Archive for the ‘Daocheng’ Category

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

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

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

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

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

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

yak Hot pot

Yak Hot Pot in Dukezong Old Town

Before the hot-pot was ready, I stood up and walked around the restaurant. It was a fascinating restaurant with some of wall areas and pillars posted with small pieces of paper by diners who had written down their hopes, work, love and futures for life.

The diners inside the house were all travelers who had came far away from their home towns like us, drinking like fish and talking loudly. It was raucous, but a feel like home. It was a wonderful experience leaving your residential place and traveling around the world periodically.

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

The yak hot pot Dukezong

The yak hot pot was a bonus

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

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

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

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

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

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

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

Shangri-la - Daocheng road

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

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

Daocheng

Alpine meadow, snow mountain and coniferous forests.

 

Xiangcheng

A wide and open valley dotted with white Tibetan houses

 

Barley Fields with barley racks and straw stacks

Barley Fields with barley racks and straw stacks

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

Add-on:

Drive from Litang to Daocheng

Chengdu tour

Drive from Litang to Daocheng

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
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At noon, 10 October, 2015, we grab some lunch at a raucous Sichuan restaurant in Litang Town (理塘). The roadside restaurant is swarm with dinners who are just like us, mostly using Litang as  a jump-off point to further go south ( Daocheng  稻城 or Yading), west ( Tibet ) or east ( Kangding or Chengdu ).

Drive from Litang to Daocheng

Drive from Litang to Daocheng

We understand that there are plenty to see and do around Litang itself at 4014 meters, one of the highest settlements in the world including Chode Gompa and hiking trails on the nearby mountains. It is also the birthplace of holy men including the Seventh and 10th Dalai Lamas.

The high altitude town can leave new arrivals vulnerable to altitude sickness and bad sunburn. We have hung around at 2000 – 4000 meters for almost 3 days, which has allowed us to acclimatize to the plateau environments. If taking a flight from Chengdu to Daocheng, people need a couple of days to acclimatise when they arrive.

Litang Town has one main street with a strip of joints, restaurants, stores and travel-related business outlets. The old part of the town is packed with identikit Tibetan houses with a backdrop of high mountains. Tourism has been growing fast here in the town. Eating at a restaurant is not cheap. There is much room for improvement both in terms of food and service here.

The Highway S217 runs from Litang 理塘 to Daocheng 稻城 (148km), which is further stretched to Yading (115km 亚丁). Tonight we are going to stay overnight in Daocheng.  S217 is a provincial level  highway which is said to have been built according to the Second-Class Highway Standard with speed limit at 60 km /h. The highway was completed on 24 September, 2014.

Litang - Daocheng S217

Litang – Daocheng S217

Though a dull overcast afternoon, we feel much lucky to drive along the newly built highway, a wide and flat asphalt road.  The 148km drive can be billed as “Sightseeing Drive” or “Scenic Drive”,  one of our highlight self-drive sections of the total length of 0ver 6000km we will cover eventually.

We are really amazed at the high quality highway, especially the 121 km long road from Litang to Sangdui (桑堆) , which is situated all above 4200-meter elevation.

Most of the 4200 meter elevation highway is still covered by white snow.  We even encounter snowing on the road over the valleys of the passing-by high mountains.

Tuershan Mountain

Rabbit Mountain (兔儿山) 4696 meters

When we go over Rabbit Mountain (兔儿山) at the elevation of 4696 meters, we slope down and gradually find the valley is covered with motley colours – yellow meadows, autumn leaves and green pine trees.

The valley is covered with motley colours

The valley is covered with motley colours

Grazing Yaks on the meadows at the foot of the undulating alpine mountains flanking the highway.

Grazing Yaks

Grazing Yaks

The vermilion Buddhist Monastery, the undulating mountains, yellow poplar trees and dry riverbeds, a picturesque view!

A breathless view!

A breathless view!

We stop and  park at the viewing platform,  an elevated sightseeing platform by the riverside of Wuliang River (无量河).

Wuliang River is one of the tributaries of Yalong River (Yalongjiang) with a total length of 516 km. The surrounding views leave us breathless.

Wuliang River

Views around Wuliang River

The expansive grassland is dotted with Tibetan houses at the foot of the undulating alpine mountains with yellow meadows.

Tibetan houses

Tibetan houses at the foot of the undulating alpine mountains

We are passing through Sangdui Town ( 桑堆镇), a  small town, about 28km north of Daocheng. Sangdui Town is located in a fork road – to Litang on the north; Daocheng on the south and Xiangcheng (乡城) on the west, which is connected to Shangri-la City in Yunnan Province.

Sangdui Town

We are passing through Sangdui Town

The Tibetan girl from Sangdui Town standing in rain.

The Tibetan girl from Sangdui Town

The Tibetan girl from Sangdui Town

Driving on for about 10 km south of Sangdui Town,  on our left side of the road we find the well-known scenic spot – “Red Grass Field”. It is a very special land grown with reddish grass,  surrounded by Tibetan houses and dotted with poplar trees, a spectacular photogenic spot.

Sangdui Red Grass Field

Sangdui Red Grass Field

We get to Daoheng (稻城) around 5:30 pm. There are plenty of hotel choices due to the shoulder season. It doesn’t take long before we locate a nice hotel with a decent price.

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

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