The village itself is just like any recently renovated Chinese village, with a main street full of shops, KTV, bars and Sichuan cuisine. The coolest part about this village was that, it had a temple dedicated to the Princess Bhrikuti Devi back in 650CE, well over 1400 years ago!
Historical Note: One of the most powerful Tibetan ruler, Songtsan Gampo (棄宗弄贊), had two wives. One was the famous Wencheng Princess (文成公主) of the Tang dynasty, while the other was Princess Bhrikuti Devi of Nepal. One of his most important contributions to Tibetan history, is the fact that he introduced Buddhism into Tibet, and also invented the written Tibetan language as we know of today. Skills.
The temple, built in Nepalese style of architecture, definitely stood out even amongst monasteries. The coolest part though, is that there are TWO temples in this village that was built for the Princess’s arrival. The other temple is situated deep into the woods through several villages in a little place called Jeep Village (XXX)..hehe excuse the translation. The locals call this place, Heaven’s Valley, and we were quick to understand why. Crossing a suspension bridge towering 270m over the ravine below, we entered the village and were astonished by the lush environment it was in. Every household has a massive field, growing corn, apples, pears, some red droopy vegetable we’ve never seen, wheat. It felt like we were in a sweet piece of farmland, NOT in Tibet at all!
The landscape is really awesome, as the farmlands are all situated on the ledge of a mountain, and you can see across the valley to the next mountains where numerous other villages have their grain fields. With the clouds settling between the valleys, it really felt like a 人间仙境.
Hiking through the village for about an hour, we finally arrived at the second temple. The temple itself is not overwhelming, but we felt like archaeologists walking back into the steps of time. On our way in, we met this local villager who was on his way out. We tried to strike up a conversation, but he didn’t really understand Mandarin so we both went our separate ways. We walked about 10 steps away before he called us back to hand over to us a set of keys! Dunno, at that moment we felt this unabolished sense of trust, having the “key to the kingdom” in our hands.
The steps leading the way into the second temple is in its original form (1400+years ago!), and the temple itself is housed underneath a massive schism in the side of a mountain. When we got to the temple, unfortunately, renovations are already under way and a fresh layer of paint has been applied to most of the temple inside and out. We paid our respects, and were on our way out. One of the folklore we heard was that, the reason this village is called Jeep Village, is that this means a place of departure. Back then, it was told that the Nepalese caravan stopped here and Princess Devi dismounted her elephant and were transferred to the hands of the Tibetan entourage. Cool!
That was the end of the day, as we spent the remainder driving into the city of Saga. The city, which is situated right off the banks of Yarlung Tsangpo river, one of the most important rivers in all of Tibet which flows all the way into India!