My recommendation is the InterContinental Resort Jiuzhai Paradise, 九寨天堂九寨天堂. Paradise indeed. Wonderfully spacious rooms–bigger than any you would stay in Europe, Japan, or the States. We had a living room and patio that opened up to a stunning view of the mountains.
The architecture is wonderfully ambitious, with a biosphere of sorts serving as its lobby (if I remember correctly). There are small rivers that run through the dome with colorful waterfowl waddling about to complement the surrounding forestry and a stone “village” that wraps around the dome’s perimeter.
For dinner we had what is called “養生” [yang sheng], or a “healthy” hot pot dinner. “菌煲” [jun bao] translates to “fungus pot”. A wild mushroom stew, basically. The broth was brewed with Chinese herbs and medicine. A very woodsy/earthy and hearty meal. My mom and I were limited in our hot pot pickings, e.g. cabbage, dates, some taro, an egg or two, but those who weren’t vegetarian had choices of different marbled meats and even seafood!
Our one night in Jiuzhaigou concluded with an unforgettable performance showcasing traditional Tibetan music, dance, and storytelling. 藏迷 [zang mi], or “Tibetan Mystery” is the name of the show if you’re interested in doing something in the evening at Jiuzhaigou. The heroine of 藏迷 is Old Ma, a woman from Jiuzhaigou who dreams of visiting Lhasa.
Accompanied by only her pet sheep, Old Ma prostrates herself every 3 steps of the way to Lhasa. She finally reaches Lhasa after 3 years but unfortunately perishes in a snowstorm and is sent into the spirit world for judgement. The most touching portion of the show for me was how closely and dearly she held her sheep near her death and how the sheep never left her side. Old Ma moved on to endure tests by various gods and spirits, and is eventually found to have accumulated enough good karma to enter “heaven”.
藏迷 is a visual feast: so many beautiful costumes and so much wonderful dancing. My favorite was the “yak dance”, although I hear it isn’t actually a traditional Tibetan dance. It was a cute couples’ dance between the women and men that the mushy-gushy person in me really enjoyed. The music is wonderfully surreal, with the women hitting notes so high that I was amazed it was within my human hearing range. Overall, an absolutely otherworldly experience and my advice is to go if you still have energy at the end of the day!