Archive for the ‘Daocheng’ Category

Drive from Daocheng to Yading

Thursday, September 6th, 2018
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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 enjoyed the freedom with the helpful GPS 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 roadside 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 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 ( not Shangri-la in Yunnan Province ) 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 controlling 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 roadside stream and walking up to the temple-turned inn. It starts to rain outside. We spend the afternoon in the simple and rickety inn, praying for the fine weather for tomorrow.

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


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

Chengdu Tour

Yading Brings You Inner Peace

Thursday, September 6th, 2018
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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 from 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 real place of his Shangri-La. Was Zhongdian ( now going so far as to have been rechristened as 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 multiple 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 wireless night, I was in a trance, as if I had lived in a bucolic village with glacier-fed lakes, limpid brooks and expansive meadows, encircled 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 (洛绒牛场)
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 last station of Zhaguanbeng Station (扎灌崩车站 ),  we still need to walk up on a steep hillside road for about 500 m 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 worshiped 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 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) 洛绒牛场 – 牛奶海
( 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.

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.

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 separately.

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, 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 (洛绒牛场)
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 (冲古寺大门)
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 (仙乃日6032m) and Mt.Chana Dorje (夏洛多吉5958m) .

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 (仙乃日6032m) .

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 (仙乃日6032m). The apex of Mt.Chenrezig is shrouded in white clouds.

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.

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

Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby featherYesterday 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 camera 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 thick grey clouds which resemble a huge canopy cutting off the beautiful morning side lights. Mr. Chen came up to me 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 famous 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.


Drive from Xinduqiao to Yajiang

Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao

Chengdu Tour