10 Days With The Most Steps In 2019

According to Pedometer app, I walked the most steps in my Chinese trips:
1. July 5: 31,497 steps ~ 15.12 km* (in Chengdu)
2. July 6: 29,337 steps ~ 14.08 km (in Chengdu)
3. July 3: 28,849 steps ~ 13.85 km (in Mt. Siguniang)
4. June 24: 23,878 steps ~ 11.46 km (in Dujiangyan and Chengdu)
5. June 26: 23,233 steps ~ 11.15 km (in Songpan and Mounigou)
6. June 30: 20,196 steps ~ 9.7 km (in Langmusi)
7. June 27: 20,136 steps ~ 9.67 km (in Huanglong)
8. May 18: 19,550 steps ~ 9.38 km (in Wulingyuan And Fenghuang Old Town)
9. Nov 5: 17,348 steps ~ 8.33 km (in Shanghai)
10. Jun 23: 16,136 steps ~ 7.75 km (in Saigon, Hanoi, and Chengdu)

* My stride length is 48 cm (80% of the number in the app 60cm).

Lang Mộc Tự

(Lượm lặt từ TỬ THƯ TÂY HẠ – Quyển 1 – Chương 10: Lang Mộc Tự)

Đường Phong nghi hoặc đáp: “Nếu như tôi nhớ không nhầm thì Lang Mộc Tự là một thị trấn nhỏ nằm ở nơi tiếp giáp giữa Tứ Xuyên và Cam Túc. Vài năm trước, một nhóm tây ba lô đến đây du lịch đã bị hút hồn bởi phong cảnh cao nguyên và phong tục tập quán độc đáo vùng Khương Tạng này, và cũng bất ngờ trước vùng đào nguyên ngoại thế, nên họ đã gọi Lang Mộc Tự này là ‘Thụy Sỹ thu nhỏ của phương Đông’. Sau đó thị trấn Lang Mộc Tự trở thành thánh địa du lịch của khách du lịch ba lô trong và ngoài nước tìm về. Mỗi năm, đến mùa du lịch, du khách trong và ngoài nước đều nô nức tụ hội về đây. Nhưng hiện giờ sao lại vắng vẻ như vậy nhỉ?”
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Đường Phong giải thích: “Tên ‘Lang Mộc Tự’ ở đây không phải là tên chùa, mà là một địa danh, nhưng thực sự nơi này cũng có hai ngôi chùa, một là An Đa Đạt Thương Mộc Tự nằm ở đầu tỉnh Cam Túc. ‘Lang Mộc’ trong tiếng Tạng có nghĩa là ‘tiên nữ’, bởi gần trong sơn động giữa khe núi có một phiến đá ngọc đẹp như thiếu nữ, đấy là nguồn gốc của cái tên này. Một ngôi chùa khác là Cách Nhĩ Đệ Tự nằm ở phía giáp với tỉnh Tứ Xuyên. Hai ngôi chùa trong cùng một thị trấn, đồng thời trở thành tự viện của giáo hoàng Cách Lỗ phái, nhưng lại phân thành hai tỉnh, có thể coi là một thắng cảnh.”
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Nam Nam nói: “Tôi tới Lang Mộc Tự, ngoài việc tham quan chùa chiền ra thì đến đây cũng chỉ vì đài thiên táng. Đài thiên táng ở đây rất nổi tiếng đấy.”

“Thiên táng là phong tục mai táng độc đáo của người dân tộc Tạng. Sau khi một người qua đời, mọi người khác sẽ đặt thi thể người đó trên đài thiên táng, thầy mo thực hiện xong các thủ tục xử lý xong xuôi sẽ để cho kền kền đến ăn xác.” Đường Phong giải thích một lượt.

“Khiếp vậy sao?” Lương Viện và Từ Nhân Vũ đồng thanh thốt lên, khiến cho chủ quán trong quầy bar cũng quay sang liếc họ một cái.

