Tuesday, December 30th, 2003 – Day 315 to Wednesday, December 31st, 2003 – Day 316

Tuesday, December 30th, 2003 – Day 315

Kangting , city (1990 pop. 98,960), W Sichuan prov., China, in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Region. It is a transportation center on the main road from Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet. The development of a hydroelectric plant has allowed Kangding to establish some light industries. Until 1950 it was the capital of Xikang prov.

I was up around 9.30am. It was cold but it was the best sleep in I have had for a while. The town is very busy with Chinese as its close to the bus station. People were up and about and having showers by 7.00am. I walked 5 minutes to the station and my worst fears were realised, all the early buses were sold out. he earliest I could get was 12.15pm. Ah well. It cost 112 Yuan. It will be between a 6 and 8 hour journey.

I went back to the Muslim Noddle place and had breakfast It was cold but the sun was out and some of the ice and snow were melting.

I sarted walking up Paoma Shan mountain via the monastry. I was half way up (via steps) and realised it would be difficult to get back down. All the steps were covered with snow and ice and one slip, I would be half way down the mountain. I had pretty good views from where I was so I decided to head back down. Anyway, a British Tourist was murdered up here in 2000. I made by way down slowly.

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Kangding – Paoma Shan (30-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kangding – Paoma Shan – View of the town (30-12-2003)

I then walked to Nanwu Si. Its a very large and impressive looking especially in the snow. It has about 100 monks. There are about 6 large buildings on the site. The monks were just going to lunch when I arrived. The monastry is kept in their original layout with little modern influence or disturbance from tourists.

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Kangding – Nanwu Si (30-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kangding – Nanwu Si (30-12-2003)

After that I decided to re try Paoma Shan Mountain from another direction. You can get a cable car up there (new) for 40 Yuan return. I was going to do this when a guy with a horse asked me to go via a pathway for 30 Yuan return. As I have never been on a horse before (to my shame), I agreed.

If I had known such an easy path existed, I would have walked up. It took about 30 minutes to get up there. Te views were OK of the valleys but excellent of the western side of the town. I was up there for 25 minutes. It was empthy. The guide let me ride the horse most of the way ack diwn. I dont know. It felt quite natural to be on a horse. MAybe its mans DNA.

After that I had luch in a restaurant. It was chicken with spices, chillis, peanuts. It wsa good. After that I visitd the market which was full of Tibetans down to do some shopping.

I id little the rest of the evening. My hostel is full of Tibetean monks with mobile phones!!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2003 – Day 316

I was woken by the staff at 9.30am as they were clearing everyone out and cleaning the place. Then the electricity went off. I was going to stay in bed until noon as my bus is at 12.15pm. Anyway, in order to get in off the cold, I had two long breakfasts. They were both noodle based and very nice for a cld morning.

I had no difficulty finding the bus. Its a big hub and all were leaving at 12.15. There must have been 50 buses going to differerent destinations. My bus was nearly full. I was beside an army guide who sat straight and held his hat perfectly the whole time. There was a monk behind me who coughed all the time. SARS. HE was coughing his guts up. They showed some Hong Kong movies on the TV as well as the terrible Batman and Robin. The Hong Kong film called My name is nobody was quite good even thought no English translation was produced.

Anyway it was a full 7 hours before we got to Chengdu. After walking 10 minutes to my hostel, I choose to take a rickshaw there for 10 Yuan. Distances are larger here than the map in the Lonely Planet would dictate. A hostel called Dargon House is not in the Lonely Planet but I picked up a flier in Kumning. When I got there, it looked nice. I paid 55 Yuan for a single room.

Its down a narrow alleyway with lots of hole in the wall restaurants. I had a great little meal in one of them including a large meal. I thought they made a mistake when they gave me the bill. Six Yuan (.60 cent). Wow. I did see a rat in the restaurant but hell.

Ask a resident of Beijing or Sh?nghai what to do in S?chuan’s capital of Ch?ngdu, and nine times out of ten they’ll tell you to drink tea and eat hot pot, such is the city’s reputation as a culinary capital that knows how to take it easy. Indeed, Ch?ngdu’s cuisine is irresistible and tea drinking is a custom that took hold here 1,300 years ago and never let go. With few genuine ancient sights within the city proper (D? Fu’s cottage is only a replica; Wuh?u Temple is ho-hum), drinking tea may be Ch?ngdu’s most durable link to the past. But what Ch?ngdu lacks in ancient sites, it makes up for in charm and atmosphere. Like so many cities in central China, Ch?ngdu has a pretty little river running through it. The narrow Fu H? and its southern tributary form a sort of moat around the city, sections of which are lined with attractive restaurants and teahouses. The city is also in the midst of a building boom, but a few old ramshackle warrens and outdoor markets still survive just west of the city square.

Ch?ngdu is the gateway to scenic Jiuzh?i Gou, the Buddhist mountains of ?m?i Shan and L? Shan, and one of the most important panda breeding centers. It’s also a traveler’s haven and a place to gather information between trips. People are friendly and the pace unrushed. And because Ch?ngdu is one of the few cities with daily flights to Lhasa, many travelers come here to arrange transportation to Tibet.

I was going to buy a few beers for New Years in a shop but a guy who was buying a crate stopped me. HE says he was from the hostel and they were having a little party for New Years. I headed back with hime to a small room in the hostel. There were about 30 Chinese there and 4 foreigners. It did not take me long to get stuck into the beer. They had lined up a mike and some speakers and the Chinese wee lining up to see a song. Each one of them sang. They were all good singers and love to sing (karaoke anyone). There was a Tibetean monk staying as well and he sang a few mantras wishing all safe journeys. A JApanese guy did some breakdancing!! He was actually pretty good. This went on for a few hours. I spoke to a Dutch couple.

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Chengdu – New Years Party at the Hostel (31-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kangding – Chenglish- Warning in the public buses warming you to buy a ricket or THROW YOUR DIBS IN!!!! (31-12-2003)

They were delighted to meet a foreigner as they have been teaching English in a small village for 2 months. She was 2 days over due and they hoped a baby was on the day. They had only known each other for a few months. They had alrady picked a a boys/girls name. They hadnt even told their parents yet. They would call the baby Tom if it was a boy.

Anyway, Chinese girls dont really drink beer and the guys were only having cup fulls. More for me. Most of the Chinese went to bed before midnight as New Years isnt really celebrated here. They ahve a day off tomorrow as its a National Holiday but Chinese New Year is on January 21st. They get a week off then and its known as the Spring Festival.

