Drive from Daocheng to Yading

November 25th, 2015
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At 8:00am, October 15, 2015, at last we embark on the long-anticipated trip to Yading, or formally known as Yading Nature Reserve. We slowly drive through the downtown of Daocheng, strictly following our navigator Kailide Auto GPS with auto surveillance camera. We’ve been enjoying the freedom with the helpful guide and it seldom lets us down. Now we are guided to move on the provincial-level highway S216, a 71 km drive from Daocheng to Shangri-la Town ( formerly Riwa Town日瓦乡 ).

Euphrates Poplar Forest 胡杨林
It is cloudy in the morning and we are all happy about the weather as long as it doesn’t rain or snow. The highway S216 is surprisingly in good condition, a wide and flat asphalt road with clean iron handrails and clear road signs. The road meanders on the wide and flat valley flanked with fields, meadows, Tibetan houses and undulating hills, all coated with autumn golden hues.

In half hour we become excited at the sights outside – rows and rows of the Euphrates Poplar trees (also known as Diversifolius Poplar or simply poplar trees) along the highway.  The poplar trees change colors with seasons – green in spring and summer, yellow and golden on autumn, and red in winter, a great photograph opportunity.

We cannot resist the temptation and stop our Highlander by the roaside and walk down to the roadside river area. We snap some photos of the golden-colored poplar trees and the snow-shrouded mountains far behind.

Daocheng Poplar Trees

Rows of poplar trees against the snow-capped mountains

Rewu Monastery 热乌寺
Back to our white horse and continue our overland trip. It is again a scenic drive along the highway S216. We don’t have enough eyes to scan and enjoy all the beautiful roadside landscapes moving fast away from our car to the distance. About 15 km in the south of Daocheng downtown, we are passing by a group of Tibetan style houses, white wall with red roof, dotted on a relatively flat hillside on our front right side.

While still puzzled at the place, a big roadside sigh tells it is a Buddhist temple named “Rewu Monastery”, plus a piece of message – there is a viewing platform 1000m ahead to view the temple.

Rewu Temple

Rewu Temple viewed from a distance.

Mr. Chen skillfully brings his Highlander to the parking lot on the viewing platform. “Rewu” literally means “Where the jar breaks is the place for the construction of the temple” in Tibetan language. The temple was originally built at the end of the Southern Song Dynasty with a history of over 600 years.

The monastery remains two parts – Upper Temple and Lower Temple. The Upper Temple belongs to Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism while Lower Temple belongs to Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. The two religious sects coexist in the same place and live in harmony, which is quite rare in the temples of Tibetan Buddhism.

A close-up view of Rewu Monastery

A close-up view of Rewu Monastery

Bowa Mountain and Lover Lake 波瓦山和情人湖
Again return to our white Highlander and continue our drive trip down south. This time we can feel we are moving to higher altitudes.

About 23 km in the south of Daocheng downtown, we get over the highest point en route – Bowa Moutain Pass at the sea level of 4513m.

Bowa Moutain Pass at the sea level of 4513m.

Bowa Moutain Pass at the sea level of 4513m.

Having passed over several over-4000m mountain passes in the past few days during our drive trip, we don’t feel Bowa Mountain Pass has anything special. Mrs.Chen Ya does mention that “Bowa” means “Heroes, heroic mountain” in Tibetan. In the past, the Tibetans in Sela Village at Bowa Mountain would retreat to the mountain for defense if they faced outside intrusion. At the same time the local Sela Tibetans would take advantage of the rugged terrains of Bowa Mountain, beating the outside aggressors. There had appeared legion of heroes in the course of protecting their homeland.

She also talks about a plateau lake below the road cutting through the mountain pass. The lake is linked to a local sad story.  The story goes that there was a brave and handsome young man named “Sangjizhima”(桑吉志玛)  loved by plenty of local Tibetan girls. But he refused all of them because he had deeply loved a Han girl far far away. His persistent pursuit at last won her heart.

