426 Write a new storyPrint Comment
When I was in Shangrila, an city in Northern Yunnan, my friends and I met a Harvard professor who annually studied Tibetan Culture. As we were talking to him he told us that the farther away we were from touristy cities the happier we would be traveling. We inquired more into this and ended up with a hand drawn map of what we found to be an amazing scenic route to many cities that are seldom explored by Westerner travelers. With the map in hand we began to ask many locals the best way to get to our final destination, Litang. We found that buses were not allowing foreigners to go to this area because of sensitive political policies and recent protests from various Tibetan monks. We also discovered that roads going to this area were going to be mountainous, bumpy, poorly maintained, and somewhat dangerous. However, we ended up paying an intuitive 27 year old Tibetan named Sonam to drive us there in his 4 wheel drive SUV. The journey to Litang was two full days of driving but rarely was it boring. We experienced vast mountain ranges, rivers, valleys, temples, small towns, fields of boulders, and finally The Tibetan Plains. When we arrived in Litang we immediately found a hostel and walked to a giant temple to the North of the city. We talked with a monk for about an hour and sat around watching the sunset over the plains. The next day we rented motorcycles and went to a temple 20km to the East. The temple had a strange mountain next to it which contained many small caves and was covered with thousands of colorful prayer flags. In front of the mountain, the plains were full of the types of flower you only see at high elevations. There was also an eagle that would occasionally fly overhead as it looked for food. Everything was perfect until we returned to town to find one of the people in our group forgot their wallet at the temple. My friend and I returned there and were lucky enough get our friends wallet back. We also met a young person who lived as a nomad on the plains. He offered to take us to his families home to eat and graciously we went. We found that the family raised yak for a living and they fed us a stew that had been cooking all day long with a glass of yak milk tea. All the neighbors kids were in the tent watching us with curiosity, but we were unable to talk to any of them because they could only speak Tibetan. The young person that brought us there was the only family member with the ability to speak Chinese. We talked with him for a while and were able to learn more about their life and viewpoints. Riding back into town that evening I felt a sense of accomplishment from directly experiencing a culture in an unspoiled environment. If you ever want to visit Litang, I recommend that you go during the summer months and bring a jacket because it gets cold at night. Staying in a hostel is also beneficial because the staff will be able to speak English and will offer many activities, such as watching a sky burial. Email me if you have any questions.