Archive for the ‘Yunnan Travel’ 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.


Alpine meadow, snow mountain and coniferous forests.



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.


Drive from Litang to Daocheng

Chengdu tour

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery Dwells Your Soul

Monday, November 23rd, 2015
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Around 3:40 pm, 13 October, 2015, we leave the earthly paradise – Pudacuo ( or Potatso 普达措 ), and drive up to the road back to the downtown of Shangri-la and then get to our today’s final stop  – Ganden Sumtseling Monastery (Songzanlin Monastery 噶丹·松赞林寺 in Chinese).

Located only 3 km north of the downtown, Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is not just a monastery, but a large monastic complex that includes several lamaseries, halls, colleges, libraries, separate living quarters for monks and for the high lamas.

“Ganden Sumtseling” literally means ” The monastery is set up in order to fully understand the Teachings of the Buddha and let them to benefit the mass and have the rebirth in Buddhism”. The name was given by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1679 when the monastery was built at the patronage of Kangxi Emperor (r.1662-1722) in Qing Dynasty. It was completed in 1681. Part of the group buildings of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in 1960s and in 1980s it was rebuilt.

Now Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is the largest Buddhist monastery in Yunnan Province, oft-lauded as ” Little Potala Palace”.  It belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelukpa order of the Dalai Lama.

Mr. Chen suggests we don’t enter the huge monastic complex given the time left for the remainder of the day and try to locate a photo spot instead to take pictures of the grandeur holy place and view the monastery in sunset glow.

Parking our vehicle in the parking lot attached to the Tourist Service Center of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery Scenic Area,  we enter the clean and spacious service center. We are requested to purchase an entrance ticket 115 yuan (including the shuttle service from the center to the monastery). Getting on the shuttle bus, Mr. Chen asks the bus driver to drop us off at the lake area instead of the final stop of the monastery. We’ve learned that the lake in front of the monastery offers good photo spots to shoot the monastery from the boardwalk winding over the lake.

After 15-minute bus ride, we disembark the shuttle bus and see a swamp lake south of the shiny and massive group buildings throught the left-side trees and bushes. Very soon we spot a zigzag road down to the lake below. When we come up to the lake, we see a well-maintained boardwalk running over the marsh lake south of the monastic architechures.

While we are walking down to the lake from the roadside mound, the legant and huge buildings of the monastery are clearly presented before us.

the legant and huge buildings of the monastery is clearly presented before us

The legant and huge buildings of the monastery are clearly presented before us

A signboard on a handrail of the boardwalk has a brief introduction to the lake both in Chinese and English. The lake is known as Lamuyangcuo Lake (拉姆央措湖). “Lamuyangcuo”, literally “A Lake for the Soul of Heaven Fairy”,  is a holy place to dwell the soul of the Godess of Bandanlama.

Lamuyangcuo Lake is just in front of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. It is a seasonal and plateau wetland lake fed by springs and surface water. There are some waterfowl on the lake like black-necked cranes, yellow duks and more.

Lamuyangcuo Lake

The boardwalk circles the lake offers a spectacular view of the Monastery.

Walking on the timber walkway, you can easliy find a good spot to view the magnificent group builidngs of the monastery. The main structure built in Tibetan style has a gold-covered copper roof similar to the one at the Potala Monastery in Lhasa.

The buildings of the spectacular Ganden Sumtseling Monastery have stunnng inverted reflections in the water of the holy lake.

The main structure built in Tibetan style

The main structure built in Tibetan style with reflection on the water

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery looks like a castle, a walled complex with group buildings including living quarters for monks and high lamas.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is a walled complex with group buildings

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is a walled complex with group buildings

On the right side of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery are Milk River Wetland and Conggulong Village.

Milk River Wetland and Conggulong Village

Conggulong Village and Milk River Wetland

On our right side, we see two barley racks on the high mound

 On our right side, we see two barley racks on the high mound

On our right side, we see two barley racks on the high mound

This is a piece of happy land where human beings, animals, and nature live in harmony.  Two Tibetan youths posed standing on the boardwalk with the backdrop of the monastery.

human beings, animals, and nature live in harmony.

