Day 58: Ma’erkang (马尔康) – August 14

Walking across the street to the Tibetan Chieftain’s ‘castle’, we were welcomed by a fire truck hosing off the street. A bit confused, we asked what the heck they were doing, and apparently a gov’t official is coming later in the day.

The chieftain’s mansion was pretty cool, built over 5 stories tall. The chieftain was a way of different dynasties to ‘control’ the local tribes by electing a local leader, and it started during the Yuan dynasty, spanning 17 generations until the current govt pwnt them. We recommend anyone that’s interested to read the book, “尘埃落定”, written by 阿来 – son of the last chieftain. One interesting thing though, is that the chieftain’s bedroom is actually smaller than his jewelry collection room. Does anyone else find that strange?

The area is pretty neat, as it is built along a river (梭磨河). We took a cross-city bus to another side of the town to see some of the remants of the chieftain’s watchtowers. It was pretty impressive as those watchtowers were well over 15 stories high but built with ROCKS. All buildings here are built with rocks, rocks that come in all different shapes and forms but somehow still manage to be sturdy enough to withstand the elements + earthquakes. The actual building itself though is located within a village, and it blends in just like any other part of the village, except it is 10x taller. When we were exploring the watchtowers, two boys once again came up and asked us to pay $1 RMB for ‘admissions’. They then took us around their little village, and they ended up with some ice cream for their efforts! One side story: the boys told us their grandpa was once a soldier. After he got injured, he retired from army and went to be a monk in Rangtang (壤塘) and leaving the grandma in the house by her own!!!

We headed back into town, and despite having a tiny population of 50k, they have a lot of modern creature comforts like a movie theatre and a coffee shop! We also found a good little cafe with egg tarts, fresh baked bread and really good fried chicken! So we spent the afternoon eating fried chicken, drinking coffee before catching the new Tony Leung/Zhou Xun movie 听风者.

Not sure what it is, but on our way back to our hotel, every 150m there was 2 police cars standing by. I’m really not sure if I should feel safer this way, or if it means its getting dangerous!?!?!

Hotel Story: The place we’re staying at is owned by a local couple. We were walking around looking for a hotel when she hailed us over out of nowhere. We were approached by at least 8 different people asking if we needed a hotel, and we went with each of them only to be led into some shady little corner spot. To depict what it looks like, it reminded me of those really ghetto back-alleys of Mongkok in Hong Kong, and where 古惑仔 would 劈友 downstairs, and the owner would calmly eat dinner like nothing would happen. Strange enough, the one lady took us up this random building and it turns out to be a very clean, well run place where we’re staying now! Lucky!

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