I love Sichuan. I basically tell anyone who is willing to listen that Sichuan is completely amazing and they should come here and eat mapo dofu until they explode (or something along those lines anyways). I told people how I came here because I could travel just in Sichuan for a year and be happy and made my Sichuan travel list (which I’ve sort of been bombing on) but there is one destination that I completely hated. Songpan.
So to be perfectly fair there were a couple odds stacked against me hating Songpan.
- I had just come from Langmusi. Which is better then Songpan by like 100X
- I got insanely lost coming to Songpan and was fairly stressed by the time I got there.
- I had just finished a 3 day horsetrek and underestimated how tired the whole thing made me
- My hostel was completely disgusting. My dorm floor was covered in cigarette butts and fake eyelashes.
Where and What is Songpan?
So a bit of an overview- Songpan is a small town in Northern Sichuan with pine tree covered mountains that made this New England girl’s soul happy. Its about 4 hours from Juizhaigou and its famous for its horse trekking. It also has a complete city wall still intact and lots of day-hikes available. Its a largely Tibetan area and there is some good shopping available if you want silver or Tibetan jewelry.
What I hated about Songpan
I did not do the horse trek while I was there. Everyone I’ve talked too has raved about it being amazing. I was a bit turned off because when I walked by the office it was just a bunch of old men standing there yelling “Horse Trek, pretty lady, horse trek pretty lady” and it made me doubt their professionalism. Also the owner of my hostel was the owner of the horse trekking company and considering the hostel was horrible, it made me doubt the company being run well.
Since Songpan is in the Tibetan area there is a lot of yak meat available and Chinese people get really excited to eat beef, but not just steak, they want beef jerky. So the main street was covered in drying yak meat. Not just meat but drying yak tongues and drying yak balls and all sorts of other unidentifiable yak parts. So charming. Also, to accompany this were giant flies and the buzz around the meat was disgusting.
There is also an American company that supposedly organizes biking/hiking trips into the mountains and their prices seemed pretty good so I had talked to them about doing a 2-day hiking trek into the mountains. It went pretty well at first and we had everything arranged but two days before I got there they told me they couldn’t take a me because I’m a single woman and they couldn’t guarantee my safety. (I never asked who they thought was going to attack me but I can only assume they meant their staff- which is wildly disturbing. Don’t hire people if you think they might assault your clients) I e-mailed them a complaint and they never got back me. I hate the so much because its literally the only time in my life I’ve been told I can’t do something because I’m a girl. They’re so lucky they e-mailed me because if they had said that to my face I’d still be yelling at them.
My last issue with the place was that it was tacky and touristy. It was jam-packed with tourist busses and seemed just a line of shops selling the same things. The only Tibetan people I saw were people selling things. I found it all a bit off-putting.
I did think the city wall was pretty at night but there were do many drunk Chinese tourists trying to take pictures with me that I couldn’t really stop moving too much. When I got dinner people kept sending their children over to practice their English with me which I know sounds cute but is really sort of awkward in reality.
What I loved in Songpan
I did thoroughly enjoy a day hike I did. I could see the shrine on top of a small mountain near the town but struggled to find the trailhead. Luckily Chinese people are pretty helpful and while I wandered through a maze of alleyways, old women kept yelling out their windows which way I should go. Finally I found it and it was a lovely view of the mountains and the city below. Tons of dogs around, which I had been warned could be dangerous but they just trotted by, barely acknowledging me. It was cloudy and I had the trail mostly to myself which was nice.
Part of my disappointment was that I thought Songpan was going to be amazing and it didn’t live up to its hype, but also I just think Langmusi is SO much better. I think people skip it because its a bit further away and its not as promoted by hostels in Chengdu but its actually not that hard to get too. Plus if you want to hike some more in the mountains of Northern Sichuan you should consider stayng in the Juizhaigou area and just hiking outside the park area a bit.
Have you ever been really disappointed by a destination? Have you ever been told you can’t do a tour/trek because you’re a single girl? Should I send that company a flaming pile of dog poop? Let me know and as always feel free to follow along at Bloglovin, Twitter and on Instagram where I share daily photos of life in China