“Đúng vậy! Thường thì người dân tộc Hán không hiểu lắm về thiên táng. Người dân tộc Hán cho rằng, bảo tồn thi thể hoàn chỉnh mới là hiếu thuận, nhưng người dân tộc Tạng lại cho rằng, con người sau khi chết đi, linh hồn và thể xác đã tách khỏi nhau, xác thịt không còn tác dụng gì nữa nên dâng tặng cho kền kền ăn, mà kền kền lại là một loài chim thần, sau khi chúng ăn thịt người chết sẽ bay lên trên trời, và cũng sẽ đem theo cả linh hồn người chết lên thiên đường. Bởi vậy, thiên táng cũng được gọi là ‘điểu táng’. Đối với dân tộc Tạng, thiên táng là một hình thức vô cùng thần thánh.” Giải thích của Nam Nam khiến Lương Viện bắt đầu có đôi chút khái niệm về thiên táng.

“Ở đây cũng có đài thiên táng sao?” Đường Phong hỏi Nam Nam.

Nam Nam gật đầu: “Ở đây có một đài thiên táng nổi danh xa gần, nghe nói là đài thiên táng lớn nhất của khu vực An Đa.”

“Nhưng trước đây tôi đến Tây Tạng, đài thiên táng ở đó không cho phép tham quan.” Đường Phong lại hỏi.

“Đài thiên táng của Tây Tạng không cho phép tham quan, nhưng đài thiên táng ở đây cho phép tham quan, người địa phương hình như không kiêng kị những thứ này, hơn nữa, mọi người đến thật đúng lúc, sáng ngày mai sẽ có một đám thiên táng.”
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Bốn người đi qua tấm cờ phướn, mùi máu tanh khiến Đường Phong và Lương Viện thi nhau nôn ọe. Cờ phướn phất phơ trong gió, sáu chữ chân ngôn được nhân dân Tây Tạng thành kính viết lên cờ phướn, mỗi khi gió thổi qua, thì đồng nghĩa với việc người chết đã thông niệm một lượt sáu chữ chân ngôn này rồi. Người Tây Tạng tin rằng, đây chính là lời cầu nguyện của người chết cho mình và người nhà. Xung quanh cờ phướn, có đặt rất nhiều bản kinh khắc bằng đá. Đường Phong đứng trước những bản kinh này lặng lẽ cầu nguyện. Lương Viện cũng bắt chước điệu bộ của Đường Phong, miệng lẩm nhẩm đọc kinh, vừa là cầu nguyện cho mình, cũng vừa để cầu nguyện cho ông nội sớm có thể lên thiên đường, tức khắc, sự khủng hoảng ban nãy đột nhiên tan biến, giữa trời đất mênh mông mịt mùng này, một cảm giác thần thánh bỗng trào dâng trong lòng họ.

Vòng qua tấm cờ phướn này, bốn người tới một bãi đất trống rải kín những tảng đá to, ở đây chất đống một số thứ hỗn loạn, có rìu, có quần áo, còn có một vài đoạn xương người và tàn tích không nhận biết được. Đường Phong khẽ nói: “Đây chính là đài thiên táng rồi, thi thể của người chết được xử lý ở đây, chia thành từng miếng nhỏ, đập nát xương, để kền kền đến ăn.”

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 15: Chengdu To Hanoi

At 8 in the morning, I went downstair to have breakfast at the hostel restaurant. But I opted for a dish of price instead of the buffet. I decided to stay inside for the whole morning because I’d get tired of waiting at the airport later.

I checked out of the hostel at noon, and got to the airport by metro. Because I was 1-hour early, I tool a stroll around the airport and took some pictures. It seemed to change a lot compared to the picture in my memory of 10 years ago.

Having such 3 companions, I didn’t have any nostalgic feeling leaving Chengdu. I guessed Langmusi was the best place of this trip, but there was no special place I’d like to return. Maybe after seeing the pictures on my iMac when I return home, my mood should be better.

Overall, I have traveled 1,756km on this Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture trip, sitting around 29 hours 22 minutes in a car or a bus. And according to Pedometer, I have walked 262,269 steps during these two weeks, rounding to 125km on feet fortnightly.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 9: Langmusi To Barkam, Transit In Zoigê

I didn’t know that I saw the Hui mosque the day I arrived in Langmusi. It was on the right side of the Kirti Gompa and on the way to the hill that I trekked in that evening. I found out when I saw the photos I took that day.

