are you from the peak and or how far have you walked/climbed from the start.
I’m guessing that it’s their strategy for getting people to keep going on. If one knows that it’s still a long way to go, most people would just give up there and then. The trail is such that you will never see the peak. You’ll reach a point where you think you’re almost there but once you get there, you’ll realise that there is still a very long way to go!
When I saw the temple in the background of the photo above, I got quite excited! I thought I was near the highlight of Huanglong (the five coloured lake, 五彩池). Alas, when I reached the temple about 15-20 mins from the time of taking the picture, I realised that I was nowhere near. 🙁 I was still a good 1 hour away. 🙁 🙁 🙁
I had to turn back at the three-quarters point because there wasn’t enough time for us to make it back down. We were supposed to get back onto the bus at 4.30pm but by then, it was already 4pm. It would take us an hour to get down (since we’re going to go straight down and not stop for photos anymore).
True enough, by the time we got onto the bus, it was about 5.10pm. We were behind schedule and the bus driver drove as fast as he could (within safety limits) down the mountain. Our bus driver was really skillful and I did have faith in him.
Unfortunately, with a combination of altitude sickness and motion sickness, I felt like hell on the journey down. Despite the brief stop at the Songpan Ancient Town (松潘古城), I still felt like someone should just kill me and put me out of my misery there and then. 🙁
It didn’t help that along the way, there was a slight traffic jam:
As a result, the driver drove even faster after that to make up for lost time. The journey from Huanglong to Maoxian (where we were spending the night) was about 3 – 3.5 hours. About 1.5 ~ 2 hours in, my back started to ache from all the climbing and sitting.
I was seriously feeling like shit and contemplating if I should try to puke in the bus to make myself feel better or just work out how I can kill myself on the bus. I was trying desperately to sleep off the misery but apparently, after taking “紅景天” (Hong Jing Tian/Rhodiola Rosea) it keeps you alert so sleep couldn’t come. 🙁
After what felt like eternity, we arrived at the hotel. (No photos since I was obviously miserable enough.) We couldn’t go straight to the room and had to eat dinner first. I was way over dinner that night. I had absolutely no appetite at all. All I wanted was just to lie down and perhaps puke.
When I finally was able to get to the room to lie down about 30-40 minutes later, tears actually started pouring down my face. I wasn’t crying but the tears just kept flowing. I was that miserable.
I finally understood why people keep saying that the journey to and from Huanglong is arduous.