Archive for the ‘Xinduqiao’ Category

Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba

Monday, November 30th, 2015
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Yesterday we traveled all the way from Daocheng back to Xinduqiao (358km) via Litang (148km) and Yajiang (286km), getting over Rabbit Mountain Pass (4696m), Kazila Mountain Pass (4718m), Jianziwan Mountain Pass (4659m) and Gaoersi Mountain Pass (4412m). Last time we entered Xinduqiao Town around 2:00pm on October 09, 2015 for the first time, driving from Kangding to Xinduqiao, and spending 2 hours photographing the bucolic landscape along the National Highway G318 in the town; two hours later we continued to get from Xinduqiao to Yajiang.

Xinduqiao has become a buzzword in the past 20 years. The big increase of photography enthusiasts around China thrusts the place into the limelight. Yesterday afternoon we saw the one-street town was peppered with camera-toting tourists looking for lights and colors. The influx into the town of tourists and photography aficionados had greatly developed the local economy, especially in the hotel and catering fields. At nightfall, the hotels and restaurants colorfully lit garnished the far-flung town with a layer of  modernity.

We stayed at Muya Se’e  Hotel (木雅色俄酒店). The hotel was also used as an army service station ( a guesthouse for transit servicemen). The staff at the front desk were nice and very helpful. The room was up to the 3 star standard with basic modern facilities, comfy and clean with wifi service.

Xinduqiao Muya Se'e Hotel

We stayed at Muya Se’e Hotel at Xinduqiao Town

Before we went to our respective rooms for sleep, Mr.Chen and I planned to get up at 6:30am the next morning, trying to find a spot along Yingjiu Road (营九路) which branched off the G318 to catch the sunrise at 7:30am when it had its mesmerizing side lighting on the Tibetan villages and golden poplar trees by the roadside.

Today at 6:30am (October 18, 2015) my iphone alarm wakes me up. After having brushed my teeth and washed my face, I heave my backpack onto my back, laden with a long-range-lens and one camera with a standard lens. Getting out of my room and I wait for Mr. Chen for a few minutes before he comes out next door and go to the parking lot together.

This morning bad luck follows us – the fresh sunrise is totally hiding behind the grey clouds which resemble a huge canopy cutting off the beautiful morning side lights. Mr. Chen came up to me with off the cuff to suggest we should give up the sunrise shooting. Driving back to our hotel for breakfast and packing.

We leave Xinduquao Town at 9:00am and start up our long-expected self-drive trip from Xinduqiao at 3450m to Danba at 1860m. It is a wonderful 150 km drive morphing from Muya Tibeten area (木雅藏族聚居区) to Jiarong Tibetan area (嘉绒藏族聚居区).

Xinduqiao Town

We are leaving Xinduqiao Town around 9:00am

We are supposed to drive on the provincial level Highway S303, linking Xinduqiao to the National Highway G317 in the north and passing by Tagong (33km) and Bamei (60km); at Bamei, turn to the northeast direction on the S303 for Danba County (87km).

Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba

Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba (150km).

Muya, aka Minyak (木雅) and Jiarong, aka Gyarong (嘉绒) are two branches of the ethnic Tibetans living in Kham. Kham is one of the four Tibetan traditional regions – 1) Ngari: in the far west region of Tibet; 2) U-Tsang: in the central region of Tibet; 3) Kham in the southeast of Tibetand 4) Amdo: in the northeast of Tibet.

Muya Tibetans and Jiarong Tibetans speak the Tibetic languages which are mutually unintelligible to a large extent. The languages have no script, but the oral languages are very much alive. They both speak Mandarin Chinese when they need to communicate with outsiders.

Muya Tibetans (aka Minyak Tibetans) live in the area between Zheduo Mountain and Yajiang ( including Xinduqiao), south of Danba and north of Jiulong County, a historically regarded by Tibetans as “Muya” (or Minyak) territory. They are half farmers, and half nomads.

Jiarong Tibetans ( aka Gyarong Tibetans ) live in Danba (Rongtrak), Jinchuan, Xiaojin (Tsenlha), Heshui (Trochu), Ma’erkang (Barkham), Wenchuan (Lunggu) and Kangding (Dartsedo) in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture and Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The Jiarong area is very fertile at relatively low elevations between 1800m and 2500m. Most people work in farming thanks to the much more temperate climate than the nearby Amdo and Kham regions.

