(Post in progress! More to come!)
I awoke to the green mountain, the stars extinguished for the day. Sleep was peaceful, though I rolled over into the hard wooden back of the bed a few times. I must find where I can buy this Tibetan-style furniture, with its bright colors of predominant scarlet and gold; it would look great in my living room. Plus the ample seat is perfect for my preference of cross-legged sitting; the seating is deep and the couches are more like daybeds in their dual-functionality of couch and bed. Breakfast is cheese “baozhe” (sp?? pronounced bow-dzuh), my standard boiled “zhide” (sp? Prob.: jeedah-egg), a steamed bun, and some kind of hot milk tea (“cha”-tea), accompanied by the Tibetan cook’s lovely singing voice. I feel like she was blessing my meal. Within the steamed baozhu is some kind of local cheese; both sour and sweet simultaneously. Again, I am grateful for Google Translate for interpreting the menu and allowing me choice and knowledge. Also, I am grateful to my kiddos, with whom I eat breakfast a few days a week, and who taught me the putonghua for egg “zhide”, tomato “hong something” (“hong” means red), and fruit (that day’s fruit was a “piba”, never seen it before.
I ordered cafe’ afterward, and I don’t know what kind of cream was served, but OMG it was amazing; sweet and rich and served steaming hot! I poured the whole portion into my coffee!
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It’s easy to find the two places in Kangding where I visited: they are both located in the southern-pointing dips of the main highway through Garze, the G318, which takes you to the current “border” of Tibet. Come to find out, the first place in which I stayed isn’t even a town, it’s more a stopping point with a “scenic area” that includes the Jiamuzun Hotel, another hotel in the process of being built, and just about nothing else except a collection of houses. I’d call it a hamlet or village, because, well, there are TWO whole convenient stores that mainly offer booze and cup ramen; the entire contents of these “stores” could fit in my wardrobe, to give you an idea. This also gives you an idea of why I only stayed one night in the hotel next to the Muya Shengdi Scenic Area, before heading back to the main Kangding city, which I believe is called Lucheng, and 46 km away. Through the mountains that’s just under an hour-and-a-half drive. Muya village area is due south of the Kangding airport (second highest elevation airport in the world!), but still, through the mountains it is not a straight trek, but a winding hour-long route of 18km; duration dependent upon snows of course, as I was to find out!
Kangding is both a county and a city, and understanding the territory and boundaries of each is confusing at first—especially with web info full of contradictions or holes.
Drive from "Nowhereville" to main town center of Kangding.
Arrival at my hotel and wandering around town.
POST IN PROGRESS
SAT APRIL 28
\nUpon arrival, standing ti exit plane.
\nFelt my heart rate rise and a feelng that my skin was very hot around 1140. Just prior, the pilot made a,sharp ascent, guess we got to close to a mountain lol? Dunno. We were amidst clouds.
\n1143 feel pressure at my temples and chest
\n1147 still flying. Ears keep popping.
\nCabin is pressurized, so iam i feeling altitude effects?
\nThe Temperature has dropped. Ioooooooooooooooioioooioooooooooo
\nJust passed a Monastery in.a valley. More green more terraced mountains. The whiteness is blinding.
\nI should research effects of altitude at varying levels.
\n1154 landing gear down!
\nI feel Happy, content, excited, curious, tired, amazed...
\nStayed up a little late last night, but slept well.
\nNow we ARE flying PARALLEL and BELOW mountain tops!
\n1157 smooth landing!
\nI feel slightly dizzy and off wonder what that is...priest smelled of sweet sandalwood.
\nI.defn feel. Out of breath. And.heart beating. Wow
\nTo walk amd stand.at counter makes me slightly dizzy
\nBoth roads to the hotel and town are blocked are blocked and closed,so it looks like i'm stuck at the Airport. hotel says remain at airport til they can come get me when Road is cleared. It's a one room airport with one lobby, one arrival area, small estaurant.
\nWalking 10m to the bathroom makes me.dizzy, out of breath, and double or blurry vision.
\nPucked up ny hotel about 140
\nMany rock Cairns along Road side.
\nAte too much,.maybe altitude. Stomach hurts.