Before getting on the bus back to Zoige (Ruoergai), I went inside the mosque but all doors were closed. I was at the Ruoergai station before 8:30AM but the tickets wrote that the bus to Xiaojin started at 12:10PM.

This place must be the highest place I’ve been to in this trip. It was cold today, too. I followed a Hanoian girl to buy some flat peaches. They tasted just like other peaches I’d eaten before. But at least I tried.

After having potatoes and beef rice for lunch, I found a cat playing with my backpack hit belt. The same Hanoian girl above-mentioned thought we’d be back to Songpan so that she could retrieve her towel and underwear. OMG!

After 1 hour, we were stuck again in a traffic jam for 1 and a half hours. First time I got to use my paper fan. 10 years later, Sichuan traffic jams were much more orderly and polite.

It was so hard to ask for the direction to Siguniang here because the station was closed when we arrived in Barkam aka Maerkang at 7:30PM. The bus driver told me there’d be one early tomorrow morning.

Then I leaded my team to find a hotel. I saw one looking kinda luxury next to the bus station. I realized that Chinese people used a face recognition machine to check in to the hotels here. After waiting for a while, I got the boot because I was a foreigner. I got the same result from several places nearby.

Didn’t know why my companions had to signal the opposite direction out of town. I ignored their idea and wheeled my suitcase faster to the downtown though they were dragging their feet. Then I saw another luxury hotel after crossing a small bridge. Luckily, they accepted 4 foreigners in 1 room. But the receptionist took so long to register me that I had to tell her I’d come back to get my passport.

The room was the most well-equipped I’d ever seen in Sichuan, and the bathroom looked extravagant too.

Later, when I was out finding dinner at 9:00PM, I realized that this town was almost empty. It was hard to find a noodles restaurant but the chef didn’t seem to believe I wasn’t Chinese until I showed him my passport. Didn’t know why he kept laughing. However, he cooked delicious noodles.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 8: Langmusi And Tibetan Sky Burial Site

Langmusi was very dusty even in the early morning because janitors in their full workwear with masks and long gloves sweeping everywhere. I could only see their eyes and their beautiful feather brooms.

I started for what I thought the Sichuan side of the town, but couldn’t find the Hui mosque. Then I bought the entrance ticket for Sertri Gompa aka Dacanglangmu Saichisi.

Luckily, because I didn’t know the direction well enough, I guessed I should do what others do. Turned out I was at the northern side (Gansu side). I sought for the sky burial site after I left my companions because they either went the other way or were slow. I saw people walking to the hill side, so I followed them. After a while, I stopped near a school and some Chinese women spoke to me. I could barely answer them, but they thought I spoke Chinese so well. However, I barely understood what they said because they used some local dialect. From their outfits, I thought they must be tourists from the countryside.

Surprisingly, I met the best English speaking person of China on the hill here where she happily told me I needed to walk up the way she went down to reach the Tibetan sky burial site. She also added that there were big birds and almost no people at the site now. Then I continued and saw only yaks. I was surprised again when I saw cars driving up to the burial site. Seemed like those people came from a different road and didn’t see the monastery. I walked around the site for a while, took some photos and videos.

At the farthest point of the journey above 3,500m was a plot of land surrounded by Tibetan flags where I saw many huge axes on the ground and vultures waiting on the mountainside. At first, the vultures seemed to merge into the background which I thought stones. When I looked carefully again, they made me startled and frozen for a while. Then I quickly calmed down as the vultures were very quiet despite their enormous appearance. I also saw many fragments of human bones and even a bloody tooth nearby. I didn’t wanna see straight into the bloody stuff. However, in the daylight, I wasn’t scared, I felt a bit lucky I found a sacred place like this.
https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17858287111867407/

After getting down the hill, my team joined me and we went to a crowded restaurant for lunch. The wonton soup was good, but I still preferred the dry wonton in Zoigê.

After taking a nap in the hotel, we went to the monastery nearby. I thought this Kirti Gompa aka Dacangnama Ge’erdisi (on the southern/Sichuan side) was more beautiful, but it was just one big temple. People outside it looked more like camping to me because they were like just sitting there or finding a good spot to take some pictures. I walked towards to canyon, and my temple visit suddenly turned into a trek. Maybe I lacked info of the Namo Gorge before I actually saw it.