Two Tibetan youths posed standing on the boardwalk

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is in sunset glow, a tranquil place to dwell your soul.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is in sunset glow

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is in sunset glow

Be sure to be back on the roadside to wait for the last shuttle bus at 7:00 pm and return to the service center.  Any questions,  just drop a line.


Pudacuo is an earthly paradise
Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la
Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng
Chengdu tour

Pudacuo is an earthly paradise

Friday, November 20th, 2015
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Pudacuo ( or Potatso 普达措 ), officially known as Pudacuo National Park, is a surreal unpolluted Tibetan tableland with beautiful woodlands and forests, limpid lakes, lush meadows, and grazing yaks, gnus and all its thriving plants and vegetation and living beings against the backdrop of majestic peaks. It is a soul-recharging place with the great enjoyment of its serenity.

Pudacuo National Park lies about 22 km in the east of the downtown Shangri-la City, Yunnan Province. Shangri-la City is formerly known as Zhongdian which was renamed in 2001 as “Shangri-la” aimed at attracting more tourists,  grabbing the tourists visiting its neighbour – Lijiang.

Shangri-la is a mythical Himalayan utopia, a permanently happy land descriped by James Hilton in his novel Lost Horizon. He probably based his writing on the articles published by National Geographic’s first resident explorer Joseph Rock, who visited Yunnan in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The Utopia Shangri-la is coherent with Tibetans’ concept of Shambhala that describes a realm of harmony between man and nature that is also linked to the Kalachakra (“wheel of time”时轮).

Pudacuo is an earthly paradise that has been preserved and protected by the local Tibetans generations by generations. It is a crystallization of the harmony between man and nature, a small piece of Shangri-la or Shambhala (香巴拉).

So,  the temptation to see Pudacuo is great!  Follow us to have a glimpse of the pure land.

Around 9:00 am, 13 October, 2015,  we get to the tourist service center of Pudacuo National Park, about 22 km in the east of the downtown Shangri-la. Mrs. Chen Ya, in our 3-people team, is formally assigned the job that mainly includes entrance tickets purchasing as well as the searching of the local travel information online or offline.

Not a tourist high season, soon she comes back with three tickets by the side of our white horse in the parking lot. I take a picture of the ticket using my iphone camera. Wow, it is not cheap: entrance fee 138 yuan + shuttle bus fee 120 yuan (Note: The half of the ticket can be used as a post card ).

Pudacuo National Park Entrance Fee

Entrance fee 138 yuan + shuttle bus fee 120 yuan

We enter the tourist service center and line up in front of the entry gate, waiting in turn for swiping the tickets and getting on a shuttle bus parking by the gate. There are still many tourists – some are individual tourists like us and there are more tourists traveling in groups with their tour guides holding guide flags, making the entrance area a bit crowded. The shuttle buses are operated based on free seating, filled up and go.

The Pudacuo National Park mainly comprises three parts – Shudu Lake (属都湖),  Militang Alpine Pasture (弥里塘) and Bita Lake (碧塔海). The eco shuttle buses are scheduled to take us to these three places. At Militang Alpine Pasture, people are only given 10 minutes for shooting and viewing the grandeur grassland while bused on route from Shudu Lake to Bita Lake.

So  you will spend most of your half day trip to Pudacuo on the two scenic spots – Shudu Lake and Bita Lake. It is a 13 km shuttle bus drive from the tourist service center to Shudu Lake. At Shudu Lake,  you can either walk on boardwalks around the lake ( 3.3 km walk ) or you may take a boat cruising on the lake (50 yuan); same with Bita Lake, you can either stroll on well maintained timber walkway around Bita Lake ( 4.4 km ) or take a boat (50 yuan) if you don’t have strong legs or you just want to cruise on the lake. We choose to walk on the both  occasions, a total 7.7 km walk.

Pudacuo Shuttle Bus

It is a 13 km shuttle bus ride from the tourist service center to Shudu Lake

The 13 km bus ride is not dull at all. It is an exciting warm-up exercise before we are bused to Shudu Lake. Lush meadows, grazing yaks, clear streams and undulating hills flash past, unphotographable though I have taken out my camera for several  times, trying to catch the roadside scenery.