On the early morning of the day for marriage, he and his family members started to wait on the road, but till sunset he still could not see her sweetheart appear. Under desperation, he took out his bow and shot an arrow in the direction of the road leading to his house. Unfortunately, the arrow hit his bride dead on the road. His bride fell down and became the mesmerizing Sela Pasture. With mixed feelings, the young man took out his sword and killed himself, turning himself into the beautiful Bowa Mountain and accompanying his darling forever.

According to the legend, the lake is known as “Lover’s Lake” which is formed and fed by Sangjizhima’s tears. Such a sad story, well let’s to have a look at the lake. Getting off our Highlander, we walk across the road and see the lake below. Oh, My Jesus! I’m utterly shocked at the sight spreading before us – a limpid and opening eye of water embedded on the flat land surrounded by the mountains. Are you waiting for me? Oh, please don’t close your eye. I’m coming!

Bowa Mountain Lake

A limpid and opening eye of water embedded on the flat tableland surrounded by the mountains

I quickly walk down to the open expanse covered with white snow before the lake. Very soon I find my shoes are wet. It is a marshland with water underneath – Sangjizhima’s running tears?

I cannot walk fast and bog down for many times before I get to the edge of the lake. It is an eye of the plateau mirror, an eye of love and an eye of purity!

Bowa Mountain Limpid lake

It is an eye of the plateau mirror

It is an arrow of the sad story! It is an arrow of defending the Sela homeland. It also reminds us of the fact that the world is originally pure and clean, physically and spiritually.

Bowa Mountain Plateau lake

It is an eye of an arrow.

The upside down reflection of the landscape is just stunning, a rare sight in a low altitude area as  we live in Beijing, Shanghai etc. This is one of the reasons for people to come here despite of the long distance and high elevation.

Human beings never stop seeking something true – true love, true friends, true meanings of life and more “true”…

Lover Lake Bowa Mountain

The upside down reflection of the landscape is just stunning

We reluctantly leave this amazing place. But we have to move back over the swamp to the main road – S 216 and continue our road trip to Yading Nature Reserve.

Zhongdui New Village 仲堆新村
Leaving Lover Lake far behind, we are descending down the mountain south in the direction of Yading. About 65 km south of Daocheng downtown, seemingly in the middle of nowhere we spot rows and  rows of Tibetan houses and barley fields.

Being curious about how to live in such a harsh place, we stop and take out our cameras to shoot the well-maintained Tibetan village. Later we know it is  Zhongdui New Village.

Zhongdui New Village

The well-maintained Zhongdui New Village

We see a group of Tibetans in the village making a small kora walking around a sacred house below the main road. Tibetans have religious belief, and also pay great respect to the harmony of human beings, animals and nature.

Zhongdui New Village Kora

We see a group of Tibetans in the villageare making a small kora

 Shangri-la Town and Tourist Service Center  香格里拉镇和亚丁风景区游客服务中心
Shangri-la Town is only 6 km south of Zhongdui Village and 34 km to the north of Yading Nature Reserve. Mr.Chen accelerates his engine and soon we find ourselves in Shangri-la Town ( formerly Riwa Town) at 11:30am. We decide to stop in the town for lunch and a short break as well.

Shangri-la Town is the last outpost before you get to Yading Nature Reserve. For the 34km road trip from Shangri-la Town to Yading Nature Reserve, people have to leave their own vehicles in the town and use the official eco shuttle buses to get to Yading Nature Reserve. You need to buy a combo-ticket 270 yuan ( entrance and shuttle bus) at the tourist service center which is located on the southern edge of the town.

The town has become an international tourist center for visiting Yading Nature Reserve with ever increasing number of hotels, restaurants and other travel related facilities. We choose a roadside Sichuan food restaurant known as “Ya’an Restaurant” for our lunch. Over lunch, we also discuss where we should stay overnight today. Basically we have three choices for  accommodations – hotels in Shangri-la Town; hotels in Yading Village and the temple-turned inn in Longtong Ba (龙同坝), a bit far from the village center.

