Journey to the West - III

Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
Trip End Jul 20, 2020

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Where I stayed
Teddy Bear Hostel

Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Monday, October 12, 2009

From Ganzi, I departed to head back to Kangding via Tagong.  I decided to stay one night in Tagong at the Snowland Hostel.  One the way to Tagong, the bus was stopped 3 times because I was the only foreigner and the police needed to check my passport. I got to tagong around 3ish and went to Snowland hostel which is run by the very energetic Sally who also runs the restaurant next to the hostel. The dorm room has about 6 or 7 beds and I paid 10 RMB for it.  This was the cheapest place I have stayed so far in China.  The downside was that I shared the dorm room with a bunch of Tibetan drivers who were talking, smoking and playing cards until shortly after midnight.  But then again, for 10 RMB one can't complain.  There is a new guesthouse opposite the monastry opening up, so there will be some choice in Tagong. ;-)

Tagong in Tibetan means 'the favourite place of the bodhisattva'. Some 110 km northwest of Kangding, at about 3700m, the Tagong Grassland is a vast expanse of meadow lying beneath the sacred Yallah Mountain, and is landmarked by the famous Tagong Lamasery and the golden tower built to commemorate the living buddha, Panchan. The green meadow surrounded by snow-capped peaks and dotted with Tibetan herdsmen and tents.

Tagong is a very wild-west kind of Khampa town, with Tagong village, Tagong Monastery (Lhagong temple), Tagong Pagoda Stupa, Yala Snow-capped Mountain, Tagong Buddhism College etc around. An annual horse racing festival features thousands of local Tibetan herdsmen and Tibetan opera. I spent about 2 hours exploring Tagong Monastry and walking around town.  The place is famous for the grassland and for hiking up the surrounding mountains.

Tagong Grassland a vast expanse of green meadow surrounded by snow-capped peaks and dotted with Tibetan herdsmen and tents. The average altitude of the grassland is around 3500m. The well-known Tagong monastery is just sitting in the middle of the stretch. Tibetans celebtarate their their harvest and festivals here with drinking, dancing and singing for days, when is a good occasion to witness the truly Kham Tibetan folks. Also, the annual Horse Race Festival be held at the beginning of the 8th lunar month in Tagong Grassland.

Tagong Monastery - a famous Nyingmapa monastery built in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) to commemorate the Han Princess Wencheng and Phags-pa, the Grand State Tutor of Tibetan Buddhism with Buddhism Institute inside, also named as "the small Lhasa Jokhang Monastery", is one of the 108 temples built during the reign of Songtsen Gampo in ancient Tibetan times. There is a sacred statue of 12-year old sakyamuni (Buddha) in the monastery, which have been brought by Princess Wenchen on her way to Lhasa. It collects statues, white towers, other cultural artifacts, and scriptures of the Sakya Buddhist sect. This temple is distinctive for its four towers painted green, red, yellow and white respectively. About 100 chortens lie behind the monastery. The place miraculously escaped destruction during the Culture Revolution.

I left the next day to head back to Kangding where I planned on staying a couple of days before heading to Danba. 360km west of Chengdu, Kangding is the county seat of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The fairly large town is cradled in a steep valley with a collection of modern concrete buildings and dark-roofed houses randomly scattered along the torrential Zheduo River. Kangding is well-known throughout China for a popular Kangding Love Song / 康定情歌. One can see a big sign built of stones that states "Kangding, home of the Kangding Love Song".  So the first thing I did after arriving at the Zhilam hostel ( I asked the guys at the reception to play the song.  Beautiful song and upon returning to BJ I will have to download it to my computer.

Ahh, it was good to be back at the hostel.  Lilian, the filipina manager, is just a warm and welcoming person who makes you feel at home.  It also helps to have fresh baked carrot cake and apple cake.  At the hostel, I met Chris and Barrat who were travelling around Sichuan for about a week.  They planned a trip to the Gongga Shan area ( Minya Konka/Mt. Gongga), not to climb the mountain but to hike to area from where they can see the mountain. After a long discussion with regard to where, when and how to go, I joined them and we headed out at 6pm since the road was closed during the day.  The girl at the reception told us its a 3 hour ride; it turned out to be 6 hours.  We arrived late at the village where we stayed with relatives of the reception girl at the Zhilam hotel.  We paid 30 RMB per night for our typical tibetan bed.  The enxt day we went up the valley until we reached the saddle from where we could only imagined how Gongga Shan looked; the mountains were covered in clouds.  We did a beautiful ridge hike and eventually got some shots of the mountains peeking through the clouds.  The nice thing about going with the guys was that Chris had a car and a driver so we were not bound to public transportation.  The family were 2 sisters and their children and they had sheep and Yaks that probably constituted their livelyhood.  The next day, we walked up a hot spring area from where we had a great view of Gongga Shan.  We stayed 2 nights and could have probably stayed another night as there are plenty of things to do around the village. But our driver did not like the place and he was very happy to leave.

After returning to Kangding, I stayed one more night and then headed to Danba.  Danba lies in a valley 350km west of Chengdu along the east border of Ganzi, halfway between Kangding and Maerkang from south to north. Danba's landscape varies vertically from the high-altitude snow-capped mountains to the low-altitude grasslands and valleys. The population is principally composed of ethnic Tibetans and Qiangs. Recognized as "the Kingdom of Watchtowers" and "Beauty Valley", Danba is well-known for the spectacular watchtower groups, the representative Tibetan villages and the pretty Tibetan ladies.

I stayed in Jiuju Village, about 7 km from Danba town.  The entry to the village is 30 RMB and one can stay with families.  I stayed with Baosheng's family for 2 nights (the families do offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I only opted for dinner).  This place is paradise on earth; friendly and smiling Qiang people, beautiful women wearing colorful traditional clothes and the tamest cows I have come across.  I walked through the village picking up apples and pears that fell from the trees and fed them to the cows.  I could pet them for hours, one followed me the entire time back into the village waiting for me to feed her grass or anything else I could find.  I loved it.  The next day I walked to the km 147, about 12 km from Jiuju village to take photos of thr famous Suopo watch towers.  Walking back up the mountain, I took in the stunning views of the mountains and rivers.  Danba is the place where the Dadu river originates.  The family dinner was sumptous; I got several plates of different dishes and was in heaven.  For the entire experience, I paid 50 RMB and had a wonderful time.  The Baosheng family is friendly and kind and welcomes guests at any time.  If there is no space in their house, they will find another family in the village.  Its is defintely a place to go back to. 

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