There were about 15 people left to count down to 12.00. It was all good fun but everyone was in bed by 1.00am.

Sunday, December 28th, 2003 – Day 313 to Monday, December 29th, 2003 – Day 314

Sunday, December 28th, 2003 – Day 313

I was woken at 6.10am by other people in the hostel. Its been quite full for the past two nights. Most people are forced to stay in town for a night for transport just like me. I was at the bus sation (3 minutes away) by 6.35am. It was pitch dark but the strs were cool. I had some dried fruit for the trip which I purchased yesterday. The bus was full to the brim when we left at 7.05am. It was dark and cold but the journey was fine. I had no idea of exactly where we going or how long it would take. Five hours int the trip we stopped at Daoceng. The scenery was moon like rock scape. We passed no houses or viallages but no snow thank God

At this point I thought we were heading for Litang. At 4.00pm we got to a town and everyne got off. I asked at driver where we were and he said KAngding pointing at the bus. I did not believe it but he made the sleeping gesture so off I went. I ws an idiot and loooked for a Kangding hote. I was directed to a hotel by two young boys. The room rate was 118 and but said I could ahve it for 80 Yuan. I looked for another hotel and a gentleman in a suit asked did I need help. HE looked at my mapa nd laughted. He said I was 150 km away from Kangding and I was in Yajiang.

I went back to the bus statin and a woman translated. This is where we would overnight and we would leave n the same bus at 7.00am again.

A woman there with a mobile phone guided me back to the hotel. I said it was too expensive. She insisted. I though she was a tout and I hesitant. She spoke to the manager for a few minutes asn secued a 30 Yuan reduction. Then she smiled and left after I thanked her. Weird but nice. The hotel room was OK but basic. No ensuite and the TV was broke. I decided to repack my bags. In the process I spilt a few bottle o beer on the ground. I put a heater near to it.

I had a nice meal (again no English speakers or menus but when you are hungry you get your point aross). They are very honest in China, very honourbale and have not come across vercharging even though t would be easy. It cost 9 Yuan (.90 cent). I was like a Marian on earth here and lots of staring especially from the farmers. People would walk parnell to me while looking diretly at me. I would slow down but they simly would stae back at me saying nothing but walking slowly ahead. Every second person would try hello.

VEry quite town and surprisingly all the shops, restaurants started closing at 7.30pm. By 8/40pm, all premises were closed and the strrets empthy. Anther early night and another early start tomorrow.

Monday, December 29th, 2003 – Day 314

I hd OK sleep and I got a call from a girl at 6.30am even though I did not request it. Was it a wake up call. I dont know as it was in Chinese. Very unusual. It was pitch dark, I was walking the corridors in a big empthy hotel. There was a hurracaine utside. There did it come from. THe wind was rattling every window and door and it was leakig it cuasung whar sounded like scraming. I felt I was in the film, the Shining. Dust bowls were blowing up otside and sleet was falling.

I could not find anyone for a while to open the main door Finally I woke up a chap asleep in a closet! Where was the phone girl. It was ver windy and I hear my bus gearing up as I walked down to the station. All the other passengers slept in the statin hostel for 7 Yuan. I jumped in. It was only 6.45am and I was the last passenger in. We ledt 10 inutes early. It was strange seeing all the same faces again. There was a nice Tibetean family in the front cnsisting of a husband, wife, daughter (maybe 12) and son (1.5). She was the happiest guy I never saw. He stood most of the 7 hour trip as he wanted to by by his family who were sitting. She smiled all the time and beamed as he looked at his son. They dotted on him. Everything he cried they were all over him. The baby had a belt whch was abut 4 religious emblems and statues. The dad also helped the driver during the trip. I like he drivers as they really know there bus. As well as driving that also fix the bloddy thing when it breaks down and that happens alot.

Imagine a society in which there are no aunts, uncles or cousins. This is what China’s one-child policy is creating. For instance, some estimates put the ratio of Chinese males to Chinese females at 117 males for every 100 females, others put this ratio as high as 131 to 100. The average ratio is about 105 males for every 100 females. Critics worry what will happen when these “extra” males can’t find females to marry. In addition, the one-child policy has led to the rise of the so-called “little emperors” – only children who are spoiled, since their parents and grandparents have fewer people on whom to spread their largesse. Studies have shown that these children are less interested in tradition than their elders and feel compelled to quickly carve out a niche for themselves in society. The Chinese government has been forced to start parenting classes and family clinics to deal with this issue

Within mnutes of leaving town we ran into heavy snow which was still falling. At 8.00am, during a simple climb we started sliding backwrds Alarm bells. We stopped and the sriver and Tibtean attempt to get the wheel chains from the booth. It was jambed cold co they broke it wit a hammer. We had the chains on for 3 hours as we drove throuh heavy snow. Not nice. I like snow and its winter but when you are in a bus driving ver serous ranges, on narrow road with a 1000 foot drop, it not nice. As you travel on switch backs, sometims you travel very close to the edge as travel passs and other times the ncoming driver has to fce it.

It was worse when there was oncoming traffic. Most were trucks and any were over laden and without wheen chains. They would slide rather than drive past us. Once a driver was too scared to pass us on the outside. We had to reverse. On a bus this s bad as the chains are only the back wheels. As we reversed, the front wheels slid all over the place and brought us close to the edge. The passengers got nereeeervous and half of us got off and many starteding shoveling and kicking dirt and gravel underneath our front wheels.

The bus passengers laughted at any over laden truck that passed so as they would not make it. At about 3.15pm we got to Kangding. The journey was OK. I do not mind long journeys but the amount of passengers spitting in the aisle and smoking was beyound belief. As mentioned 65% of Chinese men smoke and they were puffing hard on the bus. The aisle was a sea of ash, fag buts and plemgn.

It was bitter cold (-6 oc) and there was snow on the ground and it was still falling. I was slipping all over the place. I passed a place after 2 inutes and a girl persuading me to go in. It was a clean room with electric balnket for 40 Yuan per night. There was 24 hour hot water and as it was close to the bus station, I took it.

I walked down town and marelled at the town. It is surrounded by massive snow covered mountains. It reminded me of Queenstown, New Zealand. it was cold an it witnessed a taxi and truck smack into each other. The roads were like a ice ring. It was a busy place and lots of Tibeteans with fur hats and traditioanl knves in their belts.

