Same town, multiple appellations due to variations on Tibetan to English transliteration, pronunciations, and Chinese designation (Ganzi). This name also brings much confusion because it is the name of the county and some think you are referring to Dartsendo/Kangding. Add subtle pronunciation changes within the word itself—or mispronunciation by moi—yeah, confusing. Let’s just say I am now in Kandze (traditional Tibetan), 370km nw of Dartsendo/Kangding , and 460km from Yushu, to the northwest, in Qinghai province.
The journey the last few days has been exciting and near to overwhelming! My friend Bamu (“Bah-mu-ah”), one of the Tibetan women that works at GouZhuang Namwu Hao Inn, had me put on her Tibetan dress for photos. I am definitely going to buy some Tibetan clothing! The dresses—even the everyday-wear— are elegant, feminine, functional, comfortable, and warm in winter. The fancier dresses are simply magnificent; like the landscape here in Kham!
Saturday I departed for Dawu/Dafou with the German family who was also staying at GouZhuang Inn; they departed in Lhagong and I continued on to Dawu. Although the hotel was a 4 Star room of beauty and comfort, I did not care much for the part of town in which I stayed: it was noisy with horns and machinery and not very attractive in comparison to other towns—admittedly, I only saw a small part in the apparent industrial area.
Sunday, as I walked to the spot where all the taxi drivers accost you to win your fare, a lovely elder Tibetan woman struck up conversation. By “conversation” I mean a lot of hand signals, a few Tibetan words by me, and lots of not-understoodby-me Tibetan sentences from her. She was a sweet woman and kept trying to pull my carry-on bag for me. I stopped to by some Tibetan bread for breakfast and bought two, but she refused and motioned that I should eat them. These thin, hardy Kham people can eat a lot of food! In fact, I asked her is she was a Khampa, and she nodded assent. I tried to express that I love Kham. We parted ways at the taxi pick-up point, but not before she made sure I had a ride and was in good hands. “Tashi Deleg” was our farewell, with hands together in prayerful respect at the heart. That was a pleasant and fun experience. Then, there is the process of getting a shared van—which brings the complete opposite feeling! It is not a fun process, especially with the language challenge. Shared vans do not depart until they are full—really, really full! First, you are surrounded by a number of drivers, all calling out the town name: “Kangding?”, “Ganzi?”, “Tagong?”, etc. with no awareness of the Western definition of Personal Space. This is not too bad, the most aggressive driver usually wins, elbowing the others back. Basically, the one who stands in front of you, in closest proximity, is the one who “wins”, if the price is good. Once that is agreed on, they grab your bags (sometimes doing this prior to gaining your agreement, and you have to grab them back!), and and put them in their van/car. These are usually narrow, Asian-style 7-8 passenger vans. Not the big U.S.-style airport vans that come to mind. Think family mini-vans with two rows and a small cargo space behind the second bench. After they’ve loaded your bags, then they try to communicate that they will go get more customers. This is the trade-off for the low price of these shared cars, as opposed to the fixed schedule, but slower buses ( buses are even cheaper, but take hours longer): you might not leave for an hour or more. The driver sign-languages that I should go eat and wait on him. I waited 45 minutes, and then got a nother driver, convincing him to depart immediately for double the price. Still, 200Y ($30US) for a 4-hour drive is not bad, considering the other offered 80Y and an overfull van and a longer wait. I had already decided that morning to pay 200Y if I could get a quick, comfortable ride. We passed several buses along the way, (that’s the key word here: passed), and they didn't look too bad, but I’m not sure if the No Smoking Rule is enforced, and they stop at rest stops and intermediate towns. While the bus is cheaper, a 4-hour trip would take at least 6 hours. No thank you!
To be continued...
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