Wading through the stream, some horse keepers talked to me. They tried to get me on a horse trekking but I told them I was afraid of horses. (Actually I didn’t like riding on animals). He told me the valley would lead to a meadow. Two companions found me while I was slowing down so I decided to go back. The meadow was a little disappointed because the scene was nothing unique at this time of the year.

When I returned I met a Canadian guy whose face was redder than the Tibetans and a short-haired British girl who looked like a nun. He said my hat was from Canada, but I told him it was more Russian. He told me that he went to Vietnam, and actually the two of them were hitchhiking together after meeting in Hanoi. Lucy said the luggage was too heavy. Watching her carrying her backpack made me feel tired too.

I tried yak yogurt because a companion told me it tasted like Greek yogurt. But I smelled like the cow itself in this yogurt at the first taste. Nothing delicious about it.

Before dinner, I bought a panda faced craft item as a gift for my friend. After another fried rice meal, I decided to buy some Tibetan beef jerky for my sis. I really liked the packaging. Then I called it a day after 20,000+ steps.

Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 7: Zoigê To Langmusi

Really, Langmusi (Taktsang Lhamo according to Tibetans) was out of my initial plan. This was somewhere unplanned. Its name wasn’t in my last plan sheet in May. It was somehow a last minute decision. It turned out to be the best place of the journey. It was that good because I left all the negativities of my companions behind. I meant, I left them alone with their negativities.

As we all stayed in one room with 2 beds, I woke up quite early in the morning. Unluckily, the rain from yesterday evening has not stopped yet, hence my plan to trek a nearby hill was ruined. A bit later, I decided to go out with my umbrella and found a boiled corn for breakfast. However, the corn was so hard that I couldn’t finish it while it was still hot.

While others were roaming around Zoigê, a driver found me opposite the bus station and stopped for a chat. I was intending to ask for some direction. He told me that there was no direct bus from Langmusi to Mt. Siguniang and that I had to get back to here in Ruoergai first then go to Maerkang (Barkam). He offered 120 yuan per person for the trip to Barkam. I took his name card, but I didn’t think I’d hire a private car.

I met a cute Tibetan kid with his mother (?) on the street where he grabbed my hand and shook it gently which warms my heart. It turned out that he was begging for money. Then I remembered having met many adult Tibetan beggars in Sichuan 10 years ago.

I finally had the best meal of this trip so far. I picked one of many restaurants opposite the bus station. The wonton was so good, and it tasted even better with the delicious dipping sauce.

The bus to Langmusi was the same with the one we took to the Flower Lake yesterday. However, we were stuck in an hour long traffic. Was it because today was Saturday? The bus driver who was informative yesterday also told me to get back to Zoigê with his bus if I wanted to go to Mt. Siguniang.

The bus passed some small streets on the way to the Langmusi bus station. Then it stopped at a small parking lot in front of a big gate. I guess this was one of the 2 famous monasteries of Langmusi as I saw a ticket collector.

Had some misunderstanding with the hotel owner and his father who took us inside. I had to bargain for the two rooms again. This must be the tallest building around here. I had to climb to the 3rd or 4th floor. The rooftop where we found to hang clothes was still 2 floors up.

It was around 6:30 pm and the two Hanoian girls didn’t wanna go see the nearby monastery yet. So I decided to hike the hill nearby. It didn’t look far and the day was still young. Luckily, the Dien Bien girl accompanied me at last even though she was afraid we couldn’t be back before it was dark.

This was my bravest experience of the trip, I finished climbing the hill passing old and damaged wooden stairs in a gloomy afternoon. The hill would be threatening to me if I did it alone.

We got back to the hotel around 8 pm and I still saw the hill from my hotel room. I tried to reheat the corn in the boiling water for dinner, but it was still too hard to eat.

The teacher girl told me she counted the money and thought that we spent half of the budget. I startled at first, then realized that it was half of the journey already. For the rest, I didn’t think it would cost more than what we had already spent.

Check out my Instagram story of this day: https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/18015565684279704/

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.