Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 8: Langmusi and Tibetan sky burial site

Langmusi was very dusty even in the early morning. I saw janitors in their full workwear with masks and long gloves. I could only see their eyes.

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 at the burial site. Seemed like they 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. 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.

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 5: Huanglong

First time I heard of a person packing in the morning she flew for 15 days to a different climate. As a result, she didn’t even brought a good enough pair of shoes. Under the rain, she had no raincoat, no umbrella, and worse, she wore a pair of flip-flop to hike. She was using my stuff when it was raining in Dujiangyan several days ago, I wondered if she continued buying nothing for such weather. And that led me to another question: Which was more important to her, health or money?

Because it was raining when we started for Huanglong, they stopped their argument to hike on foot all the way, and decided to take the cable car to halfway. On the way to the top, I saw some precautions of health and oxygen, but didn’t experience any breathing problem if I walked slowly enough.

The view from the top lake was astonishing. If Mounigou was all lakes with crystal clear water, Huanglong had an incredible calcified scenery.

Back to the hostel, my companions were trying to pick another restaurant in vain. I told them it only had Western food and the price was high. They came in, sat down, then left with a reason they didn’t have hot food (?!) I was so embarrassed.

As they insisted on changing the journey and talking badly about other people, I felt stressed and tired. This was the time I realized that I picked the wrong companions.

I thought I was a picky girl over food, but turned out I could have anything that was convenient. There was nothing better than a beer over some barbecued food for a rainy evening. And those barbecue restaurants were near, too. Luckily, the Dien Bien girl finally agreed to go with me tonight. And she was kind enough to pay for it.

From WeChat, I learned that the driver didn’t really go to Huanglong even though he was born here. I told him it was beautiful and he should go there in autumn.

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 4: Mounigou

I didn’t have a good night sleep with people coming in and going out. Why did they have to make so much nóie at night? I envied the other 2 Hanoian girls having their own room yesterday because they didn’t have enough beds in the dorm rooms. And I found out the Dien Bien girl also had to work again early in the morning. What a nuisance having to work so hard on her vacation!

Yesterday they made a breakfast appointment at 7:30AM, then left at 7 without me. They said they’d had porridge at a restaurant when they came back. First I only intended to buy some tea, then I found myself buying some baozi, too.

The driver took us to Mounigou Valley. The 2 Brits surprised me when they said they were students. They looked older. However, what I meant to say was they paid cheaper for the tickets here. We went to the Zhaga Waterfall for starters. My legs were so numb I didn’t climb all the stairs, just waited for them to go outside later. Turned out they took longer than I thought.

Before reaching the second place, the driver took us to a stop at a secluded monastery called Tara around 10:40AM. I walked inside with the driver and 2 Brits then walked around outside a bit. The driver seemed to be friendly with the monks here.

At 11:30 he drove us to the Erdaohai Scenic Area. There were more tourists here. Thank God the walkway was not as steep as the waterfall. I stopped after getting through the gate to have the leftover baozi for lunch.

The more I went inside, the more beautiful this place was. So many crystal clear lakes. I thought this place must have been more beautiful than Jiuzhaigou which were somehow ruined by the earthquake in 2017. But I wouldn’t know, as Jiuzhaigou was still closed at the moment.

At 2:30PM, I reached the top calcium lake because I saw people resting their feet inside. It wasn’t hot as I thought, but it turned out cold instead. When we walked out, it was just 3PM. In the morning, I helped the Brits tell the driver to come back late, but it turned out this place was not as big as Huanglong they’d seen yesterday.

I finally had to wash my clothes after 4 days in China. Because I couldn’t take a nap, I decided to buy tickets for Zoigê (Ruoergai) the day after tomorrow.

The four of us drank some beer in the garden. I then listened to my music on the phone, from Chinese to English to Vietnamese songs. Later, an old man with a guitar joined the fun with his singing Chengdu and some old Chinese songs I hadn’t known of, except for “Dang Ni Lao Le”.

Too much of what’s called group traveling was just making the leader tired because of their nonsense request. I even thought I leaded a group of tourists because they kept complaining for food and stuff. On the contrary, I didn’t even have a penny for what I’ve been doing. It was so hard to find a suitable place to have dinner. Other companions seemed to lend no helpful hand. At the end, we decided to divide a dish of fried egg rice. First time I knew they charged for extra bowls and chopsticks.

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 3: Chengdu to Songpan

I woke up early at around 4AM to be present at the nearest metro early. Turned out I was a lil bit early because I was there at 5:50AM just to find out that the metro would only be open at 6:06.

Took more than half an hour to reach the Chadianzi Bus Station at 6:45. My destination of Songpan didn’t appear in the ticket machines, then I had to ask for help from the help desk.

7 hours on the bus without any traffic delay, I was at Songpan around 3PM. Earlier than I thought. As we descended from the bus, a lot of drivers asked to take us to a nearby hostel, or to Huanglong or Mounigou. But I decided that I should spend the rest of the afternoon strolling the Songzhou Ancient City nearby first.