\nJust saw truck off the Road then a Tibetan house. Then 2black pigs.
\nStopped due to blocked road. Traffic jam yak.
\nAbout a mile of truck backed up.
\nShing do chao 新都桥
\nSunday APRIL 29
\n1247pm 35km to Kangding!
\nYes, lots if truck off the road. But all trucks in front of hotel were gone this AM. Driver is making an interesting drive, passing trucks on curvy hair pins w an inch to spare before cars coming toward us hit head on.
\n1pm. Still about 20km from Kangding. 40 more minutes of near misses. Luckily, i know my karma is not a car or bike wreck.
\nCan smell burning brakes, clutches. .. now we're at a standstill.
\nAmazing how many motorcycles are ridden here!
\n120pm. Through a valley of green and Hamlet. Popular cycling route. Ears popping.
\nNow i see why Roads were closed yesterday. Cant imagine driving in snows!
\nDriver. Switching station and passed gangnam styles. Lol
\nAltitude is great for weight los
\nMONDAY APRIL 30 1140
\nFinally leaving for the Day
\nTwelve forty hit Europe the mountain to me.Do you have yellow brick road the golden path to the temple.Matter to people sitting on grass along the way and then invited me to eat with them.
\nTwelve fifty four pm.I keep saying,i'm going to stop and something up ahead,catches my eye. I wish I had brought that second bottle of water after all.
\nhow i hear the temple gongs
\nI keep finding side trails that lead to sm grotto resting spots or meditation spot.
\nPast same two girls taking yellow flowers,hand motion for tea or eating. Everyone asks.igo iog? Am i alone?Just one?
\n all of that was worth this?One view
\nBed n table. Are. 200ea. =320!!
\n250¥ at temple.
\n200¥taxi to airport
\nHeading NNW before going SSW to arrive at the airport. From Jiamuzun, we drove SSE, then NNE to arrive Kangding.
\nHorses all in the road. Driver going very fast! And rois very uneven and bumpy though perfectly paved... bouncy ride!
\nIf I could have a job similar to what I have now making the same amount of money in Kangding, id buy a little house up the hill, with some land, het.a horse. And a caretaker and.hike and ride and camp every weekend. ...
\n250pm. All the mountains we were driving btwn, we atre now nearing the top...ears popping!
\nmany.ppl driving Horses on the road.
\nWe're up with the snow now. Not too far from.the clouds either!
\nLots of rockslide on. This road. Wonder how It's kept clear.
\nPart of me says i should brscared on this drive, but i can't really locate the fear.
\n306pm. Just passed nomad tents!! Wow!
\nSo now we'ron top in sleet and a large tent village on a wintry grassland plateau. Now i know what virgin snow means.
\nAt the.top, prayer flags on Cairns. Im scared. Now bc we atr going down and he is going faster. ..!
\n318pm. Not descending so much... forgot airport is super .
\nWe. left at 150pm, It now 325amd we round the curve to airport.
\nSoon.as i.get out to enter airport i am dizzy, vision off , and winded again .
\nWent from fifty five down to 40 up here at the airport... and snowing. Hope flight is not delayed!
\nBack in Kangding
\nHeading back to Lucheng town . Flight cancel . Terrifying bus Back. .Blizzard conditions.
\nWonderful airport agents who rode the bus back stood outside in the rain and helped me get a taxi?The back to the hotel.
\nSix hundred and ninety eight stepsTo hotel. I'm glad my flight was canceled. It gave me the opportunity to enjoy dinner and dancing and talk to an Austrian couple.
\nI have so many memories from the short trip was going to take days to write it all down.
\nNuwe manager found me I carpool. During the rave dance club music.The CBA or offensive E E s I know it's break time thing and bad driving,I .
\nWe stopped for a cigarette break,but not a bathroom break.
\nOng we Just picked up another person. So now 5 people in.a sedan
\nAm hour of this and im already missing tje Terrifying ride thru the blizzard.
\nI am some amazing food.At the hotel. Yak and side dishes that were wholly different but a reminiscent of banchan. souo..cheese baozhe coffeee. Latte at Himalayan coffee so good. Zhide eggs.
