Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chinese hospitality

Hey gang, I'm back. Sort of. This is my first time on the Internet in more than five days! How about that? Hell, the town I stayed in last night didn't even have Internet! This has been one of those weeks where it sucks that I'm traveling alone. Not because I've been lonely, but because it's too bad no one else was there to see the amazing stuff I've experienced. I've got several days of fun to fill you in on, and I'll start with one of the most unique experiences I've ever had.

Anyway, when we last saw our hero, he was staying at the amazing Sim's Cozy hostel in Chengdu, AKA smog central. Not only does Sim (Singaporean; his wife, Japanese) have a great hostel, he's also a top-notch guide and living Sichuan encyclopedia.

Lonely Planet, or as travelers know it, The Bible, is getting ready to put out its next edition of the China guide. The Sichuan province author just so happened to be staying at Sim's and just so happened to get to talking to Sim's wife about the research she needed to do in western Sichuan. Sim, always up for an adventure or road trip, said he'd hire a van and driver and go with her on a two-week excursion.

Long story short, I happened to talk to Sim the night before they were to leave, and he invited me to come with them, for the duration or just to the first stop, Danba. The bulk of two weeks in a small van didn't sound too appealing to me, so I opted to join them only for the 11.5-hour ride from hell to Danba. If you think you've been on a bad road, you have seen nothing. When's the last time it took you five-plus hours to cover 150 miles?

Ride over, we spent the first night in Danba proper. Dark when we arrived, this was the view I was greated with (did I mention that Danba is at about 2000 meters?) in the morning.

From China

I spent the first half of the next day with Sim and the LP writer, Carolyn. We visited a couple village in the area that are scattered across the sides of mountains. Beautiful doesn't even begin to describe this. The villages are populated by Tibetan familes and are known particularly for their watchtowers, which are about 800 years old.

We went to one, Zhonglu, for lunch. The van was missing one passenger when it left, however. This wasn't just my lunch site--it was my dinner and breakfast site as well (and the same over again--I couldn't stay here just one night!). A few shots of the paradise I enjoyed for 48 hours...

From China

From China

From China

From China

And the scenery was only the half of it. The people were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Walking through the twisting roads and paths of the village, everyone greeted me with a smile and hello! (or ni hao! or tashi dele--Tibetan).

These guys invited me to join them during their break from making a stone path for some yak butter tea--quite salty. And being at about 6,000 feet, I could feel the thing air, but these guys could run circles around me, smoking cigarettes the whole time.

From China

And the children were very energetic.

From China

But most of all, I'll remember my hosts at the village guesthouse. The proprietor was the only person in the village who spoke any English, other than "hello" or "tea." And to say he "spoke" English is generous...but he was as great a host as you can ask for. His wife is an excellent cook. Every meal was like a buffet. One dinner featured 10 different dishes. Here was my lunch on my last day. Yes, this was just for me!

From China

And it was all served up by a beautiful young Tibetan girl. These three were more than generous, always making sure I had a seat and that I had enough food for a small family. Here's a photo of my hosts, the women wearing their traditional headwear...I think the woman on the right didn't want her photo taken.

From China

I could have stayed much longer than two nights. But I had places to be. My next destination was Tagong Grasslands. A preview of what's to come in my next couple posts:

Wow, duct tape DOES fix everything!
What do you do when there's no bus service, plus America saves the day and goes to the Wild West.

What else could go wrong?
Another exciting bus-less journey with plenty of mayhem along the way.

1 comment:

Bob Gilmore said...

Fantastic pictures!