Muya Tibetans and Jiarong Tibetans are different in the aspects of clothing, housing, customs and festivals. We drive gradually from the 3450m Xinduqiao down to the 1800m Danba, detecting the smooth transition from the mixed Pastoral and settled farming to settled farming and agriculture.

Xinduqiao  – Tagong  (33km)  新都桥至塔公
Driving 7km westwards through the one street town for about 10 minutes and turn north at the first intersection on the provincial level Highway S303, we will pass by Tagong (33km), Bamei (60km) and Danba (143km).

S313 from Xinduqiao to Tagong Temple

S313 from Xinduqiao to Tagong and on to Bamei.

Again it is a sightseeing asphalt avenue on a flat valley lined with golden meadows, crystal-clear streams, yellow poplar trees and Tibetan stone houses against the meandering mountains under the canopy of the blue sky and white clouds.

S313 from Xinduqiao to Tagong

A sightseeing asphalt avenue on a flat valley.

Yaks and horses grazing on the expansive roadside meadows on the valley between the undulating mountains.

S313 Roadside Meadows

Yaks and horses grazing on the expansive roadside meadows

Some local Tibetan villagers here are scattered on the mountain slopes surrounded by fields instead of being in  a clustered  settlement. Most of the Muya Tibetan houses are made of bricks or stones.

The stone houses have flat roofs and many windows with a compound like a castle with defensive purposes. They are cool in summer and warm in winter. The first floor is often used to store livestock and fodder; second floor for human living.

Muya Tibetan houses

The Muya Tibetan stone houses have flat roofs and many windows

Some local Tibetan villagers live in a clustered community on the hillside.

Muya Tibetan Village

Some local Tibetan villagers live in a clustered community on the hillside.

Rural Tibetans usually live in hillside houses facing the sun and not far from brooks. The golden poplar trees, limpid stream, Tibetan village and the undulating mountains, a typical bucolic landscape.

Xinduqiao Tagong sightseeing

A bucolic landscape

A piece of peaceful land like an earthly paradise. Xinduqiuao area is a magical place with fascinating lights and colors.

Muya Tibetan countryside

A piece of peaceful land like an earthly paradise

A local Muya Tibetan is working on her pastoral fields. Yaks, horses, sheep are grazing in the tall grasses in the golden meadow.

A Muya Tibetan

A local Muya Tibetan is working on her pastoral fields

Moving on and we see a larger Muya community skirting on the hillside surrounded by an expansive meadow. I take a photo of the Muya settlement through roadside fluttering prayer flags.

Prayer flags and Muya Village

We see a large Muya community skirting on the hillside surrounded by an expansive meadow.

We are driving through Tagong Town (aka Lhagang ) at 3700m, a booming town developed from a small village due to the influx of more and more tourists.

Tagong Town is well known for the same name Tagong Monastery and its surrounding Tagong Grassland that offer great views against the sacred Yala Mountain at 5820m.

Tagong Town

We are driving through Tagong Town (aka Lhagang ) at 3700m

Very soon the famous Tagong Monastery is in sight. “Tagong” literally means “A place favored by Buddha”. The legend goes that when Princess Wencheng, the Chinese would-be bride of Tibetan king of Songtsen Gampo, was on her way to Lhasa passing by this place, the precious statue of Jowo Sakymuni Buddha on the cart suddenly refused to go further on her caravan and people found the Buddha liked the place.

Later a replica of the original statue was made on the place the Buddha liked and a temple was built around it.  The original Buddha is now in Jokhang Temle in Lhasa and the replica in Tagong Temple which is often regarded as “Little Jokhang Temple”.

Tagong Monastery

Very soon the famous Tagong Monastery is in sight

We don’t  go inside Tagong Temple, driving a bit further and get off at the parking lot in Tagong Grassaland nearby.  The Tagong Grassland is centered on the Muya Golden Pagoda circled by the red wall compound.

The Muya Goden Pagoda (木雅金塔) was built 1997 with the fund donated by a Living Buddha of Zhuqing Monastery, a Nyingmapa or Red Sect temple.

Tagong Monastery Pagoda Forest

Tagong Monastery Pagoda Forest

A close-up view of the Muya Golden Pagoda with the backdrop of Yala Snow Mountain. It is said that over 100kg pure gold was used to build the pagoda to commemorate the Living Buddha 10th Panchan.

