Posts Tagged With: Tibet

Day 106: Salt Well (盐井) – October 1st

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!! Continue reading

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Day 105: Bus/Mangkang (芒康) – September 30th

This day was not a good day. Again.

Waking up to the sound of a rattling bus engine, it was 5am and we were barely conscious. The rest was short and we’re now back on the dirt road winding, with our backs aching at every bump as we’ve been cramped on this piece of shit for 18hours.

Fast forward to 1pm, we arrived at a ‘truck stop’ town for lunch. The town was a brisk 4-6hrs away, so we were eating as quick as we can, thinking we can get there before dinner. Everybody had the same feeling, and were eating at a lightning speed. Problem was, when everyone was done, the drivers were still waiting for their dishes and taking their sweet time. One of the travelers barked “Maybe we should speed things up”, and the driver casually waved him off saying “You can’t rush a meal.”. So about 20 people were waiting for about 1hr as the drivers went on feasting on their freshly cooked dishes (while everyone else had pre-cooked dishes or noodles to save time). We finally departed at 2pm! Yayyy, back on the road and back to our cramped bed…. Continue reading

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Day 104: Bus (巴士) – September 29th

This day was not a good day.

The bus terminal was closed by the time we arrived the previous day, and we had NO clue what time the bus would leave Linzhi to our next destination of Mangkang. Some people said 8am, some people said 7am. So just to be safe, the bus terminal opens at 7am and we got there right when it opened. Once we asked about the bus to Mangkang, we found out it leaves at 11am! So we idled around until the bus was ready.

The bus was a sleeper-bus headed to Chongqing for a 4-day journey, and we were expected to arrive tomorrow afternoon. Being a sleeper, there were no seats but just many ‘beds’, we’ve sat in these before but in Vietnam, and we have to say the one in Vietnam was much cleaner and better… Each ‘bed/seat’ was provided a blanket and a pillow, but the cotton that covered the brownish looking blanket looked tattered and musty. We looked to the sides and couldn’t help but notice the newer, cleaner and comfier looking buses that dotted the parking lot and figured how we managed to be lucky enough to get on the shittiest one… Continue reading

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Day 103: Linzhi (林芝) – September 28th

We’re leaving Tibet and heading south-east to the province of Yunnan. Problem is, Kunming (our last Chinese destination) is about 2200km away and being very close to the National Holiday where citizens get about a week off in China, the number of tourists increased exponentially. On our way, we plan on stopping over at Shangri-la, Lijiang and Dali before finally arriving at Kunming.

Originally, there was a bus straight to Shangri-la, but the problem was that the buses from Lhasa for the next 3 days were already sold out!! So, our only option was to take the bus one stop at a time (since there’s only one road between Lhasa and Shangri-la), and our first stop would be Linzhi (aka Bayi or “Eight-One”, literally named after August 1st…haha strange), the supposed “lush valley and flowing rivers” region of Tibet. Considering the sparse vegetation and high altitude of other areas of Tibet, this could be easily understood since Linzhi has a much lower altitude and is situated close to the Yarlung river.

On the 8hr bus ride, we were once again blessed with Jacky Chan and his high-flying ways. Once he was done, the next movie was….. Aftershock (唐山大地震)…. okay? It was a great movie but not wanting to cry our eyes out, we got the driver to switch to music. The driver has some good taste in music, playing a good mix of old music remixed with a techno-background and some Tibetan songs.

Getting into town, it was pretty late and there wasn’t much to see. The town itself is situated in some pretty nice land with good views of the surrounding mountains, but like most other towns in Tibet its rather new and uninteresting. The best part about this place though….is that we found a congee place! At first we were a bit skeptical, but our desire of not wanting to eat Sichuan food overwhelmed everything and we risked our chances and were extremely happy we did!!! Yeahhhh. 

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Day 102: Lhasa (拉萨) – September 27th

Returning to Lhasa again, we had a few errands to run. Most importantly, we had to pick up our laptop charger! The worst part about not having a connected device is that, you don’t have the option of looking up any useful information while traveling (GPS, phone numbers etc), or to resolve arguments amongst ourselves (i.e. which was the world’s largest empire in history, what is the capital of Switzerland etc).

With charger in hand, we proceeded to get a much needed haircut as it’s been bad-hair-day for well over a week already. Walking into the local streets of Lhasa and finding a barber, Alan got a wash and cut for a whopping $15RMB, or the price of a small fries at McDs back home. And before we said farewell to Lhasa, we sat down for a few more cups of delicious milk tea and took some night shots of the majestic Potala Palace….

