The Price of Beauty

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Yading International Youth Hostel
What I did
Yading National Reserve

Flag of China  , Gansu,
Friday, September 16, 2011

The options for arriving to the north Sichuan Province were limited to backtracking to Kunming and catching a flight to Chengdu or weathering the beautiful but treacherous "back door" multi long bus trips over 6-10 days. With time permitting I opted to endure the bus option. I anticipated being the only non-Chinese on the bus during a 10-12 hour ride which can sometimes double depending on if there is an accident or mechanical difficulties and all on unpaved roads of course.

However for the first leg from Shangri la to Daocheng this wasn't the case. Luckily, another German couple from the hostel was headed in the same direction. We met at 6:50AM to catch a taxi to the long-distance bus station for our 7:30AM bus. The result of purchasing my ticket two days in advance was that I scored seat 1. One thing I didn’t have going for me was this nasty headache which I couldn’t tell if it was from the altitude or from the wine I consumed two nights prior. Either way I was taking some ginseng and gingko which is supposed to be good for altitude sickness.

Once the bus arrived and we loaded all the big potato sacks and boxes onto the roof and luggage into trunk, we boarded the bus. In addition to every seat being occupied there were four people sitting in the middle hump including one kid on a metal seat with pillow in front of me.

The ride started out on a paved road and wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. Sure everyone around me was smoking and nibbling on their dehydrated yak meat or chicken feet with the occasional loogie spitting but I stayed distracted by snapping photos of the massive mountain range in every direction. We continued to climb and wind up a road just barely wide enough for two vehicles let alone massive dump trucks and buses. Especially the way our bus driver handled the road, as if he was the only one on it, incessantly laying on the obnoxious sounding horn, tooting the cattle out of the way.

Still with headache and feeling nauseous I was grateful to be next to a functioning window that I could open and close at my leisure, sticking the camera lense out every so often to capture the nature. It was soon becoming obvious that we were entering Tibetan territory as the locals appeared darker with flatter faces and definitely a country feel.

The bus took a lunch break at only three hours in serving twice cooked pork which was pure fat, some chili potatoes and another two dishes I couldn’t make out. I opted for a bowl of rice with some of the juice from the German’s plate of potatoes.

Then the fun began, the road was no longer paved and was 66 miles of a narrow Mulholland Highway on a cliff at an altitude over 12,000 feet.  I think the neck pillow saved me from whiplash and unable to read my book, the only source of entertainment was the really bad Tibetan electronica videos playing on the television.

We arrived in Daocheng, altitude of 3,750m at 7:00PM, making the trip a total of 11 hours and as warned there were 20 different offers for hostels or rides to Yading National Reserve. Thanks to another set of tourists, Kevin from Canada with dual Hong Kong citizenship and his Chinese wife, Tina whom he met just two years ago on his last trip to Tibet, we were able to tag onto their plans and secure a ride to the Yading International Youth Hostel. Tina with her ipad definitely enjoys coordinating the details. As a native she also managed to book us a discounted ride to Yading for the next day.

Based on a recommendation from another Chinese traveler in Shangri la, the five of us enjoyed a family style dinner before calling it a night. I really appreciate the convenience of hanging out with anyone that speaks the language. Of course Tina ordered us a Kung Pao Chicken, egg and tomato, beef with radish which turned out to be a soup, spicy eggplant and not knowing that the beef would be a soup we requested a seaweed soup. Now that I am in Sichuan I have to remember that the spicy level starts at a 10 but oddly everything was quite tasty and not spicy at all.
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