The ugly brown monotony of Chengdu high rises and grey air yields to blue skies resting on mountain ridges frosted deep with snow and ice. The temperature quickly drops as we approach the mountains.
Although I don't think I will ever forget how my body felt arriving at the third highest airport in the world (4280m), I find that words lack the luster and lie too shallow to adequately express the sensations of the sudden gain in altitude of 2800m that occurs during the short flight of 25 minutes from Chengdu (CTU) to Kangding (KDG). My heart rate is rising and my skin feels hot to the touch at 1140am, immediately after the pilot made a sudden ascent (up and over a snowy peak?) through clouds and snow. In each new minute passing, I feel a physiological change in my body: pressure accumulates at my temples and deep within my chest, my ears continue to pop... I wonder -- without fear, more just an internal curiosity -- if the cabin is pressurized, why do I feel the effects of altitude? The temperature in the cabin has dropped significantly, too.
Mint-colored mountains sweep below, some terraced into waves of farmland, alternating green hues until the shock of white interrupts; ridgelines sharpen to a white point that is blinding. A solitary gompa (monastery) inhabits a flat expanse between peaks; the narrow road leading to and away from it a sullen brown, snaking through the valley and disappearing up the slopes.
At 1154am the landing gear rumbles into place, and I am curious about the affect of altitude at various elevations -- I make a mental note to study this phenomenon later--I've never had reason to explore it until now! My feelings are a mixmaster of happiness, contentment, curiosity, excitement, tiredness, and amazement. Amazement most especially when I observe that we are now flying parallel and below the mountain tops! Through? Between? I hope we stay between! I haven't flown through a mountain range before, but I can predict that the view on either side of the plane would make the perfect content of a pre-crash scene in a movie, yikes! The pilot doesn't disappoint, and we land surprisingly smooth three minutes later.
Dang, it is seriously cold!!! I stand and exit, noticing that I feel quite strange. My body feels dizzy and "off". The monk sitting a few rows ahead has left his sweet sandalwood scent to linger, I pass throught this invisible cloud in a daze, although my imagination leads me to believe it has form, and that I pass through a significant universal boundary -- a gate into the world of Kham. Moving along the jetway seems like a slow motion scene from that previous plane-crash movie I was not actually in: I am somewhat breathless and my heart is a staccato prelude to dizziness. I slow my gait, and as I approach, hope I won't tumble down the escalator! But making it to the toilet is a major feat. I discover that I have arrived just in time for a blizzard! Not only have I flown into one of the highest airports in the world, the single road leading south to Dartsendo (Ch. Kangding) leads upward to an even higher mountain pass, which is now the site of heavy snowfall. Little do I know, I will get to experience riding along these extremely hazardous, cliffside, blizzard-blown roads on three occasions during my short four-day holiday!
The airport is a one room affair, expansive and yet small. Either there is no heat or it is powered down, for it is bracingly cold and the difference in temperature from outdoors and inside seems only that we are protected from biting and snapping mountain wind. A tiny luggage retrieval area is separated from the main reception area by a glass wall. The 15m walk across the main hall to the toilet makes me dizzy, breathless, and my vision is doubled or blurred; these are not alarming sensations, but odd and new. I sit in the vacant restaurant and enjoy my first bowl of Tibetan noodles with yak meat, awaiting the roads to clear.
Departing Chengdu and arrival to Kangding Airport.
Click "Read More" to the right for incredible photos and
unique sights only seen in Tibet!
Right now in Kangding it's 31°F with patchy, heavy snow. Upon my arrival tomorrow, it will jump up to 41. But luckily, it will warm up in the afternoon.
...to 44 that is! www.worldweatheronline.com/kangding-weather/sichuan/cn.aspx?day=20
I remember visiting Colorado when I worked in software, for one of our quarterly meetings. It was freezing, snowing, and dry as heck. I was miserable because of the altitude and dry air. I am happy Kangding is humid, so the air will be nice and wet... and apparently snowy! I'm prepared for a touch of altitude sickness, but the humidity will make it more comfortable either way. The temperatures will range from upper 20s to very low 40s during my stay.
Or so I thought... I decided to look at other weather sites, including my phone, and what I’ve discovered is a temperature prediction variance of 15°F degrees! Aargh! These means I could be freezing in the 40s, or sweating with too much clothing in the upper 50s. And I only have a carry on that will hold so much. Hmm.