Shangr-la Town

We choose a roadside Sichuan food restaurant for our lunch

Mrs. Chen Ya suggests that we should stay at the temple-turned inn at Longtong Ba simply because Longtong Ba is close to the entrance to the paid Yading Scenic Area, so we are able to get to the entrance gate earlier in the morning and take the eco-golf car up to Luorong Ranch at 4180m where we are supposed to rent a horse to assist us in getting to the summit of Niunai Lake (Milk Lake) at 4600m and Wucai Lake (Five-Color Lake) at 4700m.

Later we find there are only daily 30 horses for rent and all of them are booked and hired by local travel agencies, plus the temple-turned inn is very basic and in poor shape. So it turns out it is a bad decision to stay at Longtong Ba.

Aden Scenic Area (Scenic Spot of Daocheng Yading )  亚丁风景区(稻城亚丁风景区)
Aden Scenic Area (Yading Scenic Area ) is located within Yading Village, 34 km south of Shangri-la Town. From Shangri-la Town, you have to take the shuttle buses to get to Yading Village. You may choose to stay overnight in the town, or in Yading Village. You need to buy a combo-ticket 270 yuan ( entrance and shuttle bus) at the tourist service center which is located on the southern edge of Shangri-la Town.

Shangri-la Yading Shuttle bus

From Shangri-la Town, you have to take the shuttle buses to get to Yading Village

Your entrance ticket is valid for two days. We stay overnight at Longtong Ba, a bit far from the residential center of the village, the second last stop on the shuttle line. Before we get on the shuttle bus, we park our Highlander in the parking lot in front of the Tourist Service Center on the southern edge of Shangri-la Town and put our large piece of luggage on the back trunk and travel lightly to Yading Village.

The 34km shuttle ride takes about one hour, ascending from the 2900m Shangri-la Town to the 3300m Yading Village. Yading Scenic Area is named after the same name village – Yading Village. The bus driver is very adept at controling his bus driving over the zigzag mountain road fast and comfortable. The one hour bus ride also allows us to have a good chance to view the picturesque landscape before we start our hike from Luorong Grassland at 4180m to Milk Lake at 4600m tomorrow.

Longtong Ba

We get off at the second last stop of Longtong Ba in Yading Village

We get off at the second last stop of Longtong Ba in Yading Village, crossing the roadide stream and walking up to the temple-turned inn. It starts to rain outside. We spend the whole afternoon in the simple and rickety inn, praying for the fine weather for tomrrow.

Any questions on the drive from Shangri-la to Yading Scenic Area, just drop a line.

Add-on: Chengdu Tour

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

November 24th, 2015
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Last night we wandered Shangri-la’s old town – Dukezong (独克宗), having an authentic glimpse into the cobbled lanes and looking for a place to grab our dinner. The old lanes were flanked by two-storey wooden buildings used as restaurants, shops, cafes and hostels. We felt a bit disappointed that many of the buildings and lanes were still under reconstruction due to the fire that broke out on January of 2014, lasting over ten hours and destroying most of the town.

We saw original wood used to rebuild the houses in the old town instead of concrete, keeping the old lanes and houses in an old fashioned way. It was still a laid back, peaceful town, but we sensed that something had disappeared from the over-thirteen-hundred–years-old-town and the old town’s spirit and charisma would never come back.

We tried to forget the fire, not to be distracted by the new wooden structures and construction sites here and there. Fortunately there were still some houses that had survived the fire,  making you feel time had stood still here, at least momentarily. There were not many tourists milling in the old town, partly due to the devastating fire and partly the tourist shoulder season.

Some hostels, shops and restaurants, for various reasons, were closed with no lights on, making the nearby lanes very dim and lifeless. We kept on walking on the cobble-paved lanes, trying to find a place for a sit-down dinner. Before we lost our patience, on our right side we saw a restaurant brightly lit and most importantly it was packed with dinners inside.

