It's all about the journey

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November 9th 2013
Published: August 29th 2017
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Geo: 30.67, 104.07

To some people a 9 hour bus ride sounds like hell, to me however, it sounded like a great idea! After waking up freezing cold and early enough to beat the morning rooster crow, I decided that continuing with my plan to head to Tagong and the grasslands would mean traveling to a higher altitude and would lessen my chances of becoming warm. I needed another plan.

7am and I wander out of the hostel to the bus station next door. In this 50m stretch I see giant snow-capped mountains, a fast flowing river, a woman walking a pig (yes, it was on a leash!), a recycling man with a wheelbarrow, a few dogs and wearing a Santa hat, and last but not least, a horse carcasses (complete with tail hair!) being sold from the back of a van. I would have taken a picture but the men looked kinda big and scary so I decided to pass by and hope they didn't notice my look of horror. Now how's that for a morning 'commute'.

After buying my bus ticket back to Chengdu (part 1 of the new - Plan A isn't going to work so let's make up a new plan and see what happens- plan), I had a few hours to kill so took a walk around this small, partially Chinese/partially Tibetan, town. I was early enough to venture by a wet market, however, instead of the usual pork and chicken for sale, there were various whole carcasses being hacked at by men with axes and a huge array of animal heads, brains, stomachs and intestines displayed randomly on the ground. My shoes are never going to be the same again; there was no escaping the blood! Even this wasn't enough to put me off my breakfast though and I feasted on a bowl of fried bread sticks (youtiao) and soy milk whilst watching people pick out the prettiest animal head/behind to presumably take home for dinner.

Then the supposed to be 7 hours but actually 9 hours bus ride started out innocently enough. My seat companion and I exchanged a few words and then settled into our own worlds (I have a good book right now!). The bus driver decided he wanted to make a bit more money along the way so we took various detours to pick up people who then had to stand/sit down the aisle of the bus. After about 5 hours we had our first rest stop at a nice little village at the top of a mountain. The scenery was beautiful apart from a truck which had just overturned and the rather shell shocked people standing next to it. For the second leg I had a new companion, I was slightly puzzled as to why they'd swapped seats when the new guy turns to me and says 'I want to practice my English with you' - he'd asked the other guy to swap with him so that him and I could talk. Turned out that he is Tibetan from a small village in the area and so we spent a nice 4 hours talking about Tibetan, Chinese and English cultures. His sole reference to English culture was 'would anybody like a cup of tea?' - he made me repeat this sentence multiple times! He was really interesting though, he said that because he's a minority person it's really difficult for him to get a passport and so he can't travel easily. He said that I was very lucky and have a good life; I definitely agree, we are all very lucky. I now have an invitation to spend next summer in a Tibetan mountain village- if anyone fancies a holiday next year, let me know!

Making friends and admiring the scenery made this 9 hour journey fly by. I was amazed at how many people lived in tiny caves/under tarpaulin at the side of the roads. At how a lot of the construction was being completed by women (I'm not being sexist, it's just totally different to the male dominated construction industry of Hangzhou). At how there was so many hydro-power dams followed by dried up/over-polluted rivers. At how roads had been carved into the side of the steepest mountains and then reinforcements needed presumably to prevent landslides. This area of the country is definitely developing rapidly and I'd really like to go back in a few years to see how it's changed.

I'm not sure what's happening tomorrow. I'd like to go to Jiuzhaigou but I'm not sure if it's possible to get tickets. If not, I'll spend the day in Chengdu and maybe hug a panda or two.

Have a good weekend everyone! 晚安!


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