Archive for the ‘Yading’ Category

Yading Brings You Inner Peace

Saturday, November 28th, 2015
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Last night ( October 15, 2015 ) it was dark and raining outside, I habitually took out my laptop. The owner at the temple-turned inn said his place had wifi service. It showed that I was connected to the wifi, but I couldn’t access the internet  A bit frustrated, I had to experience a night without internet, the first  internet-less night for the past 10 days since we started our self-drive trip in Zhengzhou on October 06,2015.

Sleeping alone in a rickety makeshift room inside a Buddhist hall, I felt solitude came back to me. The good thing about solitude is that it gives you time and space to think. Yes, great things come out of solitude, or out of a weird place like this temple-turned inn.

I fell into a deep thought about Shangri-la. Where was Shangri-la? Was Yading a real and last Shangri-la? In his novel “Lost Horizon” published in 1933, the British novelist – James Hilton ( 1900 – 1954  ) was vague about the actual location of his Shangri-La. Was Zhongdian ( now going so far as to have been renamed Shangri-la”) ? Or Deqin ( Kawagebo, ) ? Or here in Yading? Yading is part of Riwa Town which has been also renamed as Shangril-la Town.

There are many places in China that show many similarities to the fictional Shangri-La – the lamasery, high mountains, inner peace, and long life. Maybe the real Shangri-la only exists in James Hilton’s head.

Then another person came to my mind, Joseph Rock (1884 – 1962), an Austrian-American explorer and botanist. It was said James Hilton’s novel “Lost Horizon” was based on the articles written by Joseph Rock published in the National Geographic magazine in the United States. Sponsored by  the National Geographic, Joseph Rock spent 27 years in China from 1920s to 1940s, making plant collecting expedition across many areas of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

In June, 1928, arranged by the King of Muli, Joseph Rock and his team made an expedition to Daocheng and Yading. Later he wrote:

“In a cloudless sky before me rose the peerless pyramid of Mt.Jambeyang (央迈勇), the finest mountain my eyes ever beheld. The sky was greenish black. The snowy pyramid was grey, but the apexes of both it and Mt.Chenrezig (仙乃日) suddenly turned a golden yellow as the sunrise kissed them.”

So was Yading the real Shangri-la? With the deep thinking uninterrupted by the internet-less night, I was in a trance, as if I had lived in a bucolic village with glacier-fed lakes, limpid brooks and expansive meadows, encirlced by the three sacred  snow-capped mountains – a holy trinity of Mt.Chenrezig (仙乃日6032m), Mt.Jambeyang (央迈勇5959m) and Mt.Chana Dorje (夏洛多吉5958m). Of course, in this earthly paradise, you don’t have to wear an anti-pollution mask against smog (wumai”雾霾).  I fell into sound sleep hoping for a rainless and snowless day the next day.

Early this morning I’m woken up by rapid knocks on my door by Mr. Chen. Last night he and his wife just slept in the room opposite mine. He doesn’t even wait for me to get up and open the door, he shouts outside: “it is going to be a fine day today and last night I saw a stary sky!”.  Mr.Chen is a very positive man, but the weather in the alpine area is always changeable, you know.

Electric Cart Ride from Entrance to Luorong Pasture 
After simple breakfast, taking our personal backpacks, we go down to the roadside shuttle bus stop at Longtong Ba at the elevation of 3700m. Luckily, soon a bus comes with only three seats available, and we get on the bus as a travel group of three. The official entrance to Yading Nature Reserve is located near Chonggu Si at the sea-level of 3900m, about 4km from Longtong Ba; 7km from Yading Village (Long Long Ba) and 41km from Tourist Service Center in Shangri-la Town.

Timetable for the shuttle bus service ( April-October ):
Itinerary:  Shangri-la Town Tourist Center – Long Long Ba (Yading Village) – Longtong Ba – Zhaguanbeng Station
First Bus: 7:20 and last bus: 5:40pm
Itinerary: Zhaguanbeng Station  – Longtong Ba – Long Long Ba (Yading Village) – Shangri-la Town Tourist Center
First Bus: 9:00 and last bus: 7:30pm
Note: Single ride: one and half hours

Getting off at the final station of Zhaguanbeng Station (扎灌崩车站 ),  we still need to walk up on a steep hillside road for about 500m to get to the entrance (aka Zhonggu Si Service Center). On the way, we have to move slowly and watch our steps since the views are marvelous surrounding us. Nothing short of stunning and wonder.

Mt.Chenrezig looks bluish and white covered with snow with its apex lit by morning sunlights. Mt.Chenrezig is highest of the three sacred mountains and it represents Goddess of Mercy. Locals have worshipped the mountains for over 800 years. The 35 kora ( holy hike ) around the highest peak – Chenrezig is much sought after by the local Tibetans.

Mt.Chenrezig

Mt.Chenrezig is highest of the three sacred mountains.