And either way, I am really looking forward to this mini-break!
Excellent and accurate info on this blog: www.thelandofsnows.com/kham/the-sichuan-part-of-kham/
"Ganzi/Garnze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture དཀར་མཛེས་བོད་རིགས་རང་སྐྱོང་ཁུལ་ in western Sichuan covers an area of 151,078 square kilometers (58,331 square miles) and is located in the traditional Tibetan region of Kham. It is approximately the same size as the US state of New York and about half the size of Italy. It has a population of 1 million people, with Kham Tibetans making up 78% of the population. Of the 5 prefectures that make up the Kham region of Tibet, Garnze has highest number of Tibetans. Garnze is covered with high snow-capped peaks, alpine forests and deep river valleys. It is easily one of the most scenic parts of the Tibetan Plateau. Farming communities are found throughout the prefecture, though yak herding nomads can also be found in the higher elevation counties of Lithang (Litang), Sershul (Shiqu) and Nyarong (Xinlong). Elevation varies in the prefecture. The high grasslands of Sershul county sit between 4000 meters and 4500 meters while the fertile farmlands of Derong county lie at only 2300 meters."
Photos: Departure from Chengdu and one hour flight to the second-highest airport in the world! (4,280 m, 14,000 ft.) Arrival at Kangding Airport and drive to the my first hotel, which turned out to be 46 km from the main town center of Kangding. April, 28, 2018
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I am sooooo ecstatically thrilled to be traveling to Kangding tomorrow, for our Chinese “Labor Day” holiday! I am essentially visiting Tibet! Kangding was a border trading town between Tibet and China until the 18th century; currently it is part of the “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze”, lies at 2560m (8500ft), and has the second highest airport in the world (4280m, the highest is also in Tibet)! From my cursory reading, Kangding is similar to a county with several towns or cities within its bounds.
I will be staying at a lovely little inn called the Jia Mu Zun Resort Hotel, west of the main city in Kangding and less than 40km south of the airport. The prefecture, city, towns, counties and all the various levels are slightly confusing, as google maps and Chinese maps offer differing city names (?). Additionally, different sources offer different explanations of whether Kangding is an area with cities and towns, or the actual city itself. Hmmm. Not only that, but since this was originally a Tibetan area known as Kham, the town and prefecture have a few Tibetan names as well (Darda, Dartsedo). It seems Kangding may be the largest city in Girze (Garze), with various urban centers and suburban centers, all uniquely named and perhaps analogous to suburbs in the US.
All that aside, as I mentioned, I am traveling to 2560m, into an area of mountains, grasslands, and plateaus, where just last night, there was “heavy snowfall”. In Chengdu, the temps today will be in low 80s, and humid, plus I’m only at 500m. After some research on the area, I learnt this is kind of a gateway area to high altitude alpining and climbing, with mountains of 8000 or so meters (yeah, think Everest), and towns above Kangding that serve as places where alpiners go to adjust to the altitude before moving higher. OMG! The temps will be in the 30s and perhaps 40s during my 4 day stay!
This trip was VERY last minute; I was going to stay home and explore Chengdu, but was encouraged by a friends at school to get out and explore—so here I go! It is rather incredible that you can make last minute travel plans like this in China. Of course, the less-expensive hotel rooms were gone, but there were still plenty of choices on Tuesday and Wednesday when I made and finalized reservations. Air fare is similar, unlike flights out of the USA, the prices don’t increase as departure nears. I fly out Saturday morning and made reservations Tuesday night.
My options were an 8-hr bus ride one way for less than 100Y ($16) or a nice, quick trip of 55 minutes via air for 1524Y ($245 RT). With only a four day break, I decided flying is a better option. If I return during the summer break, I can bus it, as I’ve heard the scenery is breath-taking on the way to Tibet! Since I made plans last-minute, I was unable to gain a room at one of the highly-recommended spots, but I am happy with my choice, even at 1285Y ($205 total for 3 nights).
Next time you hear from me, I will be writing from the mountains of Girze, 2000m higher, hopefully altitude-headache free, sipping a hot cup of “cha” (Mandarin for tea), or flying upward 3700m toward that sky high airport!
