Sichuan travelogue – The road to Kangding

Left Chengdu in the morning and headed southwest via hired mini bus. Our tour guide was Lamu, a cheerful and helpful Tibetan lass from Abu prefecture.  The journey could be broken up into three stages of 2 hours each. The first stage is the smooth travel along the expressway that brought us to somewhere near the town of Yaan.  The bus passed through  Chengdu outlying suburbs, where many newly built apartments and modern factories have been built over the last few years. Rural landscape appeared after an hour of drive. Here the land is sill flat and appeared very fertile, with picturesque farmlands dabbed in golden hues of the rape seed flowers. The farmers mostly live in neat double storey  houses.


After almost 2 hours we reach Yaan (雅安), a town at the foothill. The next stage started when the roads became narrower and more winding as the bus climbed the mountainous road, which follows a meandering river. Almost upright rock cliffs appeared on sides of the roads. Rock slides are common here and  road maintenance crews were seen occasionally shovelling the stones.  Settlements are found along the road, with farmer houses perched on narrow strip of land, surrounded by mountain on both sides , and fast flowing mountain river running along the valley.  Here, the farmers are poorer than those in the plains, living in simpler accommodation of single storey dwellings. The cultivated area are usually narrow strips of land at the base of hills or on the gentler slopes.


I did not expect to see snow on the road, thinking that the winter is over. But snow started to appear towards the end of this stage. First it was on the roof of houses, then it appeared on the tree leaves, and suddenly, there was snow everywhere. The bus stopped at a resting place just before the Erlang tunnel (尔朗隧道). It was quite a sight to see people buying food at roadside stalls in the midst of rather heavy snow falls.


After exiting  the 2300 m long Erlang tunnel, we seemed to enter another world. We had left behind the blustery snowy landscape and entered into a different place altogether, into a land of clear and bright sunny day. It was a dramatic transformation as if we entered into another different world. The roadside signboard proclaimed that we have entered into the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (甘孜藏族自治州), and marked the third or last stage of the journey.  There is breathtaking views of the mountains, river valleys, and human settlements on mountain slopes and broad river valleys. The road runs along a valley where the Dadu river (大渡河) runs. This river is a tributaty of Changjiang  (Yangtze river).


We finally reached our destination, the small town of Moxi in the evening. It is a quiet town, surrounded by mountains.  The hotel was quite comfortable, except for the restricted time on availability of hot water. That night as we left the Tibetan cultural performance in the local theatre it began snowing. It was around 9 PM, and the little shops opposite our hotel were still open. They were selling goods for tourists such as jackets, hats, longjohns, gloves, wines, titbit and ladies swim suits. Yes … selling ladies swim suits in the middle of snowy night. Am I surprised? Not really, as I had the same experience in Hainan before. They were selling swim suits because there happens to be hot springs nearby.


Mini bus travelling along expressway…


 Typical landscape in rural Sichuan



Small town street view


View of river and vertical mountain face from bus



Vegetation covered with snow


View of resting place just before Erlang tunnel – walking to toilets


Snow everywhere …


The resting place. Food vendors operating as usual in middle of snow fall.


Spectacular vista after the Erlang tunnel


Enjoy the view and buy titbits here


Nice view of the Dadu river valley and zigzag road





Descend to the river valley


Street view


Small settlement along Dadu river


Moxi, with snowfalls on the mountain top


Moxi town main street


Hotel in Moxi


Main steet of Moxi


Audience joining the  Tibetan dance and song  performance



Next: Hailuogou and Kangding




About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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