Basically, we have two choices to go from the entrance to Luorong Grassland (6.7km) – by electric cart (half hour) or hike ( 3-4 hour ). We opt for a golf car return ride to Luorong Grassland ( Single: 50 yuan and return: 80 yuan). Free seating, filled up and go. The electric cart runs very fast along the paved mountain road ascending higher and higher. Still in the morning with sunshine covered by clouds and high mountains, we feel bitterly cold on the moving golf car. Fortunately I wear a down jacket and a pair of heavy hiking shoes.

The multi-colored alpine mountains and forests look much pale due to the white frost and leftover snow, making Luorong Pasture less impressive for sightseeing and photography. Luorong Grassland is nestled on a high and flat valley at the foot of Mt.Jambeyang (央迈勇5959m) with expansive meadows. The crystal clear Gongga River winds past the grassland.

Mr.Chen suggest we should not stay long on the otherwise beautiful Luorong Grassland and continue to hike up to Milk Lake (Niunai Lake ). Then return to Luorong Grassland when hopefully it will be sunny and frost and snow will melt away, unveiling the autumn hues of the natural world.

Luorong Grassland1

Luorong Grassland is nestled on a high and flat valley at the foot of Mt.Jambeyang.

Slog up from Luorong Pasture (4180m) to Milk Lake (4600m) 
( 10 km return: 5-6 hour by hike or 3 hour by horse or mule)

Unable to hire a horse or mule (300 yuan for a return trip) at the rental service of Luorong Pasture, we begin to walk up along the mountain road step by step and get to Milk Lake, a 10-km return trip ( about 5 hours ).

The hiking trail is not paved with smooth stones, instead uncut rocks for most areas, making hiking more strenuous. The rugged snow-capped Mt.Jambeyang looms above us, like a sword pointing to the sky, noble and elegant. Joseph Rock said that Jambeyang was the finest mountain he had ever seen.

Mt.Jambeyang

The rugged snow-capped Mt.Jambeyang looms above us.

Walking on the beaten path on the meadow slope that hikers and horses share on leading to Milk Lake and Five-Color Lake. With the white sword Jambeyang high above our left side, we feel its power and strength giving us inner peace and calmness.

Jambeyang high above

The white sword Jambeyang high above our left side

A close-up view of Jambeyang and prayer flags fluttering.

Yangbeyong

A close-up view of Jambeyang with prayer flags fluttering.

We turn around, seeing  a small part of the Luorong Grassland valley down below with majestic views of alpine meadows, forested slope, rocky and snow-capped mountains, white clouds and blue sky.

Yading Nature Reserve

with majestic views of alpine meadows

Hikers and mules use the same trail road. Some segments are just muddy with mixed dirt and poop left by mules and horse. People have to walk on the steep and craggy slope above the road to keep from bogging down.

Yading Trail Road

Hikers and mules use the same trail road.

It is a continuous upward climb. The trail road becomes worse in some areas, just loose gravel and no paved path at all. We have to walk on gingerly.

Yading walking trail

We have to walk on gingerly.

 One section of the trail road (for about 200m) is not for the faint-hearted, very steep with loose scree.Very often you have to use your hands and feet to scramble up to the mountain.

Luorong to Milk Lake hike

Very steep with loose scree and actually no trace of the trail at all

So steep and treacherous, mule riders have to get off, and mules and men climbing separately.

Yading walking trail

Mule riders have to get off  and climb separatly.

Be prepared with medication for emergency and high altitude sickness, regardless of whether you need it. Watch out the possible falling gravel!

Watch out the possible falling gravel

Watch out the possible falling gravel

The strenuous hike is rewarding with the alpine landscape. The dramatic view here reminds you of the Alps, the Rocky Mountains and Dolomites.

Yading Nature Reserve Mountains

The strenuous hike is rewarding with the alpine landscape.

Well geared for the 6-hour hike on the above 4000m altitude – hiking pants & trail jackets; Sport sunglasses; hiking shoes; trekking poles and a light backpack.

hike from Luorong Grassland to Niunai Lake

Well geared for the 6-hour hike on the above 4000m altitude.

We are now walking leisurely on the trail cutting through an open and expansive meadow slope, knowing we are approaching Milk Lake (牛奶海) at 4600m. A group of mule riders coming up and we have to move away and let them to go.

Mule and Horde Ride to Milk Lake

The trail cutting through an open and expansive meadow slope.

The Milk Lake at 4600m (Niunai Lake 牛奶海) is in sight. The lake is perched in the valley of Jambeyang that has a huge gap in between above the lake. Later we find the wind comes through the gap blows the surface of the water and you cannot always see the lake with calm and mirror-like surface.

The Milk Lake at 4600m (Niunai Lake 牛奶海) is in sight

The Milk Lake at 4600m (Niunai Lake 牛奶海) is in sight.