I see there is a suspected SARS case here in China. In other news, Thousands of evacuees were returning Monday to villages in China’s southwest following the sealing of a burst gas well that spewed toxic fumes and left the 233 dead, the government said.

BTW, I am getting better in using CHOPSTICKS I have no choiuce. Its all they have.

The Chinese have used chopsticks for at least 3,000 years, according to the evidence from tombs and paintings.

Mastering their use involves understanding the best point of control. Crasping the sticks closer to the end which points away from the food will give you more leverage. Further, they must be able to move independently. The thumb and forefinger hold one that is mobile; and the base of the thumb pressing the other against the three remaining finger tips keep the second stationary.

When you can pick up small or slippery objects like peanuts with the chopsticks and gain the dexterity to cut meat or some other morsel, you will have mastered the technique. Anyone at your table who is a habitual user will be happy to show you the way to hold them. Prractice and the willingness to look foolish occasionally are obviously the answer. If you tire in your practice, the soup spoon which is also placed at your setting will come in handy.

I found a good site about Kangdings students views on the world.

After coming back from the bus station (I was checking te times and pices of tickets to Chengdu), a noodle restaurant worker shouting out. They had an english menu. I had some great noodles with meat and vegetables for 6 Yuan. I will visit there again. Its a Chinese Musli place and they look very different from the Han Chinese.

I had an early night. I had a beer whle I watched TV. Thank God for the electric blanket It was freezing.

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Kangding – The Snow (29-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kangding – The Snow (29-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kangding – The Cold town (29-12-2003)

Saturday, December 27th, 2003 – Day 312

Saturday, December 27th, 2003 – Day 312

I was up at 6.45am and decided to try for a ticket. I packed and heading down. The place was full f people and with only one bus hading in each direction, I kew my chances were slim. The two in the shack were as sulky as ever. Its just a old man and woman with a table and chair. They were in no mood and brushed my questions aside. I wanted to go to Litang but she kept saing no even though I was asking for any ticket over the next 2/3 days. I was stuck. I then asked for a ticket t Kangding and she said fine. This is a 22 hour trip and I did not know what the hell was goig on. Would we go straight there. Would be stay overnight in Litang. No answer. I bought my ticket for 137 Yuan (13.70 Euro) and headed bak to the hostel. They were not surprised to see me back. I paid another 30 Yuan and went back to bed. I stayed there until but it was bright and noisy outside.

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The Market (27-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

The Market (27-12-2003)

I walked to the nearby market which was very small. Nothing much of interest. Lots of cattle wandering around the street. There is anorther small clothes market in th school basketball court. I ate some nice steamed bus and just wandered. Lots of staring from te locals and hundreds of hellos and How are you. nce you reply, you get a few laughs. One nice youg lad came up with his schol copy bokm with some English wrds. I coreccted some of them and added a few new ones from things arund town like JEEP, TRACTOR, PIG etc.

I walked back up to the monastry around noon to see it in the daylight. Lots of wood carvers about. Its a fine monastry with good views of the town and valley. There was little t do so I sayed up there for two hurs relaxing. Lots of Tbetean villages in the valleys, many of them in town shoping. I had a great meal in a little restaurant near the clothese market. Pork and veg (fab) and a basin of rice. I mut have had 6 bowls of rice before I stopped. All for 9 Yuan (.90 cent). I did little that evening. I watched some TV. The udiences here did not rate Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon . THey felt it was geared for Western audiences. You can see the exact same wire stuts on Chinese TV every niht of the week and much of it is better.

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The Monastry (27-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

The Monastry (27-12-2003)

I did not mind stayng here another day. Lonely Planet paints in a bad light but its a cool place with many Tbetean influences. My bus is at 7.00am.

Friday, December 26th, 2003 – Day 311

Friday, December 26th, 2003 – Day 311

My bus to Xiangcheng was at 7.30am. The Lonely Planet said it takes about 12 hours. We did it in about ten. I had a terrible night sleep last night. The mixture of booze (including a Jack D) with the fact I kept checking my watch every 20 minutes took its toll. I was up at 6.30am. It was bloody cold. I got a taxi to the station. Its an excellent brand new station and the staff are very friendly and efficiet. Theres even a good waiting room. They check your ticket as you enter the bus waiting area and if you are foreign, they point out the correct bus.

There was a girl in the bus who directed me to my seat. It was full of farmers bringing produce away. My bag went near the driver. Within 2 hours we broke down twice. It was freezing cold and the fuel froze in the fuel lines from the tank to the engine. The driver had to take a flame from a gas canister to heat the line. It took 20 minutes the first time and the passengers got out and made a bonfire on the road to heat up. The same thing happened 30 minutes later.

We stopped only once for something to eat at a Tibetean village. We passed only one village in the first six hours. The houses are amazing, like medieval fortresses.

Depending on the availabilities of the materials, the Tibetan houses are built with more woods, for those living near forest, or more stones, for those living near mountains. Usually, the walls are one meter thick and built with stones. The roof is built with scores tree trunks, and then covered with a thick layer of clay. When it is finished, the roof is flat.

In the valley area, the whole structure is like a castle with small windows as big as gun holes. No doubt, this is for defense purpose. In the city, there are big windows facing south to let sun light in. The houses are either one or two, three, four story high. For one flat house, sometimes a guarding wall is built around to keep the animal in and outsiders out. For a three story high house, the lowest level is a barn for animals or a storage place. The second story is the living quarter for human beings. The third story is the worshiping hall or sometimes the grain bin. The stairs are outside the house and usually made of single tree trunk from roof to roof. Once the ladders are withdrawn, the higher levels become inaccessible.

Inside the living quarter, there are kitchen, living rooms. There are fireplaces and stoves in the kitchen. The common fuels are wood and dung. The furnitures are painted in bright colours. The lavatory is usually at the highest part of the house as an extension. This way, the house is clear of the smell.

Anyway we were within site of the town when we came across a landslide. Local men and women were breaking up and loading massive boulders onto trucks for removal. It took 35 minutes for a path to be cut through for us to pass. It was a good journey as the scenery was so good. Not as dangereous as that to Deqin.

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Xiangcheng – Bonfire of the Passengers (26-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Xiangcheng – Journey to (26-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Xiangcheng – Removing a landslide (26-12-2003)

The bus station was tiny, like a backyard. It was muddy and had just enough room for two buses. Indeed that is all they need. One bus goes back and forth to Zhongian and one heads north. I went to the shack of a ticket office and looked for a ticket to Litang. She said none were available (or thats what I think she said). I found it hard to believe but with just one bus, who knows.

