Archive for the ‘Chengdu Travel’ 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 Batang to Mangkang

Friday, November 13th, 2015
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Around 3:45 pm after a brief break at the filling station in Batang (巴塘), we again start up our trip along G318 west for our next destination – Mangkang (芒康 ) in Tibet. Mangkang is also known as Markham or Karkam in Tibet, a county under the administration of Qamdo City (昌都) in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Mangkang is located amid the border areas of the three provinces including Sichuan, Tibet and Yunnan. It is adjacent to Batang County in Sichuan on the east and Deqin County in Yunnan on the south. Both the National Highway G318 and G214 run through Mangkang County. It is an important stepping stone to enter the three connected provinces.

It is a 110 km drive from Batang to Mangkang (Karkam). The first 35km drive is easy and uneventful when we pass through Zhubalong Township ( 竹巴龙乡) which is the west tip of Batang County along G318. Zhubalong Township in Batang abuts Zhubalong Township (朱巴龙乡), the east tip of Mangkang (Karkam). The two townships have the same Chinese pinyin ( romanization of Chinese), but with different Chinese characters.

Drive from Batang to Mangkang

Drive from Batang to Mangkang

Passing through Zhubalong Township in Batang, we soon go across Jinsha River Bridge (金沙江大桥) which divides the two townships – Zhubalong Township ( 竹巴龙乡) in Batang and Zhubalong Township (朱巴龙乡) in Mangkang (Karkam).

Jinshan River (金沙江) is largely the dividing borderline between Sichuan and Tibet. We stop at the middle of Jinsha River Bridge, straddling the the two provinces ( Sichuan and Tibet ) while snapping a photo of the borderline sign attached to the bridge cememt handrail.

Tibet Borderline Sign

Tibet Borderline Sign standing in the middle of Jinsha River Bridge

Driving across Jinsha River Bridge (金沙江大桥),  we run into the area of  Zhubalong Township (朱巴龙乡) in Mangkang (Karkam), Tibet. Soon we have to stop at the security checkpoint set up by the local Zhubalong Public Security Bureau.

Mr.Chen and I leave our vehicle in the waiting line and go out to the roadside office windows, taking all the personal travel documents with us – ID card, or passport and driving licences and the vehicle certificate. We see policemen with their weapon resting lazily slung over their shoulders.

Zhubalong Poliemen

Policemen with their weapon resting lazily slung over their shoulders

At the checkpoint, we are offered a speed limit ticket which requests us to drive within two hours to cover the 71 km distance ahead between Zhubalong Township and the downtown of Mangkang. So we have to limit our drive within 2 hours before we get to Mangkang, just 75km away.

We much keep the ticket till the policemen at the checkpoint in Mangkang collect and check it. Why two hours for the 75 km? So slow, like a slow moving snail. The ticket says the road ahead is full of risks with possible falling stones and the fact that some sections are in the state of disrepair.

a speed limit ticket

Zhubalong – Mangkang speed limit ticket

The 71-km G318 Highway from Zhubalong Township to the downtown of Mangkang has complicated geographical conditions. The road is often collapsed in rainy season. The roadside river sometimes encroaches the road. In some areas, the road sinks,  bumpy and muddy.

The most dangerous thing is the falling stones, blocking the road with a potential risk of harming the people on the way. On route, for several times we have to stop  and clear the fallen stones on the road ahead. Sometimes we have to gingerly drive along the cliff swept with the scree.

Zhulongba Mangkang Highway

Clear the fallen stones on the road ahead

The road clings to the sheer cliffs, often with turns and curves, and we have to drive slowly and carefully to avoid colliding with coming vehicles.

Batang Mangkang Road

The road clings to the sheer cliffs

Some sections of the highway are just in a  state of disrepair, muddy, rutted and without any handrails.

Batang Mangkang Road

Some sections of the highway are just in a state of disrepair

Two hours late, around 5:50 pm, we get to the No.01 Checkpoint in the downtown of Mangkang (Karkam). We again have to stop and have our personal ID cards checked and then continue our trip, and this time we get off the National Highway G318 and turn south and drive along the National Highway G214.

The sun is setting  and we have to hurry up to catch the time lost on the speed limit road just passed.

Any questions on the drive from Batang to Mangkang, just drop a line.

Add-on:
Drive from Litang to Batang
Drive from Mangkang to Deqin

Drive from Litang to Batang

Thursday, November 12th, 2015
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Today is 11 October, 2015. Last night we arrived at Daocheng (稻城) safe and sound, but in pretty low spirits, seeing through the hotel room windows it was snowing outside, wet and chilly. While dining at the canteen in our lodging hotel, one of the staff members told us that there had been a fairly big snow the day before and there would be more snow in the coming days. And this year’s weather was rather unusual, she added.

At the suggestion of her wife, Mr. Chen said that he would like to adjust our original plan, considering to postpone our visit of Yading Nature Reserve (亚丁风景区) for 15 October (Thursday), 2015. The weatherman said that it would snow on all three consecutive days which would make it difficult to hike the trails in Yading and enjoy the otherwise multi-colored mountains. Yes, we do have a general travel plan for our 20 some days self-drive trip. But we are not the sort of an overplanner who applies excessive schedule pressure. We are open to any ideas that would maximize our time.

