Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 10: Barkam To Mt. Siguniang

Barkam to Aba/Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture was like Kangding to Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, meaning it was the seat of the prefecture. There was a river flowing alongside the town, too. But I felt that Barkam seemed to be much less crowded than Kangding and had no sign of international travelers.

Today was a great public transport experience. Because the driver said 8:30AM the bus to Xiaojin would depart, this morning, I came to the station early to buy a new ticket. Turned out I was too early, again. The bus would depart around noon, again.

When I went back to the hostel, they invited me to have breakfast. So kind. And it was a square meal with green bean and rice porridge, two Chinese steamed buns (mantou), a boiled egg, peanuts, and pickled cucumber.

It was a bumpy bus ride to Xiaojin via winding roads and passes. Sometimes, I thought the bus couldn’t get through some big stone piles. But thanks to the onsite wheel loader and rotary mixer, plus the help of the bus staff, there was a connecting bus waiting for us somewhere on the way to Mt. Siguniang.

The 10-hour on the bus ride yesterday was not as tiring as 6 hours today; however, I enjoyed the crowded bus, and moreover, kindness of Chinese people.

They stopped near Changping Valley under the rain, so I picked that hostel. Its decoration looked warm and comfortable. Actually there were cheaper twin rooms but I chose a more expensive dorm room because I intended to enjoy 1 bed on my own. Again, I ignored the complaint of prices from my companions.

The Changping Inn hostel’s owner didn’t speak English, but I found her bookcase interesting.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 6: Songpan To Zoigê Grassland

After one third of the journey, I discovered that I was able to buy a ticket, make a reservation, ask for directions, order food, etc. with my basic Chinese.

Though the bus departed at 10:00AM, it reached Zoigê Grassland aka Ruoergai Marsh at 12:30PM. I thought I would be here at 2PM. Luckily, I had enough time to find out the bus to Langmusi at 2:30PM also passed Huahu/Flower Lake. So I bought the ticket for 21 yuans (26 and we could go to Langmusi).

A woman took us to their hotel. 4 of us shared the 2 bedrooms. I hope I could sleep tonight.

I then found a big restaurant where many people was having lunch. I decided for a bowl of beef noodles. Hmmm, too much noodles and too little beef. Too salty as well.

We strolled around the bus station as we waited for the bus. Zoigê had something that reminded me of Kangding, maybe because it wasn’t as dull as I had thought. Maybe I was the first Vietnamese to have been to this town.

As I was at a higher place than Songpan, I saw no trees, only grass, goats, yaks, and tents. It took us 45 mins on the bus to be at the so-called Ruoergai Wetland National Nature Reserve.

Because it was rather late, I was worried of the bus going back, I asked some travelers to find out how much time needed for this place. It took me 2 hours instead of 1.

It was so cold and windy here (8-9 degrees celsius) despite sunshine, with not many flowers to see. If I were here in late July (as my initial plan), flowers would be in full bloom. However, I’d never seen so many gesanghua in the wild like in here.

When I was walking and waiting at the gate, I found out there was no bus back to Ruoergai. The taxi driver from Langmusi didn’t accept the bus fare. We went back to Ruoergai with 100 yuans.

Finally, I had a normal rice meal with eggs and tomato soup which cost me only 5 yuans.

Trekking Ta Nang (Lam Dong)

My company organized a 2-day trip to trek Ta Nang for managers. Despite advice to practice before the trip, I didn’t think it would be as hard a the hikes/treks I did in Kangding, Danba, or Garzê in 2009. Turned out I was wrong somehow.

The day before the trek, we finished our work early and left the office for the Tan Son Nhat airport. We flew to Lien Khuong Airport at Dalat and then checked in to the hotel.

The next morning, we started off quite late, and only after the farm truck arrived at a small house did we begin to really walk off the paved area, around 10AM. It was very sunny, but I didn’t feel any tired in the morning because we only walked through a meadow. We were taking a rest real soon, around 1PM. After siesta, I began to realize that we had to climb over some steep slopes. Only at those places was I slower than others.

We reached to the tents at Ta Nang top at 4PM. Too early. I learned that we walked just about 8km today. My thighs hurt a bit.

I had a really fun night with my colleagues. We had a warm dinner by the fire, then we sang the night away. Though I brought my own backpack all the way up to the top, I had to admire the health of porters who brought almost everything that we needed.