Without hesitation, we entered the Tibetan-style restaurant and it was a yak hot pot restaurant, clean, warm and cozy. Luckily there was a small table available for three of us and a man came up to us, waving us to sit down. Later we knew that the man was the owner of the restaurant.  He was tall and thin, talkative with a sense of humor. After he bragged about his hot pot,  we ordered a medium-sized yak meat hot pot, and a big barley cake as our staple food.

yak Hot pot

Yak Hot Pot in Dukezong Old Town

Before the hot pot was ready, I stood up and walked around the restaurant. It was a fascinating restaurant with some of wall areas and pillars posted with small pieces of paper by diners who had written down their hopes, work, love and futures for life. The diners inside the house were all travelers who had came far far away from their home towns like us, drinking like fish and talking loudly. It was raucous, but a feel like home. It was a wonderful experience leaving your residential place and traveling around the world periodically.

The yak hot pot was a bonus. The yak meat was soft, delicious and a little spicy; the soup was rich, and very flavourful; the barley cake was tender and fluffy, very tasteful. We discussed the travel plan for the next day – drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng over the hot pot.

The yak hot pot Dukezong

The yak hot pot was a bonus

Today we will start our last leg of our loop trip which has a total length of 1272 km from Daocheng and back to Daocheng: October 11, Daocheng to Litang ( 148 km 理塘) ; Litang to Batang ( 177 km 巴塘), to Zhubalong (35 km 竹巴笼),  to Mangkang in Tibet (75 km 芒康), to Feilaisi at Deqin (216 km  德钦飞来寺); October 12, Feilaisi (Deqin )  to Shangri-la (200 km ).

So today, 14 October, 2015, we will return to Daocheng ( 421 km 稻城) via Xiangcheng (乡城). While we taked about the drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng over the dinner last night, we overheard the people at our next table and learned that some of them had just came from Daocheng to Shangri-la. Mr. Chen started  up a small talk with them and got some practical information on the drive route and road conditions involved. It would be a very tough journey with some bad road conditions and possible landslides.

We leave our logding hotel in Shangri-la around 8:30am, and drive up the National Highway G214 north. We are supposed to drive across Jinsha River, gettting to Xiangcheng (乡城县), and Sangdui Town (桑堆镇), finally Daocheng (稻城县),  totally 421 km.

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

At Fulongqiao Town (伏龙桥镇), we branch off the National Highway G214, crossing the bridge over Jinshan River and entering the Derong County in Sichuan Province. It is a county-level mountain road, dusty, bumpy, potholes and narrow with deteriorated road surface. We pass by one section of the road under reconstruction with pickup trucks, a mobile crane and workers busy working on the road.

Half hour later,  the vehicles ahead of us aren’t moving, and we come to a halt.  Soon a word comes that there is a big landslide ahead not far from us. It seems the possibilty of reopening the road is very slim. After discussing with the drivers from other vehicles, we decide to have an alternative road –  Shangri-la – Derong – Xiangcheng – Sangdui – Daocheng which is one third longer than the original road.

It is really a workout to drive over the narrow, steep, zigzag mountain road at the sea level of 2000m – 3000m. Road conditions in some areas are fairly good – asphalt road; some are not good, or very bad – just dirty roads especially at a higher sea level. When we arrive at Daocheng, it is almost 10:00pm! That means we drive on the mountain road in some areas just in  almost complete dark.

Shangri-la - Daocheng road

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

It is also a rewarding drive trip. En route, we take in the spectacular views through the side windows while driving – deep valleys, alpine meadows, snow mountains, fall foliage and dense forests. Some of the pictures below shot with my iphone camera staying inside our vehicle.


Alpine meadow, snow mountain and coniferous forests.



A wide and open valley dotted with white Tibetan houses


Barley Fields with barley racks and straw stacks

Barley Fields with barley racks and straw stacks

Any questions on the drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng, just drop a line.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery Dwells Your Soul

November 23rd, 2015
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Around 3:40 pm, 13 October, 2015, we leave the earthly paradise – Pudacuo ( or Potatso 普达措 ), and drive up to the road back to the downtown of Shangri-la and then get to our today’s final stop  – Ganden Sumtseling Monastery (Songzanlin Monastery 噶丹·松赞林寺 in Chinese).