Tagong Temple Pagoda Forest

A close-up view of the Muya Golden Pagoda

Numerous white pagodas atop the one section of the compound walls with the backdrop of Yala Mountain.

Muya Golden Pagaoda

Numerous white pagodas atop the one section of the compound walls

Behind Tagong Monastery there are three meadow hills that are decorated with colorful prayer flags formed in triangle or quadrangle fluttering in the wind, adding much mystery and grandness to the hills.

colorful prayer flags

three meadow hills that are decorated with colorful prayer flags

Tagong  – Bamei (30km) 塔公至八美
Back to our Highlander and leaving Tagong Grassland, we continue our self-drive trip along the Highway S303. At Bamei Town, the Highway S303 divides into two “303” roads – one to the north and the other to the east leading to Danba.  At Bamei we choose the east S303 going to Danba.

The view along the 30km road from Tagong to Bamei is a bit dull and monotonous unlike the bucolic countryside from Xinduqiao to Tagong. But we do see the spectacular views of huge mantra painted on the hillslope and colorful prayer flags fluttering in the wind on the mountains.

the spetacular views of colorful prayer flags

The spetacular views of colorful prayer flags

The mantra “om mani padme hum”,  the most mysterious and yet ubiquitous mantra of Tibet. We often see the mantra painted on pebbles, rocks, stone slabs, doors, walls and even hill slopes!

We drive by a mountain with a huge mantra painted on the slope with colorful prayer flags.

a huge mantra painted on the slope

A huge mantra painted on the slope

Now we are at the intersection of Bamei Town – Following our nose is the north direction passing through Bamei Town; turning right (right side) will be on the S303 leading to Danba County.

Bamei is a town under the jurisdiction of Dawu County (道孚县) in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

Bamei Town

Now we are at the intersection of Bamei Town

On the left side of the intersection is a Sichuan restaurant.  If you are going from here to Danba,  we suggest you have lunch here because for the next 87km from Bamei to Danba there will be restaurants on the way.

Restaurant in Bamei

Bamei Town- Danba  (87km) 八美至丹巴
We decide to skip the sit-down lunch and continue our journey east along the S313 for Danba. We eat some snacks stored in our vehicle for lunch and agree to have a big dinner this evening when we arrive Danba.

For the 87km overland trip, there are two impressive sights – Huiyuan Monastery in Xie De Town 协德乡 ( formerly the ancient Tai Ning City ) of Dawu County (道孚县) in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and the majestic Yala Snow Mountain at the elevation of 5820m.

Xie De Town

Xie De Town

The formerly Tai Ning City (  泰宁城 ) was established in 1725 during Qing Dynasty ( 1644 – 1911). The well-known general – Nian Genyao led his army stationed in the city for the defense against the aggressive Junggar tribes.

In 1728, Qing government allocated the money to build a temple by the Tai Ning City. The temple was known as Huiyuan Monastery (惠远寺) used to accommodate the 7th Dalai Lama Kelzang Gyatso in order to keep him from the threat posed by Junggar tribes.

Huiyuan Temple and Xie De Town

Huiyuan Temple and Xie De Town (Formerly Tai Ning City)

Later on with the building of Huiyuan Temple, Tai Ning City flourished with the influx of religious pilgrims, traders from  Sichuan and Shanxi, which also enhaned the culture exchanges.

Khedrup Gyatso, the 11th Dalai Lama of Tibet was born in Xia Village near Tai Ning City in 1892.

A close look at Huiyuan Temple

A close look at Huiyuan Temple

Yala Mountain at 5820m is located on among the border area of Kangding, Daofu and Danba of Ganzi Zang Autonomous Prefecture.

The summit of Yala Mountain is shrouded with snow all year round. It is a fanous holy mountain Kham area. There are ten gullies in Yala Mountain Range.

Yala Mountain

Yala Mountain

We get to the downtown of Danba at 3:30pm and stay at Danba Xingji Hotel (丹巴兴吉大酒店) by Dadu River.

Any questions on the drive from Xinduqiao to Danba, just drop a line.

