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 Once the ladders are withdrawn, the higher levels become inaccessible.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.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

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.

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)

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.

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