Scenic Walk around Shudu Lake 属都湖
Soon a full busload of us arrives at the first stop known as Shudu Lake. “Shudu” literally means “cheese as sturd as a stone” in Tibetan. It is a tectonic lake (构造湖) of geological fault (地质断层) with a high evelation of 3959 meters. Shudu Lake covers an area of 120 hectares with an average depth of 20 meters.

The overall ecological system of Shudu Lake comprises plateau lakes, swamped meadows, primitive dark coniferous forests with varied rare animals and plants resources. Autumn is the best time to view the lake scenery with inverted reflection in water and motley-colors.  Walking a few steps and we see a well-maintained boardwalk winding above the swamped lake, easy for walk and good for the environmental protection of the lake.

Shudu lake boardwalk

A well-maintained boardwalk winds above the swamped lake

Late September and October, the whole lake is hemmed in by a palette of mixed colors like a fairyland on earth. It is the best time to view the multi-colored fall foliage on the surrounding forests with stunning inverted reflections in water.

Shudu Lake

The lake is hemmed in by a palette of mixed colors.

Shudu Lake has great inverted reflections in water, a scene for soul-recharging moments. Every step allows you to have a different angle of enjoying the stunning inverted reflections. Just watch your step while enjoying the views or taking photos.

Shudu Lake

Shudu Lake great inverted reflections in water

It is a mirage and very often it is difficult to tell the white clouds and the mountains upside down reflected in water. This is the primitive beauty of our nature, pure and unpolluted. Human beings should not be just content with a full stomach, we need clean and fresh air, and unpolluted environment.

Shudu Lake Inverted Reflection

It is a mirage!

Soon we face two choices –  walking further along the wooden walkway or taking a boat cruising on the lake. We definitely choose to stroll on the plank road around the lake, a scenic 3.3 km walk. The Shudu Lake boating costs you 50 yuan.

Shudu Lake Dock

Shudu Lake Dock

People are on the north edge of Shudu Lake standing on the suspended timber walk, turning  left for the dock for lake cruising and right for the board walk along the lake. The high wooden walkway provides a good vangtage of have a panoramic view of the lake and its surrounding meadows, trees and hills.

North of Shudu Lake

Wooden walkway provides a good vangtage

Shudu Lake is dotted with swamped yellow meadows given this time of the year.  The golden-colored meadows look like large connected thick mattress and cushions, soft and warm.

Shudu Lake is dotted with swamped yellow meadows

Shudu Lake is dotted with swamped yellow meadows

We are walking on the wooden walkway with our eyes busy in catching views and sights Shudu Lake has to offer. It is an amazing experience walking in the primitive forests by the lake.

Shudu Lake walk

Amazing experience walking in the primitive forests by the lake

The water edge provides spectacular views – fall foliage and inverted reflections in water.  My long-range camera does a very good job making copious pictures of these soul-refreshing moments.

Shudu Lake Fall Foliage

Fall foliage and inverted reflections in water

The water on the edge is dabbled with golden colors by the yellow coniferous forests in autumn. People enjoying the view also become part of it.

Beautiful Shudu Lake

The water on the edge is dabbled with golden colors

Fiery leaves with Spanish moss draped on the branches are a common sight here around the lake. It is said that only in unpolluted areas can such mosses like Spanish moss grow.

Shudu Lake Spanish moss

Fiery Leaves with Spanish moss draped on the branches

Motley-colored alpine trees, white Spanish moss, swamped meadows and the water edge dabbled with mixed colors like a palette, or an oil painting.

Like an oil painting

Like an oil painting

On the other side of the river bank is an expansive pasture dotted with Tibetan summer houses. The local Tibetans are grazing their yaks, sheep and horses, a bucolic and picturesque view!

Tibetans are grazing their yaks, sheep and horses

Tibetans are grazing their yaks, sheep and horses

It is said that if you come here in May and June,  you will be flooded with the  sea of Rhododendrons blooming with bluish violet, yellow and pink colors. They grow around Shudu Lake and Bita Lake as well. Nothing is perfect  and we have to enjoy the autumn hues while leaving the amazing Rhododendrons in our minds. Maybe we’ll return here someday in May or June.

The Shudu Lake scenic walk takes about 2 hours. We feel time is flying quickly especially if you are indulged in doing something. At the end of the 3.3 km Shudu Lake boardwalk is a simple service stop where we are supposed to wait for the eco shuttle bus going to the next sight – Militang Alpine Pasture.