It was still light (about 5.00pm) and according to the Lonely Planet one one hotel is licence to keep foreigners. I walked there (its a tiny town) but they had no rooms. They pointed to another place across the road run by an old fashioned Tibetean woman. It ost only 10 Yuan (10 cent) for a dorm bed but I did not fancy sharing. I went to anothe place that was busy. I was shown a dorm for 15 Yuan Which had electric blankets). There were two Chinese ld lads inside spittin and playing cards. o offense, but no chance. I went back to the other place and paid 30 Yuan to keep a 3 person dorm to myself.

There was a tiny whole in the ground toilet but no water. You are given a basin and two large flasks of boiling water in order to wash youself in the evening and the morning. You dont get a key which is normal here. You have to get a girl to unlock it.

I decided to visit the bus station tomorow to find if I could get a last minute ticket. I ecided to walk to the Tibetean temple up on a hill outside town. As it was getting dark, I rushed. Not a good idea at allitude. It was a poor steep path but worth it. ITs very impressive and its been rebuilt by hand at the moment. I loked around and et a few monks. They were friendly. One in particular was very interested in my camea and had me taking sots of particular aspects of the monastry. If it did nt come out OK, he made me take it again. I say, he would not find keeping it.

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Xiangcheng – The Monastry (26-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Xiangcheng – The Monastry (26-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Xiangcheng – The Monastry (26-12-2003)

I went back down down. They get few tourists here and all stae. All the kids run around you screaming HELLO, HELLO. Very strange and as i was tired, got on my nerves. I was sarving as my last porper meal was yesterday morning. No English menus and only one or tw suggestions in the Lonely Planet are useful. One is shredded pork with vegetables along with rice. I had it twice tonight. THe first cost 15 uan (1.50 Euro) and they gave me a book of Chinese customs left my a tourist and the second was 11 Yuan and was fab. I expected a massive bill as te plate of pork could have fed three. A rally serious cook who stir fried in frot of the diners. He wore a suit while he cooked and had two girls serve free cups of tea. Great food.

I bouht two large beers to drink in the hostel but only drank one. They are 2.50 Yan (.25 cent) a bottle. I was in be and by 9.45pm. It was a cold night but the stars were great. They were so close and clear. They were no street lights to obscure them and anyway all eletricity went off at 9.00pm for an hour (the whole town). Even though there was a load kAraoke place across the road, I had the best nights sleep for a long time. I woke only once. The bulb in the room is only a 10 watt and it barely beats the darkness.

Thursday, December 25th, 2003 – Day 310

Thursday, December 25th, 2003 – Day 310

I was up at 8.00am. I found that the first bus to Benzilan was 9.30am. I decided to go there to see what I missed. It cost 20 Yuan. I had some steamed buns and then noddle soup (5 Yuan). It was nice watching people come to market. I saw a couple buy bells for there cattle or animals. They all have bells here in case they get lost. I suppose the tone of the bell is important.

Many of the country people stay here over night. I saw a truck with people last night with people sleeping in it. I saw a few vehicles like that. I saw them again this morning. Maybe a group of 15 people dressed poorly and rather wild looking. They were filling up their truck with the winter supplies like blankets, coats, clothes. They would have spent the last 2 days shopping and would have slept in the truck last night. All the gear was packed onto the truck and also packed so that once the road finished it would be transported on there backs. A wooden type thing was tied up like a back pack frame. Anyway there were a few groups like this.

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Deqin – The Town (25-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Deqin – People praying and making offerings for a safe journey (25-12-2003)

There were lots of interesting people at the bus station as well. Over the past few days I have seen many sleeper buses pass through town. They are taking a 3 day trip to Lhasa in tibet. Lucky Devils. They pay about 180 Yuan. The road is closed to foreigners. There are lots of police about to secure that.

It took about 4 hours to get to Benzilan. There were 3 girls on the bus and they spend the whole journey puking. They took turns in the window seat to puke out the window. Non-stop. The drivers do not supply plastic bags like they do in Vietnam. The driver was surprised I got off at Benzilan and I dont blame him. Its a small one street village. There are many monks about including those from a sub sect of the main Buddist religion here called Gelupa (Yellow Hat) Yellow Hat Buddists. Not surprisingly they have yellow hats.

It was sunny but this is a very small one street Tibetan village. Some monks about. I was bored stiff with 10 minutes. The Lonely Planet says no more buses pass through to Zhongian after noon. I did what all the locals were doing. sitting on the pavements and kerbs watching the world go by and the few vehicles passing. I was never so bored and walked up and down the main street about a dozen times. I actually started doudling in my notebook.

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Benzilan – The Town (25-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Benzilan – The Town (25-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Benzilan – The Town (25-12-2003)

Anyway in the distance around 3.00p, I saw a bus approach. I actually ran to it and asked whether the driver was going to Zhongian. He laughed and said Shanagrai La. The Whole bus laughted as to point out what a joke the marketing campaign is. It took about 2.5 hours to get there.

As soon as I got off (I paid the driver 15 Yuan) I purchased a ticket to Xiangcheng which is located on the southwest tip of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Region of Sichuan province. it is just on the roadside from Litang,Sichuan province to Zhongdian,Yunnan province. Xiangcheng has a elevation over 3180m and its population is around 25,000,of whom is 93 percent of Tibetans and 7 percent of Han nationality.

It is very isolated – the road to Litang is about 200 km north along a rough road, while the southerly route to Zhongdian can become impassable in the rainy season. On the back road from Yunnan into Sichuan, Xiangcheng hasn’t seen much in the way of foreigner traffic. However, for the local truck drivers who ply this Litang-to-Zhongdian route on their way to and from Tibet, it is an important stopover.

The ticket cost 68 Yuan. It leves at 7.30am and should take 12 hours. I took the number one bus for 1 Yuan back to my hotel. I booked into the room next door and paid 40 Yuan. I had a wash.

I am taking the backdoor route to Sichuan. It involves:

  • Zhongdian to Xiangcheng 12 hours

  • Xiangcheng to Litang 12 hours

  • Litang to Kangding 12 hours

  • Kangding to Chengdu 12 hours

On the NET, I see China has a notoriously poor work safety record. More than 95,600 people were killed in work-related accidents in the first nine months of the year. Today 191 people were killed in a gas explosion in a neifgboting province.