This was the first time I slept in a tent on a mountain. It was a good experience though.

We woke up early the next morning, and helped unload the tents before going down. Because we had to take the flight home in Lam Dong, we didn’t have a chance to continue but go back. The road was not too difficult but there were many turns. Unluckily, I saw no waterfall.

Still I had the fear of crossing a very tiny tree bridge over a stream.

We were present at the small house around 10. I really walked slowly on the way back to talk with some female colleagues my age. The best thing about this trip was to connect with other managers.

I guessed I’d have a good tan now after the trek, and sore legs for a few days ahead.

The top wasn’t as high (as in China), my health wasn’t as good as I had been 9 years ago, but I wanna trek more mountains after this tiring trip.

My new pair of trekking shoes were a bit damaged after the trek. I’d have to bring them to the seller to repair soon.

Check out the video of the trip done by the organizer team:

Looking back at the trip, it was my most memorable moment in this company. The previous company trip wasn’t as delighted.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 14: Danba To Chengdu

We got up very early, packed up very fast. We shared a cab with another Asian guy, costing 3 yuans each. We were early for the bus so I had a light breakfast. The drive to Chengdu got us stuck in 2 traffic jams, one of which was caused by our bus driver. He hit a car and quarreled with them for about 1 hour. The we got stuck in another traffic jam spot somewhere near Ya’an where we had been stuck on the way to Kangding on Day 3 (???).

We returned to Chengdu around 7 PM. Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel was all booked. Because we had no advance reservation, we went to the hotel next door called Angelica Hotel (安祺高酒店). The price here was cheaper, and I think this is the best accommodation we’ve stayed in China so far.

We went to eat noodles and wanton dinner at the place Alex picked the last time because he liked the noodles here a lot. The weather was kinda hot so I didn’t enjoy my wanton much.

We counted money. Except for the camera, I only spent very little here. That’s a surprise to me! But then think again, we ate little and I must have dropped some weights after this trip.

We’ll have breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant the next morning. Yahoo!

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 10: Garzê Hiking

We climbed a mountain across a river from 8 AM to 4 PM. We started very early when there were clouds over them, but when we reached the top, it was all sunny. My big toes didn’t hurt me much like the hike in Kangding. My feet surely preferred walking on the grass to on the rocks.

Was it the first time I crossed a hanging bridge? Alex wrote about it, “When a way begins that way, it can’t be bad ! The flow of the river was very strong, and the bridge was moving a bit under the steps”.

The sky was clear. The sun shined directly on us. I got sunburned on my hands where they were exposed to the sun. Alex’s neck was so red. We spent about half an hour on the top of the mountain chatting. I didn’t really wanna go down at all. Why was life made of choices? I was thinking hard almost every hour that I could live here in Sichuan forever and didn’t wanna come back to Vietnam. I preferred Ganzi than the Tagong Grassland.

Alex was very nice today, letting me walk slowly without rushing me. Each of us had 2 ice creams on the way back. I was breathing in ice and breathing out cream to encourage myself that the way wasn’t so long.

On the way back, we met a group of Tibetan women. They must be peasants. They were resting on a carpet or something like that and invited us to have some tea. As usual, they thought I was Chinese, but I explained that I came from Vietnam. They probably didn’t know where Vietnam was. I tried to talk to them in Chinese. Must have been the day when I spoke so many Chinese sentences.

We also met Gal on the way back. The Israeli guy said tomorrow he would go to Litang.

Had dinner by Alex’s choice like he did in Danba. But the food today wasn’t that good. It was too spicy for me.

Ganzi had a lot of barbecued carts on the sidewalks. We had beer with some barbecued food in front of a house. I liked it. I saw some Western backpackers copy us.

Back to the hotel, we did some back massage to each other before going to sleep. Those people here treated guests like prisoners. Noise was everywhere. It was hard to sleep well. I had a dream. I dreamed way too much in China than in Vietnam.

I heard fireworks again. Unluckily, there were no stars in the sky at night.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 5: Kangding To Tagong Grassland

I got up early. Knowing that Alex didn’t have a good night sleep the day before, I didn’t wake him up. Waiting bored me so I decided to go down the hill to buy some dumplings.

Yesterday, I wanted to try the cable car, but today I had to cancel it because Alex woke up late. Thinking that his reading of comic books was very boring, I dragged him down the hill again to buy some ice creams. Ice creams here were effing good.

