Days 10 to 13 – Tagong, Kangding, and back to Chengdu
In spite of the bathroom fiasco last night, this was the quietest room and most comfy bed I’ve slept in yet. As long as I didn’t look out the window at the small yard littered with discarded and broken toilet stools, I could imagine I was in a nice hotel.
Woke up at 3:30 am, got up at 4:30. Brewed some tea (the hotel provided a thermos of hot water), then saw a flash of light from a generator outside the window, and all was dark. Fortunately, the hotel provided a candle for such an occasion, and luckily I had matches.
Left hotel at 5 and walked through the dark streets to the bus station in a light rain. Sat in the wet darkness opposite the bus station, under an awning over the sidewalk, until the station opened. Left at 6:15 am for Tagong. The ride took 9 bumpy and uncomfortable hours. We drove through clouds at the top of a mountain pass, with almost zero visibility. No traffic disasters, only one cargo truck that has lost its entire load beside the road.
I’m now in Tagong, at a private guest house. Its rooms have paneled and painted walls, and there’s a shower available. When I stepped off the bus, a woman approached me and said “Come with me. I have a beautiful house.” She was right. The price was certainly right: 25 yuan a night for a single room. I’m on the 3rd floor, up two steep ladder-like staircases. The house is deceptive: it looks centuries old but was just built last year.
After a shower – my first in 5 days – I felt like a new person. I put on my new shirt from Dege and went exploring. I spent an hour at Lhagang Gompa (the local monastery), and watched sculptors restoring or recreating a statue of Buddha. An interior wood frame supports the hammered-metal outer surface, welded together in sections. Buddha’s head, complete with snail-like hair curls and eternal smile, lay propped in a corner awaiting its re-attachment.
Dinner was dumplings in broth. It wasn’t as good as the meal that my friend Puba and I had here last summer. I went to the Tagong Tibetan Crafts Training Center, operated by Kham Aid, where I bought an Om mani padme hum bracelet.
Raining, cold. I’m in bed now. Good night.
7/12/07, Thursday – Day 11
Dogs are barking. It’s a quarter to ten at night, and I’m in my snug 3rd floor room at the guest house. I hung out for a couple of hours this evening at the Khampa Cultural Center, a set of beautiful 2nd-floor rooms in Tagong. It’s a restaurant/teahouse/internet café/tour center. Had dinner of vegetable momos, cucumber salad (too spicy), and black tea. Spent an hour on their one working computer, and responded to my email and updated my blog.
Then the lights went out. The staff lit candles. I paid my bill, left, and walked through the dark streets of Tagong. In the dark I heard the Khampas whooping it up like cowboys.
I started the day at the guest house with Tibetan butter tea and homemade bao zi, courtesy of our hostess. I walked across the river to the College of Buddhism. A woman herding yaks joked at me in Tibetan, then continued up the mountains to the grazing land.
I walked the pilgrimage circuit around Lhagang Gompa, cruised the town, then went to a restaurant for scrambled eggs with tomatoes, spring onions, ginger, and rice. Yummy.
Back to guesthouse for a nap at 1:30. Left my room about 4; the rain had stopped and by the time I walked to the top of the hill overlooking town the sun had come out! Haiza Shan (a local sacred mountain) was visible and I snapped photos. Walked down the other side of the hill to town.
Tonight I went out on the terrace of the guest house and saw the stars in the clear night sky of Tibet. Tomorrow – Kangding.
The trip to Kangding was uneventful. That’s because I took a private minibus instead of public transportation. I rode squeezed into the back seat with two young men who live close to Iowa City. Oh, there’s nothing half-way about the Iowa way to treat you….
The next morning – Saturday, July 14 – I caught the 8 am bus to Chengdu. Home sweet home.