I finsished reading The Road to McCarthy by Pete McCarthy. It was only OK. I enjoyed his stories of bizare far off places and his abilirty to o off in a tangent. The writing while simple was enaging. Overall OK. Its one of those boks that you say after … I could write something like hat.

Guess who I met two minutes after leaving the hostel. The taxi woman who had dispeared from my trip to Naba Lake. She had expected me to ring her mobile. We had a laugtht about it and I told her I walked back into town (white lie). i paid her the 10 Yuan I owned her.

I met up with the English Guy at around 8.00pm. There are only a few places foreigners go to so it was easy. He had met up with a mad German. The German had been studying in Beijing for 4 months and had decided to cycle from Kumning to Tibet. The road was detrorating so he got a bus. He was crazy and a steotypical German. Good natured, terribly funny English especally when he cursed… and he had a wide vocabulary of curse words which he shouted glefully. Anyway we had a few beer and went to another pub. Left about midnight as my bus is at 7.30am.

Funny Christmas Day.

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003 – Day 308 to Wednesday, December 24th, 2003 – Day 309

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003 – Day 308

I was up at 8.00am and headed to the market for some steam buns. I also left my bags at the hostel and only took a day pack. The bus was at 9.20am. It was cold. We had lunch after 3 hours. It was OK but I made the mistkake of not

getting off at Benzilan. I had expected two other locals to get off here but did not. I knew it was the town as I went throught it but its so small that once we passed it was too late to get off. I decided to stay non the extra 4 hours to Deqin.The town of Deqin is nothing to rave about. The whole purpose of the journey from Zhongdian to Deqin is the journey itself.

It was scary. There was ice ans snow on the road in shaded areas and we passed over very high ranges. There are no crah barriers. One mistake by the driver or oncoming traffic, and we would plummet hundreds on metres. I had to close my eyes part of the time.

Once there, I walked 200 metre to the Tibet Hotel. A twin bedded room was 50 Yuan (5 Euro). It was very cold. Its a small town with one main street.Lots of various tribes were down in the market. Its small with lots of outdoor POOL

tables. Still, many different looking faces. Some guys were as big as me, wearing cowboy hats and boots. Others were dressed in balck head to foot with red bekts with the women covering there faces. Others guys were wild looking

with long hair and as if they came from the stone age (no offense).

Anyway the real celebs are the goat like, feral like cows. They wander up and down the streets eating out of dustbins. Very extradordianry to wtch them as they take no notice of humans. There is little grass here and they eat anything from leaves (even dead ones) to human rubbish.

Anyway no restaurants have English menus here and I had two beers before I set off to eat. It can be difficult to get your point across. The first one was too hard so I had a beer (I was warming to the idea). In the next place we went throught the Lonely Planet. its the pits as it does not give the words (like the Vietnam Guide) for common food such as rice, noodles, chicken etc. All it gives is speciality food like ell, snake, shark. Anyway we joined the dots from various foods and I got a nice diner for 11 Yuan. I was hungry soon again (beer talking) and saw a a nice lady in a restaurant. It was empthy so I pointed to her fridge. She let me pick what I wanted. I choose a big streak (I was drunK0 and soona fter I had a massive bowl of rice fit for two and a separate pate of beef and vegetbles for 12 Yuan. I even started talking to another Diner.

As mentioned before 65% of Chinese men smoke. I ahve been offered dozens of times. Its a pity I must refuse as its a good way to begin a chat. Anyway I had one tonight. Teh meal cost 12 Yuan (.20 Euro). Its nice here that even though

there is no central heating, they haave a cool (Or hot) alternative. They place charcoal in stainles steel basin an light them. A restauranrt may have half a dozen of them. They place them beside you as you eat. They are very warm. The

five fingers guesthouse during the Gorge Trak had the same.

Anyway there was little to do tonight. I had a warm night with my thermal clothes and electric Blanket. I wathed a ba movie called Ed’s Next Move on TV. Chinese TV buy the cheapest shoddiest movies. I did not see any other tourists about.

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Deqin – The Town (23-12-2003)

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Deqin – Mad Cows (23-12-2003)

Wednesday, December 24th, 2003 – Day 309

We had passed three snow-capped mountains yesterday – Meili, Baimang and Haba – standing magnificently over the landscape, crisscrossed by the Jinsha River and Lancang (Mekong) river which are flanked by overhanging gorges.

Although many refer ZhongDian county as the “Shangri-la”, a hidden paradise in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Personally, Lonely Planet says Deqin is the REAL PARADISE.

I was up at 9.00am and visited the market. Various peopel werejust arriving. Tibetans, Lisus, Naxis and Yis. I decided to walk to to Fei Lai Temple. Well, I did not as it was 10km up hill. I hitched and got a lift from a National PArk Official. Excellent.

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Deqin – Fei Lai Temple (24-12-2003)

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Deqin – On the Road to Fei Lai Temple (24-12-2003)

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Deqin – Fei Lai Temple (24-12-2003)

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Deqin – A town on the valley floor on the road abck down from the Fei Lai Temple (24-12-2003)

Tibetan houses are very diiferent from all others I ahve seena nd they are very distinct. Built like fortresses Tibetan farmhouses are massive, squat, 3 storied things with earthen roofs and beautifully decorated brightly painted windows. Most have an inner courtyard on the third floor with perhaps an open granary on the fourth.

The Tibetan Fei Lai Temple is small with prayer cylinders inside and out. These cylinders contain sacred scripts whose vibrations go out into the universe when the cylinders are turned.

The mountain pass into Deqin valley lies at the snowline and the surrounding snowcapped mountaintops are blinding in the sunlight. The lower mountainsides are brown bare rock, too poor to host anything more than occasional scrub except for the few squares of cultivated fields of rice. Nevertheless, they are majestic and indescribably beautiful. In these mountains, mundane thoughts fall away and what remains borders on the spiritual. It is perhaps for this reason that the Tibetans build their monasteries in these regions, away from the material trappings of society.

In 1206 Genghis Khan broke through the Great Wall of China and in 1252 Kublai Khan rode into Yunnan. These mountains and the resistance of the fierce minority kingdoms cost him 27 years before subduing Yunnan and bringing it within the proper borders of China.