Farewell Lhasa…. It’s been nice to see you, but now we won’t have to deal with boatloads of tourists, artistic youth vending Nepalese wares on the street and over-privileged 20-somethings with an early-life crisis. We did meet some great people along the way, but we were just extremely lucky!

Tibet

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Day 101: Zedang (泽当) – September 26th

Waking up as early as possible, we wanted to see if we can get up onto the mountain tops where the ‘viewing platform’ is for you to see the Oracle Lake’s miraculous powers. This is the lake where high-lamas go for signs of the next Dalai Lama or other reincarnations of other high-lamas.

For commoners, it is purported we can see our past, present and future life….amazing!

When we got to the ticket-stop, we were told that there road to the mountain top is closed due to construction, and are only able to go down to the lake side. Nooo! Not content at the situation, we ignored the authorities like any respectable Chinese person, and still drove up into the mountains hehehe… On our way up, the roads were totally fine, thanks to the massive amounts of construction crews living in tents. Workers just woke up and haven’t really started working, so we whizzed past all of them before we hit the parking lot to the viewing platform.

It was short climb up to the top with stairs, and after a brisk 20minute climb we finally made it to the top. The funny thing was, our Tibetan driver wanted to come up with us, but he put his heritage to shame as he barely made it half way by the time we were at the top, and we can see him huffing and puffing down below…hehe

The beautiful part about the road closures is that we had the whole mountain top to ourselves! We’ll pay for it later, but that’s a different story. From our perspective at the mountain top, the lake was situated at the opposite end of a valley, compact and neatly shaped. The water itself was calm, unlike that of a reflection pond with a glacier towering behind it….but size isn’t what’s important here, it’s how you use it.

The Visions of Oracle Lake

Alan: A volcano emerged shortly after witnessing the lake. In my mind, this was to be Mount Vesuvius, reinforcing my notion that I was Roman/Italian in my prior life resulting in my interest in their architecture/food/arts. Sitting idly next to the volcano was a princess with long hair, and a vision of a wise old man with a crown appeared above her. Like a Etch-N-Sketch board, the whole image changed with a moment’s notice as the view now turned into a young man, resembling a prince, standing tall in an athletic stance. Another moment passed, another change, and this time it was a chef, walking briskly whilst holding high a platter of food. And the very last vision was that of a beach, with a very young girl happily chasing after a ball.

Jiajia: A lobster ( ha ha ha ). For the longest time, the vision of a lobster appeared on the surface of the lake and wouldn’t move. Next was a ying-yang face, before finally turning into a snow-capped mountain.

We stood there for almost 45minutes, and that was what we saw. Without looking very deeply into our visions and taking it for face value, a lobster is a pretty awesome vision no matter what context you put it in…hehehe. Our Tibetan driver has been here four times, and he’s never seen anything. Guess we’ve got a little more ‘seeds of wisdom’ than he does.

And with that was the end of our adventure and we headed back to town. Problem was, construction is now in full bloom and the 13km dirt path was dotted with asphalt pavers and excavators, all of whom knew we weren’t supposed to be on the trail and never bothered moving out of the way for us and turned a 1hr trip into 2hrs!! Oh well, it was all worth’d =P

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Day 100: Jiacha (加查) – September 25th

Taking a private car to the city of Jiacha, we had one of our few bad experiences with Tibetan drivers. This guy had a 7-seat SUV (so there was no trunk space), but removed one seat for luggage. Problem was, we had 6 people (incl driver) already but he wouldn’t leave until we got a 7th. In the end, we had only one person sitting comfortably, while four would sit in the back with one last guy sitting in the ‘trunk’. The roads were pretty bad, and add to all the bumpity-bump in a cramped space, it wasn’t too pleasant.

We struck a conversation with our ‘close’ friends in the back seat, apparently two of them were going to work at a hydroelectric power plant construction site, while the third girl said she’s going to ‘get used to the area’ before traveling. After a sketchy drive across the mountain we were sorta nervous about the road condition even though it hasn’t rained for a bit, but our fears were confirmed as we drove pass by a wrecked SUV laying nose-first into the ground…. Not cool.