As I booked the Youranju Hostel while on the bus, the hostel owner thought I was Thai. (Maybe it was because I used a Thai sim card for roaming here). I arranged with her for the 4 of us to visit Mounigou tomorrow in a rented car with other 2 British travelers living in the same hostel. This place had a nice garden with blossom flowers, flag decoration, and some maps on the wall. Especially, some tables and chairs outside were really inviting people to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.

As we were all hungry, we decided to have a late lunch with the hostel restaurant beside.

When we headed for the ancient wall, the main gate was closed for renovation(?!) so we took a longer way around the wall. Some of the wall look rusty and a bit scary. Along the way, there was even a close gate which made us turned around. Too much walking until we went inside and saw some touristy shopping streets near the Songpan Bridge. It must be the busiest place of this town. But there weren’t many travelers around here. (In fact, from the hostel, I saw more people leaving than coming).

Inside the ancient city was a big empty ground. Here I saw the crowd of most people square dancing at the same time in my life. 3 of my companions joined them. Next to it was some kids playing basketballs and other sport activities.

On the way back, I saw sunset around 8PM. When it got dark, it got colder, too. My body was too tired that I took a Tibetan massage at a place next to the hostel with a price of 78 yuans for 1 hour, much cheaper than I thought. To my surprise, the girl didn’t apply any oil in my skin. There was no hot stone, either. In fact, she didn’t even ask me to take my clothes off. She massaged kind of every millimeter of my skin and comforted me to relax when she knew I was hurt. I hoped I’d feel better tomorrow.

15 degrees celsius outside and in order to sleep, I had to put on my hat with ear flaps, 2 layers of shirts, 2 layers of blankets and even had to turn on the electric mattress.

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 2: Dujiangyan and Mt. Qingcheng

We woke quite early this morning, then waited for the tour bus. But then a small van took us to another place where it started raining. I wore a waterproof jacket, and brought an umbrella, but I had to share with 2 companions who had nothing. Wonder why they didn’t prepare for a long trip?

The Chinese guy didn’t speak English so it was hard to understand about the Dujiangyan and Mt. Qingcheng history. And he tried to get more money from us. Turned out we had to pay more, and much more than the hotelier told us. I sent WeChat messages and they replied way too late. Bad service. Luckily, a Suzhou student girl tried to help me from time to time. 70 CNY more than expected (170 CNY instead of 100) made our trip too expensive.

To make it worse, it didn’t seem to stop raining, even after we visited Dujiangyan and sat for the lunch. The square lunch was worth the money somehow.

Somewhere on the hike to Qingcheng top, I saw billboards with the temperature and humidity (22-23.5 degrees celcius, 99.9%). I was a bit tired, but I found that Chinese people were really good at hiking. They almost wasted no time and breath.

I also tried in vain to ask for the coach stop to Huanglong and Jiuzhaigou, as the pretty girl as well as her handsome boyfriend seemed to have limited knowledge of Sichuan while the tour guide kept on thinking there was no way to go alone there. How about local ppl going back to their hometowns? They had no clue.

So, I’d like to go and see if I could buy the tickets at the Chadianzi station first. But I was lost from some metro as usual, and had no clue of the map. After walking for a while, I decided to take a bus. We reached the station a lil bit later than 7:30pm.

Back to our hostel metro, I decided to skip dinner and opted for a milk tea instead.

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 1: Saigon to Chengdu, transit in Hanoi

So I woke up early this morning to board the plane to Hanoi, in order to meet up with my 3 companions that I found online through a Facebook travel group.

I might have got out of bed the wrong side, because I had a problem from the start. The VNA ground staff was very slow. She checked my Chinese visa and thought out loud that it was invalid. I had to tell her if she didn’t know how to check then someone from their international staff in Hanoi should know how to do it. Even if I couldn’t go to China, I was still entitled to fly to and fro Hanoi, right? To make it worse, my luggage handle was stuck in operation.

I met the 3 girls at Noi Bai airport. They seemed to be friendly at first though the girl from Dien Bien Province seemed to have a little difficulty in communication.

We reached Chengdu on time (or earlier than expected?), but I had some problem with the checkin machine, and even though I finished on the machine, I still had to scan the 4 fingerprints again at the counter. Finally, after 10 years, I fulfilled my wish to return to Chengdu.

The metro was outside the airport. I found how to buy the ticket after a while. But when we reached the Flipflop Hostel, there was a problem with a Hanoi girl booking.

As there was too much trouble today, I decided to go to Dujiangyan tomorrow with the hotel tour group instead. I asked for a discount, but they just gave me a stuffed panda, and others some small panda things.

In the evening, I went to see the Anshun Bridge aka Dongmen Bridge (famous for its light at night) and passed by the Bar Street. Someone in a small pub by the street played a new song of Gao Jin, Xia Xue Ha Er Bin, which I liked a lot.

After completely lost even with some help from other visitors in the area, I and decided to have noodles at some vendor on the way back. Near the hostel, I bought some yellow cherries at a fruits store as I’d never eaten them before. It tasted like red cherries though.

Before going to sleep, I bought some bread for breakfast at a Hong Qi Guan store as I’d depart early tomorrow.