In the morning, I boarded a ”black taxi” heading for Tagong and an hour later after passing through the mountains, I arrived at a dusty one road town called Xinduqiao and boy have I left China, this is definitely the Wild West of China.
There are yaks walking the streets, mean looking dudes with cowbow hats, women in traditional Tibetan dress and legit looking monks. Most of the dudes are walking around fingering a chain of beads. People look so scary with their dark skin, messy hair, dirty appearance, gold teeth, mean looks and cowbow hats yet they are so nice. One of the drivers waiting for passengers came up to me and started chatting, ”where are you from” ”where you going”. I told him I was heading to Tagong and he started going on about the grasslands and the horse festival there. Once one person starts chatting to you, another comes along and joins the conversation and before you know it you’ve got a crowd of 5 or 6 people chatting to you, playing with your phone and touching you.
I noticed that there’s quite a lot of police roaming the streets. At the same time, I’ve also noticed high levels of man love. The dudes are always touching each others’ love handles or hugging one another from behind.
I’ve also never been patted on the back so many times within a 5 minute timeframe, it was as if they were lining up to rub shoulders and pat my back. They’d come up to me and ask where I’m going and then after I tell them Tagong and that I’ve already got a driver, they’d laugh and pat my shoulder/back before they leave.
One of the dudes came up to me and we had a good chat. He’s waiting around with his cousin to get passengers. He picked out two skewers of toffee dates off the huge tower of toffee dates and toffee apricots the man was selling, offered me one and sat down and had a chat. Before you know it, he bought me some potatoes on a skewer and refused to let me pay. What a champ.
So I waited at that town for about 2-3 hrs for a full car before we took off. When you are getting around Western Sichuan, always expect the worst, when they say it’ll take 3 hours, they mean 7. Boy was the ride bumpy as hell, despite the 30cm clearance between my head and the roof of the minivan, I still managed to hit it. Along the way, we encountered people doing wedding photos on the side of the road as well as Tibetan words on the hills in the distance. During the whole trip, the Tibetan lady in our minivan continuously muttering prayers.
So the minivan eventually arrived in Tagong and it turns out to be another dusty one road town with cowboys and monks everywhere. I checked into Jya Drolma’s Guesthouse and was greeted with a cup of hot tea. I did a quick WIFI scan and ”NO WLAN NETWORK FOUND” =(
First stop was the nearby monastery where I met two little monks fetching water. They have rosters for cooking and today was his turn. We had a chat and he told me he came to this monastery 4 years ago because he wants to be a Lama, the ultimate level one can be as a Tibetan.
He told me to follow him and took me to the building in the back. I pulled back the curtain and I saw about 20 kids of all ages staring at me. All were sitting on the ground with little stools in front as tables and were practising Tibetan writing. I felt a bit uncomfortable hanging around so I left shortly after. The little monk told me its an orphanage where kids of all ages live together and study.
I went to supermarket and looked around for a drink. The owner then said ”why don’t you try some Tibetan yoghurt”. Why not. He scooped some out of a little red bucket into a cup, added sugar on top and told me to stir it with the chopsticks he gave me. It was so yummy and fresh tasting. Then I asked him what’s good for breakfast around here and he said ”there’s butter tea, tzamba, momos … you know what, why don’t you join me tomorrow for breakfast”.
We had a chat and I brought up overnight stays with the nomads and he’s like I’ll call Angela for you, she’s an American who married a Tibetan. I met up with Angela at the Khampa Cafe and sussed it out. She runs the cafe and art and crafts shop where she cooperates with the local Kham people and helps sell their once off handmade pieces.
I returned to the supermarket to thank them and he told me to join him for dinner later.
I went for a walk and all those excuses I,ve used in the past when hiking blaming the thin mountain air …. it’s all yakshit. I now know what thin mountain air feels like and let me tell you, it’s painful. Even walking up stairs is a struggle =P On the way to Tagong, I had a bit of a headache but didn’t think much of it but now I know that it’s the effects of altitude sickness. I was warned about strenous activity on the first day … I should have just blobbed at the guesthouse but no, Peter Zhang never listens and decided to walk up steep hills instead. You guessed it, I came back with an excruciating headache. I went straight to bed and just KO’ed. It sucks the life out of you, you just feel tired all the time, you have the ceebs and that pestering headache just pounding your brains out.
I was waken up my the shop owner’s phone call to ask me to come down for dinner. It was rude not to so I clawed my way downstairs and across the road. It was great chatting with him and his wife. His name is Ba Ding and is of Tibetan Zang minority, his wife Han Chinese from originally from Chengdu. Kitted out in a full Adidas tracksuit, basketball shoes and a cap, he tells me he loves basketball and points to the huge Kobe Bryant poster on his wall. During midday, he leaves his supermarket to his wife and sneaks off to shoot hoops.
They are such nice people and even he reckons that everyone comes to his shop for his awesome personality. We talk about his people as well as Australia and what it’s like there. He said there used to be an American, Mark who worked for Angela and lived in Tagong for 2 months and that he’d always come over for dinner. We brought up the monk who set himself on fire and he said he has seen the guy in person before and showed me a picture of him in flames and another one of his black corpse on his phone. Crazy stuff. I thanked them for everything and they insisted I return for breakfast tomorrow. I headed back to the hostel and went straight to bed.
Posted by Wordmobi