Before going to the next stop, we sit down for lunch on the bench in a corridor of the service building. The service stop offers little choice of food. Fortunately, we have bought something to eat the night before, a good job done by Mrs. Chen Ya. Simply fed and then a short break, we go to the shuttle bus stop waiting in line for the next bus ride to Militang Alpine Pasture.

A Glimpse of Militang Alpine Pasture 弥里塘
Soon we are on a green shuttle bus bringing us to the next stop known as Militang Alpine Pasture. Militang literally means “a long and slim eye-like meadow” which resembles a narrow eye of Buddha. Militang is located midway between Shudu Lake and Bita Lake, 4500 meters long from north to south, and 500 meters wide from east to west with an evelation of 3700 meters.

Pudacuo Shuttle Bus

Shuttle bus bringing us to the next stop known as Militang Alpine Pasture

Miltang has varied landscapes – lush pasture, swamped meadows, meandering brooks. When spring and summer come ( May – September ), Militang looks like a huge green piece of smooth silk dotted with grazing yaks and sheep like pearls falling from the sky. The pasture is peppered with colourful wildflowers from May through September, an amazing spectacle in Pudacuo National Park.

In 15 minutes, we arrive at the viewing platform high above the pasture. Here we are only allowed to stay up to 10 minutes to take a few pictures and a glimpse of the expansive meadow below. We get off the bus, walk onto the viewing platform and quickly scan the legendary grassland below – Grazing yaks and horses,  green and yellow mixed pasture surrounded by dark coniferous forests.

Miltang Pasture

Miltang Pasture


Militang Alpine Pasture

Grazing yaks and horses, green and yellow mixed pasture

Walk around Bita Lake 碧塔海
We are bused to the last stop known as Bita Lake. “Bita” literally means “tufted oak tree leaves” (栎叶成毡). Bita Lake is well known for its ancient evergreen broad-leaves forests. Some of the oak trees (Quercus) along the plank road around Bita Lake boast over hundreds of years with average height over 20 meters. The Bita Lake timber walk is oft-lauded as “Corridor of Oak Trees”.

Again you have two choices 0f either walking around Bita Lake a (4.4km) or paying 50 yuan for a boat ride on the lake. We choose to walk on the plank road skirting the lake.  The flora and fauna here are slightly different from those around Shudu Lake.

Walk around Bita Lake

We choose to walk on the plank road skirting the lake.

Some visitors choose to cruise across the lake over enjoying the surrouding views. Boat ride per person costs 50 yuan.

Bita Lake Cruising

Some visitors choose to cruise across the lake

The Bita Lake wetland is listed as Ramsar Wetland (拉姆萨尔湿地) of international importance. There are three ecological systems on earth – wetlands, lands and seas. Wetlands are known as kidneys of the earth.

The Bita Lake wetland is listed as Ramsar Wetland

The Bita Lake wetland is listed as Ramsar Wetland

Walking on the plank road meandering the ancient forests by the lake, you are often welcomed by hospitable squirrels jumping in front of you requesting for food, spoiled? They are not afraid of visitors at all.

Bita Lake squirrels

Bita Lake squirrels

Even ultramarine flycatchers or the white-browed blue flycatchers (白眉蓝姬鹟) will fly to a trash bin looking for food showing little fear if someone is passing  by.

ultramarine flycatcher

An ultramarine flycatcher

You will also see a kind of small and active bird known as northern Lapwing ( Vanellus vanellus 凤头麦鸡).  Of course, Pudacuo is most famous for its black-necked cranes, but today we see none of them.

northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing

Ancient forests and golden meadows dotted with grazing horses, tranquil and serene, the harmony of nature.

Bita Lake Meadow

Ancient forests and golden meadows dotted with grazing horses

At 3:00 pm we find ourselves at the end of the Bita Lake plank road close to the north gate where our vehicle is parked. So  the visit to Pudacuo National Park takes us 6 hours. Before we leave the park, we turn around and again have a look at the magical lake.

Bita lake

Bita Lake

Any questions on Pudacuo National Park or how to get to Pudacuo Park by public bus, just drop a line.

Lijiang Yunnan Tour
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery Dwells Your Soul

Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la
Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng