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 Dream Travel 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.

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 14: Chengdu Shopping Spree and Wenshu Temple

Luckily for me, I could sleep well until 7AM because the other 2 girls checked in before midnight yesterday. Because it was raining, I waited for a while then decided to go out shopping.

It took me an hour to get to Decathlon. It was my first time at such a big sport store in any country. I wanted to buy many things, but then decided to buy a 10-lit rucksack that can fold up into a small ball. I need extra storage for my stuff.

I also saw IKEA nearby so I dropped by to see why it was famous. Many people came here for food (?!) I also went into a mall and checked out Zara, H&M, Uniqlo stores, etc.

In the afternoon, I visited the Wenshu Temple. I used to visit one of the street here 10 years ago but I wasn’t so sure. This area even seemed to be bigger than the Wuhou Temple area where I stayed.
After getting back to the hostel, I took a late afternoon stroll to the so-called Tibetan Quarter which was near. But there was nothing impressive.

I decided on trying the giant grilled squid after drooling a few times at Jinli. And it was indeed very tasty.

What made my time in Chengdu an immense satisfaction was I hardly saw my companions. I was a little worried the first night I returned to Chengdu, but then finding their whereabouts was not in my head these 2 days.

Another one of the girls in the dorm room thought I was Hongkonger because of my English, except from the girl I met on the first night here.

The Pedometer app said that I walked 29,337 steps today.

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 13: Chengdu Panda Base, Jinli Ancient Street, and Yulin Street

Though there was a girl checking in the room yesterday afternoon after me, today I was waken up at midnight by 2 others. They also switched on the air con which made me hard to sleep again.

I tried the buffet breakfast. It cost me 15 yuans and was worth it. The Dien Bien girl then joined me for the panda tour opposite the hostel. Then I found out the code the hostel staff sent me was different from what other people in the bus had. I got accepted no matter what.

The Chengdu Panda Base was very crowded today, unlike 10 years ago. It was very sunny, unlike 10 years ago when it had been raining nonstop. I had a better view this time, because I could come back any time with any bus. But the heat stopped me from staying here past noon.

As Jinli Ancient Street didn’t seem as hot or crowded, I made a stroll around here. I was more attracted to the local street food than handicrafts and teahouses. I should pick something for dinner later here.

Taking a shower and change clothes, I went out to find the famous Yulin Street in the song Chengdu by Zhao Lei. Turned out I could walk there (meaning it wasn’t far to take metro). The street didn’t have anything prominent as I thought, but I found the old Little Bar and some good wall paintings.

When I was back to Jinli Street, I decide to eat pineapple sticky rice (the black one).

Too much walking today made me want to sleep early; however, someone told me there would be a live music session happening downstairs at 8:30PM. So I decided to stay and another Chinese girl started talking to me.

Thanks to the hostel, I enjoyed some of my fav Chinese songs like Chengdu, Baby До свидания, Hua.

According to Pedometer, I walked 31,497 steps today. I didn’t know that I walked more than I did in all the hikes in Sichuan this year.

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 12: Mt. Siguniang to Chengdu

I realized that I was unlucky yesterday because it wasn’t raining any more. We went to the grocery store to find out the bus would only be here around 10AM. So I decided to have another beef noodles. I was surprised that other companions didn’t have lunch.

I sat on the las row of the buses together with 2 Chinese girls. One of them puked somewhere and that event kinda woke me up. Luckily I could move to a better seat at a Gengda stop.

I reached Chengdu around 4PM. Then it took me an hour on the metro and foot to reach the Dreams Travel International Youth Hostel (near Wuhouci aka Temple of Marquis). This time, I booked a bed in a 4-bed dorm, while others were kinda late so that they could only booked the 6 or 8-bed dorm only. At least, my ear wouldn’t be hurt by money complaints.

The Jinli Ancient Street next to Wuhouci was so crowded in this early evening. I guessed I would be back here tomorrow after revisiting the Chengdu Panda Base.

To my surprise, they treated me dinner at a hotspot restaurant near the hostel after I booked my panda tour with the help of a hostel staff. They didn’t speak as well as the people in the previous hostel in Chengdu, but they seemed to be more friendly.

Back to the hotspot, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t see the 9 separate compartments; however, I thought it was Sichuan hotpot, maybe a lil bit different with the Chongqing one.

The oil helped make the spicy taste go away, I thought. If I go back to Chengdu again, I’ll try another hotpot place.

When I was back at the hostel, a guy from Xinjiang working as a freelancer here started talking to me. His English choices of words made me frown several times before I lost my patience and said goodbye for today.

Only in Chengdu could I feel the heat of the summer.

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 11: Changping Valley

Before I went on this trip, I thought Mt. Siguniang must be a place for climbers. I only liked hiking for a day of about 30,000 steps which was tiring enough. Stargazing on the top of the mountain at night under the cold wind was no fun to me. Though this place was in my initial plan, I didn’t really wanna go. Turned out this world heritage had several valleys and was worth giving a try.

The highest place of my journey: somewhere near 3,700m beside a waterfall.

A met a forest keeper on the hike (first I thought he was a traveler), and after chatting for a while, he told me my Chinese was good.

The most picturesque view must have been some pine trees with no leaf under the water.

After the boardwalk, there was a muddy trek because of the continuous rain from yesterday. I decided to wait for others at the roadside stop, enjoyed my 10-yuan hot milk tea to keep me warm, and looked at other hikers chatting. I also helped a couple bargaining for their horse ride.

On the way out, I entered the monastery near the gate which I couldn’t get in in the morning because it was too soon.

I thought I’d go to 2 valleys today, but Changpinggou (Changping Valley) turned out to be so long a hike.

When I was back to the hostel in the afternoon, I was also trying to ask for the bus to Chengdu with the bosslady, and she said there were 3 buses tomorrow. I’d like to take the noon one.

Later, I bought more milk teas in a grocery store. 1 cup cost only 4 yuans.

My Pedometer app first indexed 30,535 steps for today, but then later I saw only 288,849 steps. Huh?

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, day 10: Barkam to Mt. Siguniang

Barkam to Aba/Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture was like Kangding to Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, meaning it was the seat of the prefecture. There was a river flowing alongside the town, too. But I felt that Barkam seemed to be much less crowded than Kangding and had no sign of international travelers.

Today was a great public transport experience. Because the driver said 8:30AM the bus to Xiaojin would depart, this morning, I came to the station early to buy a new ticket. Turned out I was too early, again. The bus would depart around noon, again.

When I went back to the hostel, they invited me to have breakfast. So kind. And it was a square meal with green bean and rice porridge, two Chinese steamed buns (mantou), a boiled egg, peanuts, and pickled cucumber.

It was a bumpy bus ride to Xiaojin via winding roads and passes. Sometimes, I thought the bus couldn’t get through some big stone piles. But thanks to the onsite wheel loader and rotary mixer, plus the help of the bus staff, there was a connecting bus waiting for us somewhere on the way to Mt. Siguniang.

The 10-hour on the bus ride yesterday was not as tiring as 6 hours today; however, I enjoyed the crowded bus, and moreover, kindness of Chinese people.

They stopped near Changping Valley under the rain, so I picked that hostel. Its decoration looked warm and comfortable. Actually there were cheaper twin rooms but I chose a more expensive dorm room because I intended to enjoy 1 bed on my own. Again, I ignored the complaint of prices from my companions.

The Changping Inn hostel’s owner didn’t speak English, but I found her bookcase interesting.

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.