Anyways, after a bumpy 4hrs and dropping off the two construction workers, we finally get to the city of Jiacha. The strange thing about that third girl was that, she’s already been here back in 2008 (Strike 1). She then proceeded to say she has her own apartment, and will ‘stay here for a bit before traveling’ (Strike 2, why would anyone have their own apartment in a rural town?). Lastly, she said her friend was waiting for her at 金龙, and we thought it was a hotel name, but instead it was a “night club” (Strike 3, that nightclub looks shady). Conclusion: She may be ‘working’ to pay off her ‘tuition’? Ahhh well. She wasn’t your stereotypical skinny+high heels kind of look though, she looked like a student in a colourful hoody and carrying a bit of baby fat… Not sure how her business is, but maybe she was really telling the truth =P

Trying to find tourists to head up to Namulacuo with us, we walked around the whole town and found NOTHING. The town itself was rather amazing, as it is serviced by nothing but a poor mountain road that takes at least 4hrs to the next town, it still had a steady supply of fresh produce and locals. The town is supported mainly by the hydroelectric plant nearby, and also by the cordyceps foraging by Tibetans which make this town rather rich. Tourists stop coming by early September, and we totally missed anybody and in the end had to pay full fare for the trip into the sacred lake…. not cool.

There was still a 70km drive to get to the lake, and we headed up there today to get to the base where another, you guessed it, monastery was located. This would save us a long ride early in the morning, and we agreed as we wanted to head back to Zedang sooner. After another bumpy 2.5hr drive getting only 50km far, we stayed at the remote town in what can be best described as a concrete shack, we slept early to prepare us for a 630am morning call…. ahhhh, the lengths we go to!

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Day 99: Zedang (泽当) – September 24th

Visiting the Samye Monastery, we took our time to explore the massive premise going through the outer ring, the inner ring and finally the masterpiece of the main temple. Continuing with the lineage of Guru Rinpoche, this monastery was actually one of few built by him. Unlike most monasteries we’ve seen so far, this one was NOT built upon the mountainside, but rather in a structured manner (most monasteries doesn’t seem to have any conscious form of organization..hehe) with patches of grass, unlike most Tibetan-style of construction.

One cool part of this monastery, is that there are four massive stupas in standard white, but also three other in green, red and black! Each stupa represents the four stages of Buddha Shakyamuni’s life, and was supposedly built after four rocks which self-manifested at the specific spots of the monastery. At the very centre of the compound stood the impressive centrepiece of the main temple. The first floor is modeled after the Tibetan-style, while the second floor is decorated in the Han-style, with the top floor designed after the Indian-style. The frescoes and the artifacts of this temple is numerous, but its claim to fame must be the several remnants of Guru Rinpoche’s personal items such as his walking stick, and the gold-plated skull of another well-respected lama.

Religious Note: Guru Rinpoche aka Padmasambhava, was born in ancient India (modern day Pakistan) and is attributed with the creation of the Nyingma school of Buddhism. Throughout our travels, his presence can be felt everywhere. And we mean EVERYWHERE. This guy knows some sort of magic, as he’s been to some of the most remote places that takes like 10hrs by car through mud roads created within the past 5 years. So which implied he had to traverse steep mountains, cross whitewater rivers and have nothing to eat for a couple of days to get there. He also left behind a plethora of his own ‘mark’, a footprint here, a hand stamp there, and a walking stick in the Samye Monastery. It’d be cool if you can go back in time and sorta follow him through his travels to see how he does all this.

The monastery was all the region had to offer, so we hopped on an afternoon bus to our next destination of Zeda ng, which had some historical significance as city, but more importantly it was a stopover to head into the small city of Jiacha to view the most sacred lake to Tibetans, Lhamo Latso (纳木拉措), or the Oracle Lake….Oooooo? What could it be?!!??!?

Zedang is the centre of the Shannan prefecture, but historically it plays a significant role in Tibetan history as the fact that it was the capital of the Tubo dynasty for 33 (!) generations, until the famous Songtsan Gampo moved the capital to what we currently know as Lhasa. There are two relics left behind by the Tubo dynasty, one is the king’s summer palace and the other is his winter palace, both of which were converted to monasteries after the relocation.

Surprisingly, the entire castle, despite its diminutive size, still stands strong atop the strategically placed spot in the valley. The region is unlike other parts of Tibet, as the lower altitude and geographical elements result in a lush environment for growing crops! And the castle overlooks all of this, with mountains protecting it from both front and back. These guys know how to choose a home! Inside the castle, there wasn’t much to comment on as it is now a fully functioning monastery, but it is definitely small by most measures containing only three stories and probably less than 1500sqft in useable floor space for the King. The cool part though, is the location. High atop the village below (where the peasants probably lived), you can actually see and hear whats going on underneath!! We sat there enjoying the scenery, and you can hear people yell and cows mooing. We weren’t sure whats going on, but there was this terribly vocal cow that wouldn’t stop mooing!

So we took in the fresh air, sunshine and had a cow sing for us… T’was nice being a king.   

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