Add-on:

Drive from Xinduqiao to Yajiang

Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao

Chengdu Tour

Drive from Xinduqiao to Yajiang

Sunday, November 8th, 2015
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Around 3:40 pm, 09 October, 2015, we start leaving Xinduqiao (新都桥). Mr.Chen fires up his engine and rolls his white beast and again picks up the National Highway G318 and drives west for our tonight’s destination – Yajiang County (雅江县). We choose to continue driving for extra 72km from Xinduqiao to Yajiang partly due to the Yajiang’s relatively low altitude of 2500 meters against Xinduqiao’s altitude of 3450 meters; partly due to the fact today’s extra 72km drive will reduce the intensity of our tomorrow’s driving trip.

Yajiang’s low altitude gains its reputation of being a nice stop between Kangding (or Xinduqiao ) and Litang (理塘) for G318 travelers including self-drive travelers, bicyclists, or hikers. It is a modern town within the traditional Kham Region of the eastern Tibet, now under the administation of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Its splendid history brings people back to its prime days as the important stopover and ferry point for the ancient Tea and House Route.

Now we are on the way from Xinduqiao to Yajiang. The driving map tells we have to get over a tall pass known as Gaoersi Mountain Pass at 4412 meters sea level (高尔寺山海拔4412). Overcast and it is getting darker on the road up to the Gaoersi Mountain Pass. It starts snowing on the higher mountain road due to the changeable weather and cool temperatures at high altitudes.

Drive from Xinduqiao Town to Yajiang

Drive from Xinduqiao Town to Yajiang

What makes things worse is the unrestored and unrenovated mountain road before and after the Gaoersi Mountain Pass and the terrible road turns out to be as long as 24 km! Actually you cannot call it “Highway” since it is very bumpy, muddy, messy and some sections of the horrible road don’t have any guard rails to provent vehicles from straying into the deep gorges.

Gaoersi Mountain Pass Highway

The highway is bumpy, muddy, messy and dangerous!

At 4:30 pm, we reach the Gaoersi Mountain Pass and see a signboard standing on the top with the words “Gaoersi Mountain Pass 4412 meters Altitude” in Chinese. We stop and stay there just for a few minutes, taking a photo of the signboard as a rememory and pay repect to the simple Gaoer Temple nearby with our eyes.

Gaoersi Mountain Pass

Gaoersi Mountain Pass

Driving over Gaoersi Mountain Pass, we find it is snowing heavily, making it even more difficult to drive along the muddy and bumpy road. We have to carefully steer clear of passing-by trucks, cars  and even motorcyclists.

Drive on Gaoersi Mountain

Drive on Gaoersi Mountain in snow

Eventually the highway condition is getting much better, and back to the normal level of a standard highway, wide and with guard rails. The road descends fast from the over 4000-meter-altitude Gaoersi Pass to a little over 2500-meter Yajiang.

Highway Xinduqiao to Yajiang

Descend fast from Goersi to Yanjiang

At 6:00pm, we arrive at the downtown of Yajiang County. It is a modern town set in the deep valley of Yalong River (雅砻江) which gives rise to the name of Yajiang. It is a 1,323 km long river, a tributary of the Yangtze River. Its source is on the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau in southeast Qinghai.

Yanjiang Town

A booming modern town

The town looks very much compact with crowded buildings cascading from the two sides of the river valley. It is a drab and dusty city but with some modern tall buildings standing here and there. There are also a few old side streets that betray an old town. Crowded buildings flank Yalong River cutting the town into two parts.

Crowded buildings flank Yalong River

Crowded buildings flank Yalong River cutting the town into two parts.

It doesn’t take much efforts to secure two rooms at a nice hotel in Yajiang. But we do suggest you’d better reserve your hotel in Yajiang during the tourist peak season.

Any questions on the drive from Xinduqiao to Yajiang, just drop a line.

Add-on:
Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao
Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba
Chengdu tour

Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao

Friday, November 6th, 2015
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On the early morning of October 09, 2015,  we check out of our lodging hotel in Kangding and have a very simple breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Then again we go on with our self-drive trip west from Kangding (康定) to Xinduqiao (新都桥). The scenic drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao has been long expected, one of the highlight sections of the Sichuan-Tibetan Southern Highway (G318). The National Highway G318 is the longest national highway in China with a total length of 5476 km starting from People’s Square in Shanghai and ending at the Friendship Bridge linking Nepal at Zhangmu Town in Tibet, China.

