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A taste of Tibet, China

Kangding and Tagong


We had been recommended travelling to Western Sichuan province by a previous backpacker we'd met. We would have loved to travel this area for longer but again we've ran out of time therefore have only managed to visit Kangding and Tagong.

We stayed at a beautiful little hostel called Zhilam in Kangding that is decorated with bright coloured throws, lanterns and beautiful embroidery. We loved it even more because they served French wine...and yes we had a bottle! We had a fairly chilled day there really; walked up to the top of a mountain viewing spot and then watched a local school performance competition. The kids were amazing, all dressed up in bright coloured costumes and dancing to traditional Tibetan music. We then had a lovely afternoon relaxing back at our hostel, drinking wine, eating food and chilling out...bliss!

The hostel helped to arrange our onwards trip to Tagong; organising transport, accommodation and guide for two days. Tagong is most definitely Tibet rather than China. It's like the wild west, with local men in traditional hats and women in brightly coloured head pieces and long coats. It's also much colder and wetter than anywhere else we've been in China. There was quite a lot of cloud cover when we were here but you could occasionally see the snow capped mountains in the distance.

On our first day our guide took us on a trek to visit the Tibetan Nomads that look after the yaks on the grasslands. The only problem was that I appeared to struggle adjusting to the altitude. The top of the mountain was 4000m above sea level. I had to stop every 10 steps and felt like my lungs and head were bursting with the effort. A fellow backpacker gave me some tablets and the lovely Tibetan lady at our hostel gave me some Chinese medicine...I was willing to try anything! The next day I felt much better, the only side effects I had were an unusual pins and needles feeling across my face, it made me feel like I had a beard.

Seeing the Nomads was so interesting. The lady was really friendly; she welcomed us into her tent, offered us yak milk tea, yak cheese and some weetabix type stuff. They basically live off yaks; their fur, meat, milk, poo for the fire. The scenery on the top of the mountain was beautiful, although a little cloudy, with wild flowers and yaks covering the grasslands. I felt too rough to do anymore that day and wanted to rest to make the most of the second day there.

The guide met us in the morning and took us to the nunnery and monastery on his motorbike. Wow! I can't explain and fully do this place justice...the ambiance and scenery was like nowhere I've ever been before. There was a festival there at the time and lots of locals, nuns and monks were attending a celebratory service and prayer. There were loads of flowers and brightly coloured flags. As well as huge prayer wheels that we walked around clockwise three times, which is typical for Buddhist Tibetans to do. The locals are so friendly, all greeting us with 'dash-ee-de-lay', which is hello in Tibetan and huge smiles and rosey cheeks. As we were wandering around the eagles came out and soared above us in the clouds, there were 12 of them at one point, absoloutly huge! They don't live far from the nunnery because they live from the sky burials that take place there. Our guide explained that when local Buddhists die they have a burial up on the mountain where their bodies are given back to nature. The bodies are cut and offered to the eagles as food. We didn't get to see a sky burial but other people we met did and said it certainly was an experience. The whole place just had this special 'feel' about it...beautiful!

Our guide then took us for a walk in the forest, where he says there are bears, wolves and even tigers (he once saw one when he was younger). He grew up in a Nomad family and knew the area well. We walked through wild herbs and flowers, ate wild strawberries, foraged for mushrooms and he picked roots for Chinese medicine (that he could sell on and make some money). The only wildlife I saw was a grouse and millions of mosquitos...I got so many bites on my face again! Our guide also said we could hear wolves, but to be honest it sounded more like dogs.

The place where we were staying was very basic, but the lady owner was lovely. She cooked our foraged mushrooms for us in garlic, ginger and chilli. Delicious! We did have one moment of panic when she was cooking the mushrooms and she asked a fellow backpacker to translate "how do they know these are safe to eat?" What?! We thought she cooked and ate these all the time. Well we're still alive!

We've loved our two days in this Tibetan area of China. It felt in no way Chinese at all. They speak another language and still have very traditional lifestyles. This is what gives it its charm. It'It's a shame we only had two days here because apparently this area of China only gets better...

Additional note: Jason took the photograph of the baby's bottom. We have never seen so many bare bums. The Chinese toilet train their toddlers by having open bottom trousers on so that they can squat and do their business with ease. Yes, this means you often see kiddies squatting in the streets having a wee! Lovely!

Posted by bloorsontour 20:28 Archived in China

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How brilliant! Another fascinating read and great photos! Glad you've recovered from the altitude sickness. Take care, xxxxx

by Ma and Pa

Looks fascinating, its like another world. Love the photos xxx

by Mutsi

We're enjoying this journey with you-it's brilliant.Keep the travelogues coming. Take care.xx

by wrinklies

Wow - looks amazing guys! another one to add to my list....!

by Libby

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