Anyway I had the place to myself and the views were fab. often the snow capped mountain can not be seen with cloud and mist but I had blue skies today. It was cold though. Every bus that came from Dqin stopped here so that passengers come burn some sacred bus, bow and pray for a safe journey. Most traffic stops here to pray Journey. it makes me fear for my bus journey back.

I walked back down and it was nice. i saw many goat like cattle eating leaves and twigs standing half way up mountain that seem too steep for any animal. They are like goats here.

It took me an hour to walk back down. There was little to do for the rest of the day. I had noodles twice. They only cost 2 Yuan on Zhongian but cost 2-5 here depending on what extra bit they trown in. They overcharge a little!!

Little to mdo. Drank a beer, wrote inthe traveller guesthouse book, watched them expalin English Christmas words like Carol-ling on TV. Nothing to do. Found an Internet Cafe behind a curtain. No English words like Internet or Email. Was

not in the mood and spend 30 minyutes there (2 Yuan). Had dinner in the same place as last night. nice lady, great food. Felt a bit lonely as it was my first Christmas away from home. USually I would be in the HARP bar having a few pints.

I miss it.

I was in bed by 10.45pm. It was cold and I decided to leave tomorrow- Christmas

Day.

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Deqin – Boys will be boys (24-12-2003)

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Deqin – the Mountains around town (24-12-2003)

Monday, December 22nd, 2003 – Day 307

Monday, December 22nd, 2003 – Day 307

I was in bed by 11/45pm last night. Luckily all beds in the Tibet Hostel/Hotel have electric blankets. Very cozy during a very cold night. There was snow a few days ago and there is some still on the ground. At least its dry.

I only got up at 10.30am as I have decided to take the day off. Well, that’s an excuse. I was just cold and lazy. I walked around to the various markets. For a small town, there are about half a dozen big markets.

I walked to the bus station (new and very clean and efficient) and purchased a ticket to Benzilan. Its a small Tibetean town intend to spend one night there. It cost 15.40 Yuan (1.50 Euro). Its about 3 hours to get there.

Benzilan , two hours by car from Zhongdian , is a pleasant town standing at 1968 metres on a narrow strip of land on the right bank of the Upper Yanthzi RIV , tucked between water and sharply rising hills . It is a way station on the main road north , halfway between Zhongdian and Deqen ; the road passed above the farms , wooden houses and small temples of the town . The busy strip of Sichuan style restaurants is constantly visited by cars , trucks and buses . Sichuan province and the village of Wake (Dongfent ) lie just across the water but can only be reached by a ferry .

Near the south of town , below the road , is Gochen Gompa , a small Tibetan temple with pretty murals . Walking north through the fields and lanes brings one to a stupa , always visited by old men and pious women , and another gompa .

I had some dinner in a backpackers cafe. It was OK and I had a great breakfast and lunch today in the markets. I had pancakes (1 Yuan) but they were like bread and I had steamed buns with vegetables inside (two for 1 Yuan). For lunch I had great steaming hot noodle soup for 2 Yuan.

I walked to a stupa called Guishan Gongyuan which had good views over the town. I was pretty bored by 4.00pm and decided to get a taxi to Napa Lake 7km from town.

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Zhongian – Market (22-12-2003)

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Zhongian – Market (22-12-2003)

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Zhongian – Monastery (22-12-2003)

Napahai Nature Reserve is situated 8 km (5 mi) north of Zhongdian County, in northwestern Yunnan, with grasslands and lakes which attract many bird species that winter here, including the endangered Black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis). Black-necked cranes, of which only 6,000 remain in the world, usually breed in high-altitude wetlands but spend the winter at lower altitudes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau or on the Yunnan-Guizou Plateau, of which, Napahai is the main wintering spot. The breeding population of these exquisite birds, however, is in rapid decline due to habitat loss and changing agricultural practices which have affected the availability of food.

I spoke to a nice (theres one) taxi lady who said she would take me there and back for 20 Yuan (2 Euro). It was a nice journey. At the entrance (free) locals would bring you to the lake on top of a YAK.

The wild yak weighs up to 1000 kg (2200 lb). It occurs in treeless uplands, including plains, hills, and mountains, from as low as 3200 m (10,500 ft) up to the limit of vegetation at about 5400 m (18,000 ft). The wild yak was once numerous and widespread on the entire Tibetan plateau north of the Himalayas. Currently it is found in remote areas of the Tibetan plateau and adjacent highlands, including Gansu Province, China, with a few having been observed in the Chang Chenmo Valley of Ladakh (eastern Kashmir, India). Most are now domestic yaks. The yak was probably domesticated in Tibet during the first millennium B.C., and domesticated animals now occur throughout the high plateaus and mountains of Central Asia, in association with people. There are now more than 12 million domestic yaks in the highlands of Central Asia. The yak is supremely well adapted to the harsh highlands with its thick coat, great lung capacity, and ability to clamber nimbly over rough terrain. Even its blood cells are designed for high elevations – they are about half the size of those of cattle and are at least three times more numerous, thus increasing its blood?‚’s capacity to carry oxygen. Its thick coat and low number of sweat glands are also efficient adaptations for conserving heat. In winter the yak survives temperatures as low as – 40 deg C (- 40 deg F).

I declined but what I did not know is that the lake its seasonal and is now (December) just a big swamp. I made the sorry mistake to walk. If you walk directly to the swamp/small lake, you will ahve to pass swampy land. So swampy, I took off my trainers and walked on. I walked through cold mud up to my knees (my trousers were now rolled up). It was cold stuff but once you hit grass, it dried in seconds. It was bad stuff and I walked trought the stuff half a dozen times before I could go no further.

There was nothing good about the swamp but I saw cranes (frightened them away). I walked back via the boundary and to the road. This bypassed most of the wet ground and there were some logs thrown over wet spots. The best part was the long shadow the sun conjourned up.

When I got back to the entrance, (maybe 1 hour later) the taxi driver was gone. She had given me her mobile but the office was closed. It was 5.00pm and beginning to get dark and cold. I hitched for 30 minutes but no car came. After I walked about 2 km back to town, a taxi approached. I was happy to pay him 10 Yuan (1 Euro) to take me back to the hotel.

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Zhongian – Nature Reserve (22-12-2003)

It took the shower a long time to get going. Water is only available between 8.00-12.00. When I was there naked scrubing the filth and mud off from my feet to my knees, a worker came it to make the shower hoter. There is only a knee high wall separating the showers so its very public. He must have wondered what the hell I was up too with all the mud. Anyway the shower was good.

