The Mid-Autumn Festival “Golden Week” was created to allow the Chinese to travel and return home for the numerous family reunions planned over the holiday. For me, it provided a great opportunity to get out of the city and go exploring! Over the holiday, Aurora Chinchay and I went to Kangding, a small city in the Tibetan Prefecture of the Sichuan province. I have heard it called the “Door to the West,” aptly named for the link it provides between Chinese culture and Tibetan culture. In keeping with the name, the population of the city is about 40% Han Chinese people, with the other 60% being either ethnic minorities, mostly Tibetan people. Our 5-day trip turned out to be a culturally-rich and exciting one, but also very interesting!
We boarded a long-distance bus that would take us to Kangding, and the excitement was building as we wound down the single mountain road that connected the surrounding villages to the rest of the world, with a view of the mountains and river outside the window.
After an 11-hour bus ride (we were told it should only be 7-9 hours), we arrived in Kangding around 10:00 at night, only to find out that the hotel where we had reservations was somehow no longer a hotel, but only a restaurant. Thoroughly confused and with nowhere to stay, we wondered around the city looking for other accommodations until we ran into a woman on the street who took us to her hotel, staffed by a friendly Tibetan woman. Once safely in our hotel, I immediately made arrangements at a nearby hotel so we would not run into the same problem for the next three nights. But the craziness did not end there.
The next day, we were greeted by the sight of beautiful mountains towering over the town on all sides.
After a pleasant morning of shopping, we decided to check into our other hotel so we could drop off our bags. When I gave the address to the taxi driver, he had no idea where it was located and called the hotel to ask. The hotel staff told him that they were in fact not located less than a mile away (as it had said online) but were actually located in a remote glacier village over 80 km away! Once again with nowhere to stay, I contacted a local businessman in town who my boss at my internship had told me to meet. He told me he owned a Western food and coffee shop, Himalayan Coffee, conveniently the only foreign-owned business in town. Luckily, he was able to use his local contacts to find us reasonably priced accommodations in a very nice hostel nearby.
Once we were confident that we would have somewhere to sleep for the rest of the trip, we continued exploring the city. Over the next three days, we had a great time hiking two different mountains, visiting two temples, and spending time shopping, eating, and experiencing Tibetan culture. The hikes up the mountains were steep, particularly the second day when we took a less traveled path behind the nearby village. But it was so worth it to see the breathtaking views that greeted us from the top!
Overall, the trip was definitely a memorable one! With the 11 hour bus ride and the hotel incidents, I had never had such an unusual series of events happen to me while traveling. All the craziness made for a good growing experience, and the rest of the trip made it worthwhile. I have every intention of going back to the area to go farther west and maybe train for a more challenging climb. Perhaps next time I will make it to that remote glacier village to see what it has to offer!