Our final decision is to leave Daocheng today and go back to Litang ( 148 km 理塘) instead of Yading ( 亚丁); from Litang, we drive west along the National Highway G318 to Batang ( 177 km 巴塘), Zhubalong (35 km 竹巴笼), Mangkang in Tibet (75 km 芒康); then get off the National Highway No.318 at Mangkang and turn south along the National Highway No.214 and get to our today’ last destination – Feilaisi at Deqin (216 km  德钦飞来寺), a total driving length of 651 km for today.  In Feilaisi, we are scheduled to stay overnight and see Kawa Garbo Peak, or Kawagebo Peak (卡瓦格博峰) if luck follows us tomorrow.

Then we plan to go further south along the National Highway No.214 and get to Shangri-la (200 km ) where we are going to stay for two nights. After Shangri-la,  we will return to Daocheng ( 421 km 稻城) via Xiangcheng (乡城) on 14 October and visit Yading Nature Reserve on 15 October, 2015.

This is a loop trip with a total length of 1272 km from Daocheng and back to Daocheng. It is our first time to travel on the overland loop like this. We like to have our self-drive to to be the sort of off the cuff and we three are all delighted with our adjusted loop travel plan. Self-drive gives us much flexibility though we understand driving is stressful.

At 8:30 am, 11 October,2015, we leave the downtown of Daocheng (稻城). Daocheng is located at an altitude of 3700 meters. There seems not much to do in the town. It does offer a good stepping stone for coming either from Litang or Shangri-la in Yunnan and continuing their trip to Yading Nature Reserve. It turns out we come visit Daocheng Town totally for three times on our self-drive trip.

Daocheng

We leave the downtown of Daocheng

We retrace along the provincial road S217 from Daocheng to Litang, again a scenic drive with stunning views. We don’t stop on route due to the tight schedule with  a bucolic panorama fleeting by from both sides our vehicle of rolling hills, grazing yaks and Tibetan houses.

We get back to Litang Town around 11:30 am and take a picture of its West Gate, a huge symbolic west entrance to Litang Town, known as “World High Town”.

Litang West Gate

Litang West Gate

At Litang, we again get onto the National Highway G318 and turn west for our 177 km overland trip to Batang (巴塘).

Drive from Litang to Batang along G38

Drive from Litang to Batang along G38

Batang is the county in the west of Ganzi Tibet Autonomous Prefecture with its seat at Xiaqiong Town (夏邛镇). It borders with Mangkang (芒康) in Tibet on the west with their border line following the north-south Jinsha River (金沙江).  The road condition looks good, a wide and flat asphalt road.

G318 from Litang to Batang

G318 from Litang to Batang

It is a sightseeing drive from Litang to Batang. About 30 km out of Litang Town, we soon see the well-known Maoya Grassland (毛垭大草原), golden color in autumn unfurled before us. The tableland plains are hemmed in by the high mountains in four sides with a fall of over 1000 meters.

 Maoya Grassland

Maoya Grassland

Maoya Grassland is fed by the surrounding snow-capped mountains, though not as big as Hulunbuir Grassland and Xilingol grassland in Inner Mongolia, it has a unique dimensional beauty of being connected to green mountains, high snow-shrouded peaks, white clouds and azure sky.

Maoya Grassland is fed by the surrounding snow-capped mountains

Maoya Grassland is fed by the surrounding snow-capped mountains

At the west end of Maoya Grassland,  we find ourselves driving upwards, knowing we are approaching Haizi Mountain (海子山) with average elevation of 4500 meters. “Haizi” literally means”lakes”.

It is said that there are totally 1145 lakes in Haizi Mountain and its density of lakes is very much unique in China. When we are driving through Haizi Mountain, it is snowing with all the mountain areas on the top blanketed by white snow.

Haizi Mountain Pass

Haizi Mountain Pass at 4685 meters

Haizi Mountain Nature Reserve is a Sichuan provincial level reserve. The reserve has a lunar landscape without any trees and lakes, and even little bushes and wild grasses. All kinds of gravels and rocks and lakes are only what you can see here, the largest ancient ice relic on Qinghai-Tibet Plateaua, known as “Daocheng Ancient Ice Cap” 稻城海子山古冰帽.

Going over Haizi Mountain Pass, we see a viewing platform on the left side of the National Highway G318,  a good place to stop to grab a bite for our lunch. To our pleasant surprise, below the platform and in a distant, there are two mirror-like lakes known as the Haizi Mountain Sister Lakes (海子山姊妹湖) according to the roadside signboard. The two lakes sitting side by side, blue and limpid, are fed by the snow mountains.

Haizi Mountain Sister Lakes

Haizi Mountain Sister Lakes

The Haizi Mountain Sister Lakes are located in the middle way between Litang and Batang. Batang Town is still about 81 km west from the viewing platform. Batang is the county in the west of Ganzi Tibet Autonomous Prefecture with its seat at Xiaqiong Town (夏邛镇).

We get to the gas station by G318 in Xiaqiong Town ( the downtown area of Batang County ) around 3:30 pm. After a brief break at the filling station, we again start up our trip along G318 west for our next destination – Mangkang in Tibet (芒康).

Any questions on the drive from Litang to Batang, just drop a line.

Add-on:
Drive from Litang to Daocheng
Drive from Yajiang to Litang
Chengdu tour