Monday, August 22, 2005

Tibet-lite

The road north from Zhongdian is known as the back door to Sichuan, and for good reason. The countryside finally delivered on my expectations with narrow, hidden valleys, high mountains and innumerable switchbacks. Indeed, it feels like you're sneaking around the country and that somehow you're doing something clandestine. At one point we were driving through a vast plateau filled with boulders, some small and others larger than our minibus; it was rather surreal.

I ended up spending longer in Xiangcheng than I had originally planned (I wanted to leave the next morning after arriving) because of a cheeky scam that the people in the bus station had going. They would refuse to sell me any tickets to Litang (where I wanted to go) and instead would only offer tickets to Kangding, which cost more than double the price. But what was most galling was the fact that not only do the Kangding buses pass through Litang, but they also stop there for the night. The lady at the desk was as stubborn as a mule and wouldn't budge. Luckily this obstinacy meant that other travellers were in the same boat and so we managed to band together and hire a minibus instead.

Travelling in this part of China is interesting as it allows me to get a feel for Tibet without having to go through the rigmarole of actually going there (Actually, at the present moment it is impossible to get to Tibet, even through organised tours. The whole region has been closed down to the public, and I've even heard of people being refused flights to Nepal because they needed to get a connecting flight in Lhassa.). The most beautiful things here are the traditional houses. They are either grey or white, tapered boxes with colourfully patterned doors and window-frames and garlands of prayer pennants flying from all available spaces. The interiors of the houses are even more intricately decorated, with every available inch of wall covered in vivid drawings, usually in red, gold and green. The streets here also teem with monks in their scarlet robes. However expectations for monks here are perhaps slightly different from what one would expect in the West; here it's not uncommon to see them getting rather boisterous at the local pool halls (for some reason pool is extremely popular round these parts). I'm also glad to be able to cross another animal off my list: the yak. It's actually quite hard not to see the blighters as they are everywhere, though you have to climb to the top of the pasture areas to get to see the really hairy ones. Although I've yet to try the local speciality: tea with yak's butter.

1 comment:

botorel jean-luc said...

toujours à lire tes aventures, nous te suivons depuis le Mexique avec grand intérêt.Bonne route
Jean-Luc et nadine
Pour nous fin septembre: le Pérou