Waking up to the sound of the motel owner yelling through the door “Are you still here?”, we quickly scrambled to wash up and pack our things. The town of Mangkang had little to offer in terms of tourism, but was a fork in the road for people entering/exiting Tibet, as eastward you would continue to Sichuan, while southward you’d be heading towards Yunnan.
By the time we ate lunch, we’ve already missed the bus to Deqen by 6 hours. There was actually only ONE southbound road, and we figured we’ll just have to hitchhike our way down. Starting at about 1pm, we waited at the side of the road hoping someone would pick us up. Truck drivers were nice and usually slowed down to explain to us why they can’t pick us up (i.e. Stopping at the garbage grounds up ahead, not enough room) while every car would just bypass us. And after talking to so many people, we thought hitchhiking in/out of Tibet was easy!!
Finally, after 1.5hrs of standing on the side of the road, a vehicle stopped!! It was a bus…haha.. and we paid our fare to get on. And this bus doesn’t even go to Deqen, it goes halfway to Salt Well, where literally, was a place Tibetans harvested salt. Cool!
Despite being on 1 of only 5 common roads leading into Tibet, Salt Well does not have the common ‘truck stop’ feel to it. In fact, it was a small yet thriving community with very little tourists. Historically, any place that can harvest salt creates a lot of wealth as it is a much needed necessity used by everyone. This place, in addition to having salt, was one lush piece of land. Behind the main city streets were farm fields, and fruits were ripening in front of yards. We even saw an old lady milk a moo cow (while the baby cow strolled nearby looking very hungry…) on the streets! Haha.
The geography of this place is very neat. With a river dividing two villages, the village we stayed in harvested white salt, while the village across the river harvested red salt!! Unfortunately, by the time we realized we should actually buy some of this red salt, everywhere was closed…. Going to Salt Well and not buying salt seems like a rather stupid thing to do as a tourist… dammit. The town though was definitely very comfortable, with an indescribable aura of coziness to it. People just seemed happy, and the pace of life rather relaxed.
We ended up at a restaurant, drinking our last cup of Tibetan milk tea (as we would leave Tibet and arrive in Yunnan province shortly). Something was going on at that place, as a group of 15 or so local villagers (all woman) were consoling this rather sad looking woman. Me thinks something sad must’ve happened, and all her friends are trying to drown her sorrows away with about 12 bottles of wine and a couple cases of beer. Shit, they can really drink. We just sat there sipping our tea as they drank and danced away in front of our eyes. If they were any younger/prettier, we would’ve been charged for all this =P
After sobering up, they started dinner. At Salt Well, they have their own type of noodle, which roughly translates to “Add-Add Noodles”. At first we were sort of confused, but quickly found out why when they served us noodles as well. The noodles came in bite-sized portions, and the servers would walking around and “add” another bite-size portion to your bowl. It was neat, but the noodles themselves weren’t too great….it could’ve used a little more salt..haha, despite being ironic we really mean it!
PS – National Holiday of China is October 1st, and the citizens have 7days of vacation! Good for them, bad for being a tourist as there was an estimated 400million trips taken on road/ferry throughout this week. That does NOT include flights… not even sure how to make use of that number..