I also purchased a pair of thernal long Johns (pants) and vest early this morning. They cost 65 Yuan (6.50 Euro) and I put them on after the shower. They were hella warm. I went to a pub accross the way for 2 nice Lan Chang beers while my electric blanket heated up.

Sunday, December 21st, 2003 – Day 306

Sunday, December 21st, 2003 – Day 306

I had a poor night sleep. The walls were paper thin, it was cold and I hate having a time I have to be up for. I was ready to go by 7.50am and walked to the bus station. I ate some Chinese pasties along the way. The bus to Zhongdian was full. I thought it would take 7 hours but we arrived at 1.30pm. It was very cold. We passed some snow on the way and the bus slipped and slided a bit.

Time for a bed and a bath. The Tibet Hotel would be my destination. Lonely Planet describes the Tibet Hotel as “hard to find so it’s worth forking out Y5 on a taxi from the bus station.” I must be tired or there is a new bus station which there was as I went the wrong way and wasted an hour while exhausting myself. I took a rickshaw there for 5 Yuan. When I got there the receptionist could not confirm it was the Tibet Hotel as she had no English. There were no signs to say so. Not Until I saw the receipt, that it was confirmed I was in the right place.

I booked into a room for 40 Yuan and started walking. I walked to a small monastery in the old town, overlooking the city. It was 3 yuan in. There were two child monks there. It had a nice view of the old town.

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Zhongian – Prayer Wheel (20-12-2003)

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Zhongian – Prayer Wheel – Child Monk (21-12-2003)

I then took the number 3 bus for 1 Yuan to Songzanlin Monastery 5 km in the Northwest of Zhongdian. The largest Tibetan temple in Yunnan.

Belongs to the Gelu religious sect. Approved by Emperor Kangxi (Qing Dynasty) in 1679. Location selected by Fifth Dalai Lama. 3 years to build. Covers area of 500 mu. A total of 13 places of worship incl. the Zhacang grand hall and 8 large Kangcangs.

There’s a Y10 admission fee. I walked up the long stairs to the main courtyard but few monks to be seen. There are supposed to be 600 in this massive complex. Its like a little city with many houses, courtyards and temples. Many horses, cattle and pigs walking around.

I stayed for about 2 hours. It was nice. Not many monks about and the ones that were all using mobile phones and reading the papers. Cold weather here but dry. I took the number 3 bus back. It was now 5.00pm. I had some noodles with pork in the Tibet Cafe. It wasn’t great but it was cheap at 7 Yuan. I then looked for a NET cafe. There is one main one in town and price is only 3 Yuan per hour.

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Zhongian – Songzanlin Monastery (21-12-2003)

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Zhongian – Songzanlin Monastery (21-12-2003)

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Zhongian – Songzanlin Monastery (21-12-2003)

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Zhongian – Songzanlin Monastery (21-12-2003)

On the web I read that among men, average life expectancy is 77.9 years in Australia and 75.9 in France. In China, the average man lives to 69.6, in Brazil to 65.7 and Egypt to 65.3. I also read that WHO figures show smoking kills a million Chinese every year, mostly men. More than 60 percent of adult males and between three and four percent of adult females in the world’s most populous country are smokers. China is also the world’s leading producer and consumer of tobacco

Spend some time on the Web and had a few beers in a Cafe. It got pretty cold.

Friday, December 19th, 2003 – Day 304 to Saturday, December 20th, 2003 – Day 305

Friday, December 19th, 2003 – Day 304

We decided to stay at the excellent FIVE FINGERS another day. We had a nice breakfast of rice porrige with peaches and Chinese bread plus butter milk tea. We decided to climb the mountain called Ha Ba behind the guesthouse. We set out at 10.00am and took a path. We were fine for 1.30 minutes as we headed up but because winter is coming paths were covered by leafs. As well as that the mountain is used by farmers, goats, cattle and especially wood cutters. Therefore, there were dozens of paths. We should have taken up the offer of the man of the house to guide us for 50 Yuan.

Anyway we took a wrong path and started climbing a very steep incline or ridge. About 40 minutes of climbing through trees, we reached a rock face. The summit was about 10 meters above, but we did know what we would find. It simply was too steep. We looked down and found ourselves very high and on a very steep hill with just rotten tress and bamboo shoots. One slip and we would slide hundreds of feet back down. It was THAT steep. We decided to go down.

We were nervous and a bit scared and we walked, slid, and fell our way back down. We were so relieved. After 5 hours, the weather was closing in. It was cloudy and starting to rain. We were happy to be back in on piece. Looking back to the mountain, we had climbed to a massive height only to find it was much harder to come down that go up. My hands were badly scratched and cut. We washed up and at 5.00pm ordered dinner.

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek – the dote of a granny (day 2) (19-12-2003)

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek – the dote of a granny (day 2) (19-12-2003)

It was Friday night and neighbor’s were coming and going. Many had come to the house on horse. It was very busy. We had a great dinner when it came at six. The family take preparation at meals. I had Ba Ba with walnuts and honey, fried rice with pork and potato balls. We was fab. We had a few beers but we were mentally exhausted after the day. The families three sons came home from school. As we are in the middle of no where that stay in town during the week in order to go to school.

Saturday, December 20th, 2003 – Day 305

We were up at 7.30am as we need to get going by 8.00am. the bill was about 55 Yuan each. That included 2 big dinners, about 4 beers, breakfast and two nights accommodation. All for 5 Euro. What a deal.

It took 2 hours to get to Walnut Grove from Bendiwan district where we stayed. This is one of the prettiest sections of the gorge, and we took many photos. It was cloudy so the scene was moody. From Walnut Grove we continued on to Daju, a section considerably less scenic as we use the road. We walked down a VERY steep path to a small boat to take us across. That cost 1 Yuan. We then had to walk up a steep path on the other side to get to a road. We had now walked four hours and it was noon. The last bus back to Lijiang was at 1.30pm and it would take 2 hours to walk from the road to the town of Daju for the bus.

As The last bus (3 hr.; 25 Yuan (2.50 Euo) from Daju to Lijiang leaves at 1:30pm, we got a taxi for 10 Yuan. We were there at 12.30pm and had noddles which were nice. We met a English guy who I might meet up in Zhongdian for Christmas Day.

