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“Overpriced with bad food and service”

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Zhuo Ma's Jiuzhaigou Home Stay
Reviewed October 21, 2013

First things first, I got food poisoning after having eaten entirely their food for the past 5 meals. The beauty of Jiuzhaigou was made harder to appreciate as I had to stop at every bathroom along the way to relieve myself.

For the price of 240 yuan per person per night, I was expecting restaurant quality meals and decent service. This was not the case. Right off the bat, my free pick up from the bus station consisted of a ride to their restaurant in town, followed by a 2.5 hour wait for the ride to the homestay. Then for the first morning in the park, we had to have an extended 15 minute negotiation to get them to drive us to the park 10 minutes before it opens. In the end, our ride was late, and we showed up 30 minutes later than we had hoped, and were promptly engulfed by the typical jiuzhaigou crowds we had been trying so hard to avoid.

Now for the food. We were promised authentic, home-cooked tibetan food. The first night I was served: a plate of rice, sliced tomatoes and fries. Vaguely reminiscent of a lazy college student's late night snack, this meal barely filled me up. The other meals (the same every day) were comparably dull.

This is to add, of course, to the other charms of living in the country. Things like no internet, one plug in the entire house, spotty electricity (went out 2 times over 1.5 days), one bathroom for the whole house, cold nights with no heating.

This sounds like a good concept, but you would be far better doing what I did after 2 nights and staying in a nicer room at one of the many hostels a 5 minute walk from the entrance for half the price (110 yuan a night).

  • Stayed: October 2013, traveled with friends
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2  Thank john s
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 29, 2013

There's something special about staying in someone else's home where everything is so different from how we live back home.

We stayed four nights at Zhuo Ma's Jiuzhaigou Homestay with Amma, her son (Ke Zhu, whom we addressed as 'Du sifu') and 6-year old grandson. Their village is located in Shang ('Upper') Si Zhai Valley, Zhangzha Town, Jiuzhaigou County, which is about 15 mins' drive (15km) from Jiuzhai Valley National Park. We were made to feel really welcomed in their home - rustic but cosy and charming.

This Tibetan homestay should absolutely be known as Amma's homestay, since she is actually the one we spent the most time with. Amma and Ke Zhu are willing to help with a lot of things. Ke Zhu took care of transport ferrying us to/from Jiuzhai Valley National Park and to Jiuzhaigou bus terminal (no extra charge, included in the room rate). He also helped to get our bus tickets to Chengdu. Amma is a jovial lady; she laughs a lot with a hearty laugh. She speaks a couple of English words, but we were happy that we could communicate in simple Putonghua. Amma gladly told us about the village and shared stories about previous guests. It is a wonderful opportunity to live with the local people for a few days.

We met Zhuo Ma at A Bu Lu Zi, the family's restaurant. It appears that she is at the restaurant full-time and oversees the operations of the restaurant on a daily basis. Hence, she has little interaction with the homestay's guests. We would walk to the restaurant (pick-up point) after our day at the national park where we were served complimentary tea before Ke Zhu sent us back to the homestay. There is of course no obligation to eat at the restaurant although we did have a meal there one night.

The facilities in the house are basic, with one shared western-styled bathroom (and one outdoors). Toilet paper was provided. Since it was not the busy season, we were fortunate that there were only four guests (including us) at the most hence no issue with the single shared bathroom. The lighting at night is dim so bring a flashlight. There is hot water and electricity 24/7, the room (twin) is reasonably clean and the beds are comfy. We slept well. We only have one grouse: Cleanliness of the bathroom - the wastepaper basket was not emptied throughout our stay. Not a new complaint as we saw this mentioned in prior reviews.

The patio, entrance hall, dining area and most of the rooms of the house are beautifully decorated with animals and patterns in vibrant and rich colours, typical of Tibetan homes. Ke Zhu told us that the family had commissioned a Lama or Tibetan Buddhist monk, together with his students, to complete these drawings years ago. Everyone is welcome in the family's dining area, with a huge pot of tea constantly brewing for whoever sits down. The dining area is the centre of activity for the whole family. There are some chairs outside on the patio, if you wish to relax and enjoy the scenery and fresh air. Chickens roam free; and they have a vegetable garden and beehives in the yard.

Amma cooks up a delicious meal each and every time. Yum! Breakfast comprises freshly baked barley bread, yak butter, honey, fried egg and tea. All homemade! We also had 'baozi' with yak meat and veggie filling; and baked potatoes on one of the days. Ali the cat was constantly trying to nibble at the food on the table. Tried butter tea and loved it - it's made from tea leaves, yak butter and salt. Barley wine was so good ... great dinner companion.

