Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

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.


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Ya’an Night View
Most Beautiful Sky Road in China
Moxi Old Town ( Tips, Photos & Map)
Hailuogou Glacier Camp No.04 (Tips,Photos & Map)
Hailuogou Glacier Camp No.03 (Tips, Photos & Map)
Kangding (Tips, Photos & Map)
Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao
Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba
Jiarong Tibetan Blockhouses
Jiarong Tibetan Ancient Watchtowers
Drive from Xinduqiao to Yajiang
Drive from Yajiang to Litang
Drive from Litang to Daocheng
Drive from Litang to Batang
Drive from Batang to Mangkang
Drive from Mangkang to Deqin
Kawagarbo Viewed from Feilaisi
Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la (Zhongdian)
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Pudacuo is an earthly paradise
Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng
Drive from Daocheng to Yading
Yading Brings You Inner Peace

Hassle-free Chengdu & Sichuan Guided Tours

If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours, here are some options for Chengdu and Sichuan guided tours:

Chengdu tour
Chengdu Car Rental with Driver
Create My Chengdu Trip
Jiuzhaigou Tour
Sichuan Tour

Further Readings

Top 10 Attractions in Chengdu
Best Time to Visit Chengdu
Chengdu Airport
Railway stations in Chengdu
Chengdu Taxi
How to visit Wuhou Shrine
How to visit Du Fu Thatched Cottage
How to visit Jinsha Site Museum
How to Visit Tomb of Wangjian
How to Visit Wangjiang Tower Park
How to Visit Qingyang Taoist Temple
How to Visit Jinli Street
How to visit Kuan Alley and Zhai Alley
How to visit Qintai Road, Qintai Street Chengdu
How to visit Shaoling Road Bar Street
How to Visit Jiuyanqiao Bar Street
The Old Teahouse in Pengzhen Town, Chengdu

Bipenggou is a fairyland in Autumn
When is the best time to visit Jiuzhaigou?
Best Places to Visit Autumn Leaves in Sichuan
Top 10 Places to Visit in Sichuan
Ruoergai Grassland, my first trip to Ruoergai Grassland

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