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (day 3) (20-12-2003)

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (day 3) (20-12-2003)

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (day 3) (20-12-2003)

The bus took 3 hours and we arrived back in Lijiang round 4.00pm. We decided to meet to later for Dinner. I went back to get my bags and moved into another hotel that charged 30 Yuan for a single room. It was the old town Youth Hostel on Xibhua Street. I had been in the Deer Source Inn which is number 67. I had a wash and walked to the main bus station to buy a ticket for Zhongdian for tomorrow. It cost 27 Yuan and leaves at 8.30am.

I met Daniel and Jenny for dinner at 6.30pm. We had a great dinner in a NAXi restaurant. I had excellent egg rice and pork. The town was a few degrees colder than I left it a few days ago. Wee retired to another pub with Christmas decorations and a great music for a few drinks. We met a few Chinese tourists and had a nice time eating lovely fresh hot pop corn. During dinner last night it turns out Daniel was the camera man who shot an interview with me for Breaking Ball about Cork fans using the Confederate Battle Flag at matches. Very small world. We could not believe it. I had to leave at midnight as I had to pack and be up at 7.30am.

Thursday, December 18th, 2003 – Day 303

Thursday, December 18th, 2003 – Day 303

I was up at 7.35am and packed. I woke up the house. The daughter sleeps in the shop floor to allow more beds for guests. The granny sleeps in the storage room. I saw her behind some boxes as they stored my bag. I walked down to the bus station. I was in plenty of time. There wee only two other people on the bus. They were Daniel O’Hara and his wife jenny from Scotland. He directed Best First Irish Short at Galway Film

Festival this year. His short called Yu Ming is Aimn Dom. It was two hours on the bus. Very few tourists do the trek this time of the year. That suited me fine as I wanted a quiet walk and fresh air. After nearly falling to my death in Ecuador, I was very very happy to walk with Dana and jenny. We got there at 11.00am. Our bus was at 8.30am and it cost 13.50 Yuan. We purchased our ticket (30 Yuan) and headed off.

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (day 1) (18-12-2003)

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (day 1) (18-12-2003)

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (day 1) (18-12-2003)

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (day 1) (18-12-2003)

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (day 1) (18-12-2003)

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Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (day 1) (18-12-2003)

We walked for one hour and stooped for lunch at a Naxi house. The food was excellent. The potatoe and pumpkin soup was excellent. We walked on up the 28 bends. We only met one group of Chinese tourists. Five Shanghai girls and one guy. They were fine. Some of the views were great. The walk it self wasn’t that hard. The weather was great with strong heat and blue skies.

Often billed as one of the most spectacular sights in Lijiang and a must-hike for trekkers, the 30km (18-mile) long Tiger Leaping Gorge, which sits between the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain of Lijiang and the Haba Snow Mountain of Zhongdian to the north, is a tad overrated. To be sure, this canyon, reaching a depth of over 3,000m (9,842 ft.), is pretty enough, and occasionally breathtaking; as treks go, it is a moderately interesting, occasionally strenuous, and infrequently dangerous trek taking 2 to 3 days, but by no stretch of the imagination is it the ultimate of sights, as its renown may have led some to expect.

The gorge is divided into upper, middle and lower sections, with two main entrances, one at the town of Qiaotou at the upper gorge and the other at the town of Daju at the end of the lower gorge (30 Yuan; open 8am-7pm). Most hikers now start from Qiaotou , as all foreigners traveling on buses from Lijiang to Daju are required to pay the 48 Yuan entrance fee to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Scenic Area between Lijiang and Daju. For most visitors short on time, the gorge can be visited as a day trip from Lijiang or on the way to Shangri-La. Recently, instead of going all the way to Qiaotou, many private-hire taxis and tour buses like to drop off visitors at a newly constructed parking lot on the south side of the gorge across from the town of Qiaotou . After paying the entrance fee, it’s a 2.6km (1 1/2-mile) walk along a wide paved path to the gorge’s most famous sight, the Tiger Leaping Stone, a large rock in the middle of the raging river which gave the gorge its name. The legend goes that a tiger being chased by a hunter escaped capture by leaping over the river with the help of this rock.

For trekkers approaching from Qiaotou , there are two paths: the lower path used by buses and cars as described above, which is a relatively easy and flat, if exhaust-filled, hike; and the higher path, which is longer, more strenuous, and more dangerous because of falling rocks and narrower paths. Check with the travelers’ cafes in Lijiang beforehand for the latest hiking conditions. It is possible but not advisable to do the hike in a day. Basic but charming guesthouses along the way, all with hot water and restaurants, make overnighting at the gorge a relatively painless affair. In general, hikers on the high path can overnight, 6.3km (4 miles) and 2 hours from Qiaotou , where the Naxi Family Guesthouse charges 10 Yuan ($1.25) per bed. Or you can stay at Bendiwan village, 17km (10 miles) and 4 to 8 hours from Qiaotou , which has several guesthouses; the Halfway Guesthouse has beds for 10-15 yuan and some of the best views. ).

Daniel and Jenny were tipped off to stay at FIVE FINGERS guesthouse. Its is seven minutes walk after HALF WAY. What a great place. As we arrived, the sun was setting on the mountains in the background. The lady of the house borough out rusted walnut’s and home produced Honey. We cracked the nuts with a hammer. We then ordered the food while they set up an out door water boiler. They used corn hobs and wood to boil tank of water so we could use it to wash. Very basic but effective. The food was fab. I had Ba Ba pancake with egg and fried rice with egg. My room in a 4 bed dorm (I was the only person) was 8 Yan (.80 cent). Wow. We had a good night and had a couple of beers. The Chinese group we passed also stayed here. They were so loud and hard on the family as they wanted reduced dorm prices. For diner, they picked one of the chicken that was strolling around. After examining the piece of flesh, the man f the houses cut its throat, plucked it and cooked it for them. Excellent.

The stars have never been so close or so bright. It was like Bolivia again while on the trek from Chile. There were thousands of stars out and guess what, I saw three shooting stars. I made my wishes. Pity, I did not know the consolations. Its a cool place,

Four 2 storey blocks surround a courtyard. The houses are built so that they have basements with a door leading to each of the four basements from a courtyard. Within each basement they keep the animals. So while you sleep, 2 meters below you there would be cattle and pigs. Seems like methane heating to me.

There is a husband and wife, a daughter who laughed at us uncontrollably if we did or said something silly and a dote of an old granny. She was only 77 but looked and acted like 117. She welcomed us all individually. She wore her traditional NAXi clothes.

It was not very cold but I only slept OK. I had access to 4 duvets.