Zaijien for now! (Bye!)
Last bit of mix-n-mash shots from the trip to Zhangjiajie in early April with P&M!
What a unique holiday it has been! I have learnt and seen and experienced so much Chinese culture — enjoying 95% of this 4-day break. (Pollution sickness and drilling construction on both sides of my hotel for the last two mornings being the 5%.)
Saturday was the best day in Zhangjiajie, as I felt well enough to get out of bed and travel with P&M up to “Heaven’s Door Mountain” — 天门山 Tiānmén Shān — via cable car and brave a cliff-side walk 1-1.6m in width (M. had to hold my hands and pull me along at some points, whew)!! Access to these mountains is heavily controlled; you can’t just drive up in a Dudu (my nickname for Didi—China’s version of Uber), although you might be able to hike it. However, with a height of 1,519 meters (4,983 feet) and the last portion to the top being 37-degree grade, only rock climbers could Spider-Man up, and that is not allowed (except Frenchman Alain Robert who free-climbed part in 2007)! If you would like to arrive early and not queue multiple times, be at the ticket counter at 7am. We did not arrive til 9am, queued for 30 minutes, then were given a time slot of 1pm to return to stand in another line for the cable cars. It felt like we wasted 4 hours, but it must have turned out well, because perhaps all the crowds take off early. So many people visit, they only allow a limited number up at one time. And good thing! Although somewhat crowded due the holiday, it wasn’t overly packed, thank zod. The claim is that the cable car ride is the longest cableway in the world: 7km, and that the road down has the most turns (99) of sharpest degrees. The bus drivers love to scare the bejesus out of you as they descend these hills so fast the bus leans and leans as Gina screams and screams. :-))
I don’t know which was more terrifying, the narrow cliff side walks several 1000 meters above flat earth or the damn bus ride down! :-))
Additional deetails and professional photos of Heaven’s Gate (or Door) can be found on these sites:
The cable car ride itself was stunning, spanning 30 minutes and several kilometers, and it provided only a teaser of what was to come...
Click “Read more” to the right...
Saturday, and although they’ve being doing construction outside my hotel window since 6:20am, I had enough intermittent sleep to feel alive today, and my headache isn’t so bad I have to stay in bed. The sky looks clearer although the AQI is still 100. In China, that’s considered “good”. Jesus. For comparison, AQI in many places in states is less than 20. Right now, in NC, where I used to live, the AQI is 24. In Zhangjiajie, where I am currently vacationing, it’s 131 for pm10 (bad) and 26 for pm2.5–which is actually good. But ugh. I’m still sniffling and sleep is rough when I cough all night... I might have been okay if I wasn’t stuck on the smoke-filled train. But I just bought an air ticket back to Changsha, so I don’t have to deal with that!
Anyway, I feel well enough to join my comrades for a day of sightseeing. Doesn’t look like we will be doing much hiking—don’t think my friend is much of a hiker, but boy can she get a million sights seen in one day and on little to no sleep... impressive! We will take the cable cars that I saw in town yesterday, up to Tiammen Mountain. I’m psyched... this means I will get a bit of mountain in! More later!
Today is a way, way downer...in a two aspects. Chengdu is around 2000ft. above sea level, and Zhangjiajie is 500. That’s insignificant thought. What’s a huge downer is the fact that I am sick on my 2nd of only a 3 1/2 day vaca! Ack!
I have learned a few more lessons from Our Great Leader (LOL), aka, China. First, coffee shops are very hard to find outside of HUGE metro areas (unless you can read Mandarin!). We spent the first hour of our day -long layover in Changsha seeking coffee, and had to settle for the burnt flavour of Starbutt’s ;-)
Second, smoking is allowed on the trains, in a space between the cars, where the door remains open. We were 3 seats from the conjoining-cars. Third, make sure there is no construction near your hotel. Fourth, book flights instead of trains (due to the damn smoking). Fourth, wear a damn mask whenever pollution count is above 50, even when the sun is shining and it looks deceptively clear. Fifth, take antihistamine, sinus, and headache meds on every trip.
Select “read more”, to the right...and tons of photos coming!