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Published: September 26th 2012
pretty town along a river amongst the mountains
Since our last blog we have been in two small towns - Kangding for three nights and Xiangcheng for two.
Kangding is a stop over for most people to get from Chengdu (where we saw the panda's) into western Sichuan. Once you head west of Chengdu the mountains start and traffic slows. We took our very first Chinese bus from Chengdu to Kangding.
We had planned on finding a hostel in Kangding, but since we got off the bus late and it was raining, we decided to follow a little old lady to her hotel and she hooked us up with a clean double room for 80 yuan. Our first double bed and our cheapest accommodations in China!
The room ended up being pretty nice. It was cold and the walls were thin (we could hear people going up and down the stairs most of the night), but other than that it was clean. The room also had a hot shower and a heated blanket – both of which are necessary this time of year as temperatures cool and most buildings are not heated.
The first day we were in Kangding we slept in. When
we finally got up, we showered and went to the bus station to purchase our next ticket to Xiangcheng. Unfortunately we wanted to stay a couple more nights and you could only book one day in advance. This is when we realized how little English is spoken in the little town. No signs have English and the people definitely don't speak a lick of it. Picture menu? Forget it! Pointing and crossing our fingers was our food ordering strategy during our stay here. Luckily it worked out most of the time. Thanks to our translator app, we were able to recognize some Chinese symbols and order that way. Beef and Yak are the same symbol so that was our first surprise.
There was a cute little market across the river that we also walked through on our first day. Since it started to rain we called it a day pretty early.
On our second day we were up at 8am to buy our bus tickets. Everything worked out and it was quickly turning into a beautiful day so we grabbed the camera and set out in search of a temple. Either our map was brutal or we have
On our walk in the wrong direction we found another small village with plenty of different crops.
a horrible sense of direction (probably the maps fault). We couldn't find where we were on the map and thought the fork in the river would be a pretty big indicator, but it wasn't. Before getting too frustrated we just picked a direction and headed that way hoping it was where we wanted to go. It wasn't, but we had a nice scenic walk anyway. We are pretty sure we made it to a different town but have no idea what it was called. On our way back we wanted to figure out which part of Kangding the map showed so we headed even further in the direction away from our hotel. We found a few main streets and caught up with the map. By that time we were pretty pooped though so we gave up on finding the temple and went to rest our legs.
After a small break we set out to get supplies for our 12 hour bus ride the following day and dinner.
Another day in Kangding would have been well justified. It's such a pretty little place set in the mountains and the clouds and it would have been nice to see at
View of Xiangcheng
from the roof of the Monastery
least one of the temples. But, we had to move on. A very early morning and a very long bus ride later we made it to Xiangcheng.
After 22 hours on the bus (there will be another blog about our bus rides), we got to Xiangcheng around 4am. It was a ghost town and we weren't really sure how we were going to find a place to lay our heads. We saw what looked like a hotel and woke up the attendant. The room was more than we wanted to pay but we were sort of out of options so we took the room key and went to bed. Surprisingly enough, we were both up around 10am and wanted to see at least a bit of the town before leaving the next day.
Xiangcheng is set in a sort of valley amongst the mountains (kind of a common theme in western Sichuan) so we wanted to try to get up as high as possible for the best pictures. (At this point we are about 2800m above sea level and aren't really ill from altitude sickness but getting lightheaded and tired fairly easily). We headed
uphill despite our breathlessness and eventually came to a huge monastery. At first we took some pictures of the grounds and surrounding area but when we heard drums, horns and chanting coming from inside we knew we had to get a closer look. A monk escorted us around the main room which was surrounded by massive statues of different gods. In the centre of the room were a group of 50-75 monks sitting and chanting together while beating drums and other instruments. It was a really soothing atmosphere. After taking in as much of that as possible we wanted to see more of the monastery and again headed up. Up the stairs we ran into a group of little old Tibetan women. They directed us to another stairwell which appeared to go up to the roof but the door was locked. Ironically a monk came by around the same time and was able to let us up. What a sight it was from up there. There were mountains in every direction; we could see the entire village as well as smaller surrounding hamlets. It was really beautiful!
After that we headed back down into town to find some food
and maybe grab a drink. We had read about a European-style pub that served draft beer and decided to give it a shot. Shortly after sitting down we saw a familiar face walk by the pub and waved him in. Originally, we met Roman (a French guy) in Kangding, but it was only briefly at the bus station (he was going to Litang while we were heading straight to Xiangcheng). Turns out that this time we were heading to the same place (Zhongdian a.k.a. Shangri-La), however, the bus tickets were sold out and he was worried he would have to stay in Xiangcheng an extra day. We chatted for a bit, had a couple pints and called it a night.
Overall, both of these towns were picturesque and had a pretty obvious Tibetan influence. We have seen many Tibetan-style homes which are made from stone, almost looking like little castles but are also very colourful. Strings of colourful prayer flags stretch out from most homes, businesses, across streets or down the mountain sides. China at this point is becoming an entirely different country from what we were used to in the big cities. We are super excited
We ran into animals everywhere we went. Oink Oink
to share this journey with you and it might be about to get a lot more interesting 😊
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