Located only 3 km north of the downtown, Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is not just a monastery, but a large monastic complex that includes several lamaseries, halls, colleges, libraries, separate living quarters for monks and for the high lamas.

“Ganden Sumtseling” literally means ” The monastery is set up in order to fully understand the Teachings of the Buddha and let them to benefit the mass and have the rebirth in Buddhism”. The name was given by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1679 when the monastery was built at the patronage of Kangxi Emperor (r.1662-1722) in Qing Dynasty. It was completed in 1681. Part of the group buildings of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in 1960s and in 1980s it was rebuilt.

Now Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is the largest Buddhist monastery in Yunnan Province, oft-lauded as ” Little Potala Palace”.  It belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelukpa order of the Dalai Lama.

Mr. Chen suggests we don’t enter the huge monastic complex given the time left for the remainder of the day and try to locate a photo spot instead to take pictures of the grandeur holy place and view the monastery in sunset glow.

Parking our vehicle in the parking lot attached to the Tourist Service Center of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery Scenic Area,  we enter the clean and spacious service center. We are requested to purchase an entrance ticket 115 yuan (including the shuttle service from the center to the monastery). Getting on the shuttle bus, Mr. Chen asks the bus driver to drop us off at the lake area instead of the final stop of the monastery. We’ve learned that the lake in front of the monastery offers good photo spots to shoot the monastery from the boardwalk winding over the lake.

After 15-minute bus ride, we disembark the shuttle bus and see a swamp lake south of the shiny and massive group buildings throught the left-side trees and bushes. Very soon we spot a zigzag road down to the lake below. When we come up to the lake, we see a well-maintained boardwalk running over the marsh lake south of the monastic architechures.

While we are walking down to the lake from the roadside mound, the legant and huge buildings of the monastery are clearly presented before us.

the legant and huge buildings of the monastery is clearly presented before us

The legant and huge buildings of the monastery are clearly presented before us

A signboard on a handrail of the boardwalk has a brief introduction to the lake both in Chinese and English. The lake is known as Lamuyangcuo Lake (拉姆央措湖). “Lamuyangcuo”, literally “A Lake for the Soul of Heaven Fairy”,  is a holy place to dwell the soul of the Godess of Bandanlama.

Lamuyangcuo Lake is just in front of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. It is a seasonal and plateau wetland lake fed by springs and surface water. There are some waterfowl on the lake like black-necked cranes, yellow duks and more.

Lamuyangcuo Lake

The boardwalk circles the lake offers a spectacular view of the Monastery.

Walking on the timber walkway, you can easliy find a good spot to view the magnificent group builidngs of the monastery. The main structure built in Tibetan style has a gold-covered copper roof similar to the one at the Potala Monastery in Lhasa.

The buildings of the spectacular Ganden Sumtseling Monastery have stunnng inverted reflections in the water of the holy lake.

The main structure built in Tibetan style

The main structure built in Tibetan style with reflection on the water

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery looks like a castle, a walled complex with group buildings including living quarters for monks and high lamas.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is a walled complex with group buildings

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is a walled complex with group buildings

On the right side of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery are Milk River Wetland and Conggulong Village.

Milk River Wetland and Conggulong Village

Conggulong Village and Milk River Wetland

On our right side, we see two barley racks on the high mound

 On our right side, we see two barley racks on the high mound

On our right side, we see two barley racks on the high mound

This is a piece of happy land where human beings, animals, and nature live in harmony.  Two Tibetan youths posed standing on the boardwalk with the backdrop of the monastery.

human beings, animals, and nature live in harmony.

Two Tibetan youths posed standing on the boardwalk

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is in sunset glow, a tranquil place to dwell your soul.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is in sunset glow

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is in sunset glow

Be sure to be back on the roadside to wait for the last shuttle bus at 7:00 pm and return to the service center.  Any questions,  just drop a line.