Milk Lake is dark blue with white-colored ring encircling the lake itself, hence the name of Milk Lake. It is an ancient glacier lake. It is said that if you come here in July and August, under the sunshine you will see through the lake with multi-colored vegetation at the bottom, often billed as Seven-Colored Lake.

Milk Lake

Milk Lake is dark blue with white-colored ring.

Milk Lake is set in an environment with the bleak rocky mountain side,s the high mountain scree, the golden meadow and the snow. It looks cool and imposing.

Niunai Lake

Milk Lake is set in an environment with the bleak rocky mountain.

On the windy open meadow surrounding Milk Lake, we randomly choose a place and sit down to grab a lunch. We bring with us biscuits, chocolates, mineral water, sliced dry beef and apples.

We decide to give up the ascent to Five-Colored Lake which takes another one hour return hike. We need to hike down the mountain to Luorong Grassland before it is too late and anyhow getting to Luorong Pasture earlier gives us more opportunity to see the grassland at its best. You know, the weather on alpine mountain areas are just changeable.

Hike back to Luorong Pasture at 4180m
Our descent looks much easier than our previous ascent, with somewhat hiking experience on this particular trail road. The return hike takes us about 2 hours, one hour less than our hike up.

Yading Nature Reserve Views

We are hiking down.

Getting down near Luorong Grassland, we feel lucky that the weather looks not bad with a little piece of blue sky. Luorong Grassland is nestled on a high and flat valley encircled by the three sacred mountains with expansive meadows and surrounding forests.

Yading Marshland

A piece of marshland on Luorong Grassland.

The pasture is dotted with brooks, lakes and the Gongga River cuts through the grassland posting a majestic view.

the Gongga River

The Gongga River cuts through the grassland.

Fluffy golden meadows and multi-colored forested hillsides.

Luorong Pasture

Fluffy golden meadows and multi-colored forested hillsides.

You may see a spatial structure of vegetation on the alpine mountain area here – meadows, coniferous forests and treeline and scree.

Luorong Meadow

a spatial structure of vegetation on the alpine mountain area

Electric Cart Ride Back from Luorang Pasture to Chonggu Si Entrance
After enjoying the views of Luorong Grassland, we line up at the electric cart station going down back to the entrance near Chonggu Temple. We are going to walk 1.5 km from Chonggu Temple to Pearl Lake.  Pear Lake is the best spot to see Mt.Chenrezig and its inverted reflection on the water.

While sitting on the electric cart moving down along the track, on our left side we see people walking down from Luorong Grassland on the boardwalk paralleling our cart track. The 6.7km walk from Luorong Pasture back to the entrance may take about 2-3 hour. It is definitely a sightseeing stroll which allows you to slowly appreciate what you see in the wonderland of Yading. We would choose to walk down on the boardwalk if we had time.

Getting off the electric cart at the entrance,  we see many people standing on the boardwalk by Gongga River and waiting for the shooting of sunset over Mt.Chenrezig and Mt.Chana Dorje .

Yading Boardwalk

People are waiting for shooting sunset over Mt.Chenrezig and Mt.Chana Dorje .

We have to give up the idea of shooting the sunset and head on to Pearl Lake.  It is 1.5 km walk from the entrance to Pearl Lake. On the way, we first come across Chonggu Temple. It is an old and run-down temple with some new buildings nearby. Over the buildings by the side of the temple, we spot the beautiful Mt.Chana Dorje.

Mt.Chana Dorje

Mt.Chana Dorje

The 1.5km walk from Chongu Temple to Pearl Lake is very much tiring for we’ve already done the previous 5 hours’ hike from Luorong Pasture to Milk Lake. The trail is a continuous uphill climb with no flat sections at all. But the trail road is well-maintained with paved logs and stones as well. Finally, we step on one section of a flat timber walkway leading to Pearl Lake. with a backdrop of  Mt.Chenrezig.

Pearl Lake

Finally, we step on a flat timber walkway leading to Pearl Lake

Pearl Lake is not big,  just like a pool fed by the snow water from Mt.Chenrezig. It looks dark blue with shimmering surface, like a huge blue jade lying at the foot of Mt.Chenrezig. The apex of Mt.Chenrezig is shrouded in white clouds.

Chenanriz

The apex of Mt.Chenrezig is shrouded in white clouds.

After a short break, we retrace to Chonggu Temple, then continue to walk to Zhaguanbeng Station (扎灌崩车站 ).  We line up for the shuttle bus bringing us back to the tourist center in Shangri-la Town. It is a 1.5 -hour’s bus ride. On the way back, we have the chance to see the sunset over Mt.Chenrezig and Mt.Chana Dorje.

Getting off at the tourist center at Shangri-la Town and walking to our Highlander,  we start the engine and drive back along S216 to Daocheng for overnight.

Any questions, just drop a line.

Add:
Drive from Daocheng to Yading
Chengdu Tour

Drive from Daocheng to Yading

Wednesday, 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:

Drive from Litang to Daocheng
Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng
Yading Brings you Inner Peace

Chengdu Tour