China National Highway G318, oft-lauded as Route 66 & the National Old Trails Highway in the States, completed in 1954, runs almost along the NL30 degrees, and covers multiple landscapes seldom seen elsewhere in the world, ranging from the Yangtze River Estuary to Mt. Everest; from the basins regions to the plains areas and lofty plateaus; from mounds to hills, high mountains and alpine mountains; from fresh water lakes to saline lakes; from rain forests to bushes, grasslands, and wildness. Highway G318 is also a historical and cultural passage connecting the multiple cultures from the past to the present.

80km west of Kangding and 437 km west of Chengdu, Xinduqiao (新都桥) is a town under the administration of Kangding. It is a town at 3450 meters altitude comprised of just one street that is G318 passing through it. It is said that the 10km long National Highway G318 in Xinduqiao Town is regarded as “the Corridor of Photographers “.  In autumn, the valley where Xinduqiao lies is a poetic and picturesque paradise. By the two sides of the highway and at the foot of the undulating mountains flanking it, you will see Tibetan blocks of houses, golden and yellow poplar trees, grazing horses, limpid streams, extending grasslands and magical lights ( especially at sunrise and sunset), a paradise of photographers!

Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao

Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao

Last night we got a word that there started snowing around Zheduo Mountains Pass (折多山口).  Zheduo Mountain Pass is the first pass at 4298 meters to enter the traditional “Kham” region, the typical Tibetan area in the west of Sichuan Province. But when we are out on the Highway G318 this morning we find it is snowing everywhere around us, not just Zheduo Mountain Pass. We are carefully driving along the wide, but wet two-lane highway ( one lane for each direction) flanked by sheer cliffs or massive mountains.

Driving in snow along G318

Driving in snow along G318

Not many vehicles on the zigzag maintain road. On the route,  we pass through several service stops, very basic with simple toilets and parking lots, and you pay 5 yuan per vehicle to use the service for each stop. All the service stops are run by the local Tibetans.

G318 Service Stop

Take a break at a service stop

Zheduo Mountain Pass is a must stop on the way from Kanging to Xinduqiao or vice versa. At 12:30am we get to the flat top of the pass, and see a huge rock monument standing there engraved with the words”First Pass to Kham – Zheduo Pass 4298 ” in English, Tibetan and Chinese. Behind the sign rock is a white pagoda surrounded by colorful prayer flags.

Zheduo Mountain Pass

Zheduo Mountain Pass Monument

“Zheduo” 折多 in Tibet means “zigzag and bends”. There are plentiful bends and curves of the highway winding through Zheduo Mountain as its name suggests. Zheduo Mountain is an important geogaphical dividing line: on the west is Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau; on the east and south is the high mountains and deep gorges; on the north is the place where Jiarong Tibetans live.

We slowly descend from the 4298-meter altitude pass, driving down along the switchback mountain roads. Soon we find the snow has stopped and it is getting brighter. This has really buoyed us up! The annoying snow has blanketed the otherwise coloful autumn hues of the mountains we have passed by. The snow has turned the autumn fairyland into a monotonous white world.

Drive along G318

The snow has stopped and it is getting brighter

Around 2:00pm, we’ve smoothly descended from the cloud and snow capped Zheduo Mountain to the sightseeing highway not far from Xinduqiao Town at the fall of about 1000 meters. We are excited to see the green and yellow trees and grassland on both sides of the highway.  We stop by the roadside,  taking out our cameras and getting ready for shooting the picturesque scenery.

Xinduqiao Town

Smoothly descended from the cloud and snow capped Zheduo Mountain

For next two hours,  we are experiencing a drive scenic tour along the highway in Xinduqiao, stopping where we think there is a photogenic spot.

Xinduqiao

Snow, Tibetan houses, yellow poplar trees, grazing horses

It is not a bright and sunny day, but we are very much satisfied with the weather – no rain with fairly good visibility. Dotted fallen snow, Tibetan houses, yellow poplar trees, grazing horses constitute  a pristine and pretty picture.

Idyllic Xinduqiao

Idyllic Xinduqiao

With a backdrop of the undulating mountains, Tibetan houses are scattered on the valley with the unlimited golden and yellow grassland; green and yellow poplar trees;  limpid streams.

Picturesque Xinduqiao

Picturesque Xinduqiao

At 4:00 pm, we decide to continue driving west along G318 and stay overnight in Yajiang ( 雅江), 72km west of Xinduqiao. Our original travel plan was to stay overnight here in Xinduqiao.

Any questions on the drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao,  just drop a line.

Add-on:
Night View of Kangding
Chengdu tour