Shang Si Zhai Valley is lovely ... fresh air, peaceful and surrounded by mountains on all sides. After enjoying two days in bustling Jiuzhai Valley National Park, we took a leisurely hike around Shang Si Zhai Valley on our own on our final day. It was intentional ... we planned one extra day just so we could appreciate the countryside where we were staying. From the hill beside the homestay, we could see almost the entire village. Ke Zhu's instructions were simple as he pointed out where we could hike. No trail map or anything of the sort! Just begin from the back of the homestay, walk towards the brown alpine tree trunk that can be seen high on the mountains - we relied on that often for directions and as a landmark (turned out to be a place of worship), then head towards that home, and then to that next home with many prayer flags, and finally follow the road all the back to their home!! There were many well-used paths in the valley and on the mountains, heading to all directions. Sometimes, we made wrong turns and had to turn back. A little guess work on directions and based on gut feel, we just rambled on and thoroughly enjoyed the nice 5-hour walk around the valley. You can't really get very lost as long as there is daylight since most of the time you should be able to see the village. The panoramic views of the village with prayer flags fluttering in the wind and the surrounding green mountains were fantastic. We saw wildflowers, butterflies and birds; horses, yak and pigs. A stream runs through the village. We came across a prayer mill, where water from the stream turns the prayer wheel. We met friendly villagers. They keep livestock and mostly planted vegetables and maize. Only once did we see a couple of other tourists having a horse ride.

It’s the place if you enjoy peace and quiet, good simple food, friendly local people, idyllic village and the picturesque landscape in a culturally interesting area. We enjoyed our stay very much. Thank you, Amma and KeZhu, for your hospitality!

Room Tip: The twin room has no window (so quieter). Standard double room has a window with a view to the front...
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  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled with friends
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1  Thank lunarJade
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 12, 2013

Staying with Zhou Ma was one of the most amazing experiences is China. She is so caring and we had an unbelievable stay for one of our friend's 30th birthday. If you want an authentic Sichuan experience stay here and make sure you try all the different food on offer at the family restaurant.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled with friends
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Thank Blakers2810
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 22, 2013

What a terrific place-our daughter who'd been living in China found this place as we were traveling about in Sichuan. We met Zhou Ma who is just great and sorry we didn't have time to eat in the family's restaurant in town-we heard it was great. The homestay was wonderful=loved the family, met and had great chats with many folks staying there or next store, drank tons of tea, admired the grounds--the chickens, bee hives and gardens and ate great food--yak butter on barley bread is just wonderful. Our rooms were airy and the shutters opened to the hills, the moon and stars. It was beautiful and we felt like we were in Tibet--on the roof of the world. This homestay is really, really worth it.

  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled with family
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2  Thank Terry G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 24, 2013

We did not have a pleasant experience and would strongly recommend staying elsewhere. The staff were disorganised and the rooms are overpriced for a very old and basic room at an village house with everyone sharing the one bathroom (one toilet, one wet shower).

To put into perspective how overpriced the place is, a room for two people at Zhuo Ma's is 360 yuan per night for two people. On average, we have paid around 200 yuan per night at hostels in places like Yangshuo, Guilin and Xian where the rooms were 3 times the size, clean, came with private bathroom, and the staff were available and efficient. These hostels are all top rated on Tripadvisor also.

We were excited about staying at a Tibetan homestay and experiencing local culture. Unfortunately it seems that the owner has capitalised on the fact that it is one of the few local homestays accessible to foreigners. We cancelled our booking after an hour there and are now staying at another hotel.

We were booked in for 4 nights and confirmed the booking the night before along with pickup from the airport in the morning. There was no car to pick us up at the airport. We called Zhuo Ma several times to check when the car would arrive and each time Zhuo Ma assured us it would be 10-15 minutes at the most. In the end, the car came an hour after we had gotten to the airport. The driver did not help us carry any of our luggage and drove erratically through the winding roads. Pickup is 260 yuan. Had we known, we would have taken a taxi (200 yuan is the standard rate), not wasted an hour, and arrived in time to still check out the Jiuzhaigou National Park.

When we arrived, Ama informed us that the room we had booked a month ago and confirmed the night before had been given to another guest. At this point, we were still open to staying at the inn, but all the rooms were old, small and dusty and did not have heating. The bed linen in the rooms did not look clean also. When we asked Ama if the sheets had been changed, she said she wasn't sure.

For those who would like to get a taste of how the locals live, I suggest walking through and checking out one of the villages yourself. For single travellers, find a cheaper hostel. For couples or families, spend a little more and sleep in comfort. Enjoy the beautiful scenery around and get a feel for local culture elsewhere.

Stayed: July 2013, traveled as a couple
2  Thank sarahlee86
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 24, 2013

Four of us arrived on Saturday late afternoon. We didn't get the airport pickup, and the taxi dropped us at the bottom of the hill. So, we walked a decent ways up to the homestay, which is fine for a fit group traveling relatively light.

A-ma greeted us with some Yak yogurt (delicious) and made dinner a little while later (potatoes, tomatoes, greens, and yak meat with peppers. Easily the best home-made meal we've had in China...more food in the morning for breakfast (egg with bread and honey and yak-butter). A-ma's oldest son gave us a free ride to the national park in the morning and showed us where to get the pick-up back to her place (A-ma's daughter's restaurant).

After another great dinner, night's sleep, and breakfast, we rode horses the next day for 2 hours (they literally came and picked us at the homestay). It was pretty fun, as they hiked us up to a local peak, and we saw tons of animals (pigs, horses, cows, roosters, sheep, etc...). The girls went to town and the market for the afternoon while I napped peacefully. We just hung out and played cards the last night after dinner (homemade noodles).