We checked out of the Zhilam Hostel and waited for the bus at the Princess Bridge. The bus came on time, but the Israeli guy Gal wasn’t. He must have been going to somewhere else. We had to leave him behind.

The bus reached the Tagong Grassland at 5 PM. We passed some places where there were clouds outside the small bus. I dozed off sometimes so couldn’t enjoy the view much.

Like in Kangding, we stayed in another dorm room but with more people. Though the hostel was operated by a Tibetan family whose living room was shared with the guests, there was no curtain in the dorm room this time so a guy heard of my Vietnamese talk with Alex. Then I learned that he spoke Vietnamese, too. He was a Vietnamese Danish guy. He was very nice and as old as the Israeli guy, 22 years old. He said he was studying Chinese. He also knew how to speak many other languages. He understood Vietnamese, but couldn’t speak much. I joked with Alex that Vietnamese was no more our secret language here. We spoke a little Vietnamese in Kangding.

Even though I was tired, I still walked around to find some peanuts and stuff to hang clothes in the room.

We had dinner at a place with an English menu, and bought some Coke. We met the Gal and his gang here. They were so noisy that they ruined my mood to eat.

Was clueless if there would be a horse racing festival tomorrow. But I already told my friend that I didn’t wanna ride any animal. I won’t ever do it in my life, I guess.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 4: Kangding

In the hostel, I heard that there was no bus to Garzê aka Ganzi. After discussing, Alex chose to go to Litang instead.

And then he decided to trek the mountain behind the hostel. We headed downhill for some food like Chinese pizzas, then went up to begin our journey. I didn’t know that it would be so hard to hike up a mountain. I was so surprised by Alex’s health. He might look like a nerd, but he was indeed a sportsman. We made it to the top around noon. The feet were like stone in my mouth, but I felt so happy and proud of myself somehow.

I was wrong again to think that going down was easier. The shoes hurt my big toes too much that I felt nothing at my feet on the latter half of the journey. Somewhere along the line, I couldn’t stand no more and decided to walk barefoot despite Alex’s objection. What a relief! One hour of walking barefoot was a lot of ease to me.

I intended to take the cable car in the afternoon, but because of my slow speed, we finished the hike too late, so I decided to delay the cable car visit until next morning.

Before dinner, I watched “The soloist part 2” movie with Alex. We wondered around after that, then hesitated but finally chose a rice restaurant. They served rice with spinach and tofu. We ate on the street, not even the sidewalk. People were staring at us, mostly at Alex, I guessed.

In the end, Alex’s destination moved from Litang to the Tagong because rumor had it that there would be a horse festival the day after tomorrow.

P.s.:
From zhilamhostel.com, I found out the mountain behind the Zhilam Hostel was called Bai Tu Kan. (updated on December 14, 2011.)

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 3: Chengdu To Kangding

Very early in the morning, we checked out of the guesthouse and went to the West Chengdu Bus Station (also called Chadianzi) at 8 AM. The tickets showed us that we had to wait 3 hours for the bus to start for Kangding.

Just when we left the city streets, there was a big traffic jam for 3 hours. Cars and buses and trucks ran everywhere on the road, making it worse. Because people in the other lane couldn’t move ahead when people in this lane didn’t retreat.

Then the road to Kangding held a lot of fun. I saw many beautiful scenes, river one side and mountain the other side of the road. I passed big tunnels. At last, I made it in Kangding around 8 PM.

On the way to find a hostel, we met an 22 year-old Israeli guy named Gal. As we didn’t know where to stay in Kangding, we went with him to find a place. Finally, we all headed to a place called Zhilam Hostel uphill. Its decoration has a feel of Tibetan though its owners are foreigners.

I was very tired. If Alex hadn’t carried my backpack, I couldn’t have made it to the hostel at all.

It was the first time I shared a dorm room with strangers. I was a lil bit bothered by the smelly stuff of a Western couple. There was a curtain dividing our places so I just hoped there was no thief.

At 9 PM, the 3 of us went out to find food. Because Gal didn’t eat pork, and there was only barbecued food and hotpot, I bought only milk, and tried an ice cream. The ice cream surprised me. It tasted like it was the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. Alex tried something like a Chinese pizza.

Then Alex and I watched the movie “The soloist” (part 1) together.