On the last day morning, the oldest son gave us a ride back to the airport after breakfast. Really, it was just like seeing some distant relatives for a few days. They packed us lunch the day we went to the park and talked our ears off. I recommend at least broken Chinese if you come to JiuZhaiGou, though other folks get by without it. It's not a problem at this place, but will help you get around from airport and to the park without getting ripped off.

Note about traveling to the location: if you fly into the airport of jiuzhaigou (60min away actually), don't be alarmed by the cold temperature. At least in summer, it's a solid 5-7 degrees c warmer in jiuzhaigou (more than 10degrees Fahrenheit )vs. the airport. The selling of jackets and pants are a huge scam, unless you're from Miami or Dubai and didn't pack any pants or light jacket. Buy a poncho when you get into town if you're cold. :)

  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled with friends
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2  Thank rybickij
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 7, 2013

This is a traditional house in a small village not so far from Jiuzhaigou. The facilities are extremely basic, they did not change anything to the house to make it more suitable for tourists. However, there is hot water and electricity at all times, the rooms are clean enough and the beds are warm and reasonably soft by Chinese standards. We slept in the 3-bed room, with an extra 4th bed put in. It was a pity that this room was not decorated so beautifully as some of the other rooms are. The front, entrance hall and main sitting room in the house are beautifully decorated with animals and patterns in all colors. The rest of the house is more plain. Everyone is welcome in the family's sitting room, with a huge pot of tea constantly boiling for whoever sits down. The family uses this space as well, naturally. The simple bathroom with toilet is shared between all guests and is downstairs. There is also an outdoor toilet at the back of the garden. Take a flashlight to navigate at night, bring your own towels, toiletries and an extra roll of toilet paper. There are also some chairs outside on the patio, if you prefer to enjoy the fresh air. There is an honesty box for beers and soft drinks.

This homestay should really be called Amma's homestay, since she is the one taking care of you and having you live in her house. Amma cooks you three meals a day, and is willing to help you out with a lot of things. She is wonderfully hospitable, very kind, laughs a lot, and tries to communicate in whatever way works. She speaks some English words, but we were happy that we could communicate in Mandarin. Amma will gladly tell you about the village and the customs of the people, if you ask. It is a wonderful opportunity to live for a few days with local people, although the other family members did not mingle much with the guests (quite understandably, I thought).

The homestay is in another village than Jiuzhaigou, but free transport is available from and to the homestay. On their website, Zhou Ma offers a pick-up service from the airport, but I don't recommend it. Our flight was delayed for 3 hours (as often happens with Chengdu flights) and by the time we arrived there was no car anymore, we waited for another two hours only to discover that the car had left without seeing us, then they sent only one small car for six people... It would have been cheaper and much more convenient to take a bus or taxi to the restaurant owned by the family (Abu Luzi) in Jiuzhaigou town, and wait there for the ride to the homestay.

The brilliant thing about this place is the location, it is so nice and quiet in those green mountains. The village is nice to go for a walk, and we rented some horses for the kids to sit on, for a walk up the mountain (not really horseriding, although you may be able to arrange that too). It is amazing that there are no other guesthouses or homestays in this area. As soon as there will be, I am sure that Zhou Ma's will have to deal with the competition, especially if others offer a similar location and quiet green surroundings but with more and cleaner facilities.

The kids (4 and 2) loved being able to run around freely, jump in puddles of mud, try to pet little chicks, play with the cat and with Amma's grandson, see how vegetables grow and where bees live, ride horses, dance in the rain, watch hideous chinese kids tv, picnic on the mountain, eat fresh bread and honey, etc. The youngest cried when we got home and she realized that it was over.

Room Tip: The room with two separate beds on the second floor has no windows at all.
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  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled with family
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3  Thank KimChengdu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Zhuo Ma's Jiuzhaigou Home Stay

Address: Village 2 Shang Si Zhai, Zhangzha Town, 623400, China
Location: China > Sichuan > Jiuzhaigou County
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Parking Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 199 B&Bs / Inns in Jiuzhaigou County
Price Range: $58 - $60 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 4
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Zhuo Ma's Jiuzhaigou Home Stay is the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide top choices for Jiuzhaigou accommodation. It is located in the beautiful Shang Si Zhai Valley which is 15km from the park entrance (free transfers provided) where you will see local Tibetans go about their daily life, herding yak and goats as well as going on pilgrimages around our sacred mountains. Zhuo Ma runs the home stay with her mother (Ama) and brothers. They share their time between the home stay and their A Bu Lu Zi Tibetan Restaurant and between them will make sure you have a great stay! There is 24hrs hot water and a western toilet in the home stay. It is a traditional Tibetan home so there are no en-suite bathrooms. There is one bathroom on the ground floor of the home as well as two outhouse toilets, one with a solar heated hot shower. They do everything they can to make your stay comfortable but please note that this is a home stay in a beautiful, traditional Tibetan valley, not a hotel. ... more   less 
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