It has taken a long time for us to even think about writing about daocheng. There were a lot of good times and a lot of bad times. A lot of stress and a lot of happiness.
We met new friends on this trip, which was the main thing we got out of going by arranged tour rather than doing it alone like we usually do. UPPON arranging our trip through a tour guide at our hostel in chengdu, we believed we were visiting a number of places…. In his own words “if you do this alone you will see maybe one or two places, if you go with a tour you will see many many places, your eyes will thank you your lungs will thank you for the fresh air and you will have photos like no one else in England has, as not many people go there. People tell me their cameras run out of battery they take so many pictures.”
We were fooled.
When we were dropped off at the bus stop to get the coach we were concerned cause of the amount of luggage we had. As we were jumping out before the return trip back to chengdu, we had to take everything with us. Two large pack packs, two backpack trolleys and two heafty camera backpacks. Luckily the coach was large like other long distance busses (well most of them ) for the first day no one talked to us or made it aware they spoke English.
For two days the bus drove. Not stopping at the towns promised except in service stations and late one night to go to sleep in a grubby hotel in “the photographers paradise” we were told in this town we would have a day to explore. This was not the case. At the crack of dawn on day two we were up and back in the tour bus without having time to look at anything. We had also missed the other stopped on route we promised. Not to mention when we spoke to others we paid more than they did for the trip in general. So we were not pleased. Kraig was in agony (as he has been since this long couple of days with his back) and I was rough too. Meals were strange, all sat around a table picking at food with chopsticks going in and out of their mouths. Germ galore. Slapping of lips and slurping, meals throughout the trip three times a day consisted of the same chilli soaked dishes and slurping. We were hungry for days. Oh and the first day, at dinner on arrival at the hotel, we were told to sit in the seats around where a young boy on the tour had puked all up the sides and in a pile. He hadn’t stopped eating all the junk food he could the whole ten hours… Serves him right… his eating habits continued throughout the trip and parents didn’t eat. No idea where the food stash was from. We didn’t sit in those chairs.
The end of day two came and we were in Daocheng. The turn around point, and the point where we said we would jump out after the following day at Yading reserve. We were very annoyed. On day two we began speaking to quite a few people. Mainly a couple from hong Kong and two sisters from within china who were taking a holiday. It was great to be able to speak to people on the tour as we feared the worst with stares we received on day one, as well as a number of people wanting to take our pictures like with all Chinese people.
So day three and it was FINALLY time to do some thing!! Excitement!!! We got out of the grubby hotel in daocheng consisting of leaky taps dripping all night and just generally gross place and boarded a bus for another hour and a half. The sun was just coming up and the hills and villages along the way looked amazing. (No stopping for us of course) there were yaks and smoke coming out of fireplaces in tiny little houses, people hearding in the fields. It was quite a sight.
We arrived eventually at the resort after the people on the coach had been arguing for a while on the journey about the contract we were never given or had never signed at all – yet were promised. The guide was telling us we had to pay for the bus in the park to the main area for a further 120 yuan each, but it was meant to be included in the price as it was an essential part of visiting the reserve. So eventually he agreed and we arrived.
Bearing in mind jimmy told us this place was quite we were shocked for what was to come. We qued for over an hour to get tickets and the bus (yet another hour in to the reserve) just so we could do something. It was around 11:30 by the time we could have some free time. Yet… We were told we had to be back on the bus we just got off of by 6 leaving us hardly any time and a lot of restrictions. We wanted to visit a couple of areas which was not at all possible in this time frame, as after the coach was a 40 minute battery car to get to the main scenic spots from where you could walk to milk lake. Of course, the time meant we could not reach milk lake as it was a three hour trek each way. We was so disappointed. Despite this, the weather for the day was perfect. Little fluffy clouds and blue sky. We have heard that on most days in the rainy season it is impossible to see anything on the high altitude mountains. At 5000 metres we were feeling the strain of breathing. We brought air canisters, but these didn’t seem to help us up there.
After we got over being angry, the day was actually a lot of fun. We had with us our supplies for staying over night as instructed. We saw the the mountain and got a couple of pictures. Four of us stuck together for most of the day. When it came to making outer way back it seamed such a shame, we met the guide, and and got on the final bus back arriving at a dingy Tibetan inn within the park. We were aware that there would be dorm rooms in this place before arrival. What we were not told was that there would be nowhere to shower and two shack like toilets between 30 people. The toilets had no windows. Electricity was on between 7-11pm then lights out all night. So using the toilets was an issue. We didn’t do our teeth as the smell in the bathroom was rancid. Teeth would probably get more dirty. So morning come, another strange breakfast, I ate a egg, kraig had nothing. Then we were off to see one last area of the park. We were given another mere couple of hours and were told to meet back at 11am. We met the group and were back on a bus out of the reserve in no time at all. We ate at yading town, but were given no time to look at the town it’s self before heading back to daocheng.
We were ready to cut from the pack. We had booked a hostel for ourselves when we were last in daocheng, and informed the guide we wanted out when back there. We drove straight through. We made a fuss and the others translated that we were visiting a small tebetan village before heading to daocheng to go to bed. We were quite pleased, maybe there was still something we could gain from the trip.
We arrived and were told we were to visit a traditional tebetan woman’s house, great stuff! We thought it would be interesting. A woman came over to the group, and stared to lead us to her home. We were informed that no the group was to enter and leave the house together as it was rude to leave on your own… Little did we know at this point why…
We were sat in a room in her house. The woman began speaking in Chinese and showing bits of silver like waist belts and hair pins, traditional items which Tibetans wear as silver is meant to have some mystical health powers to Tibetan culture. The others in the group told us snippets of what was happening. We spent nearly an hour sitting and waiting to see the rest of the house. The woman had been given the house by the government to teach people about Tibetan culture. So finally, the talk in Chinese was done, the others we were with didn’t look best impressed. We were still unsure what was going on! We followed the woman to another room then all become clear. The whole point of the talk was to sell people silver. And for yet another hour we sat in a different room where some of the more gullible and rich members of the group purchased over priced silver in bulk quantities for their family and children. All we could do was sit and wait. Eventually we gave up and left, the whole experience was a but of a joke and a let down. We were too eager to leave and the stench of the barn below was making me feel giddy.
After everyone eventually came out we were able to thin get the bus back to daocheng. Everyone headed to the same hotel for a meal and for their room for the night before they started the long journey back to chengdu over two days. We headed to our youth hostel across the street!
The man recognised us straight away, we were given our room keys, a long awaited wifi code and shown to our room with it’s very own non leaking non smelling bathroom with hot water! We were very excited about this. Although we had had fun on the tour and it was sad to say goodbye to our new friends, we were relieved that we didn’t have to get onto another coach for a couple of days. We had a plan of action – yes another bus but not for a few days. We would soon be off to shangri-la.
The next morning we had a well deserved lie in, and walked around the town. We found a lovely little restaurant the night before where we had dinner for 15rmb and went there for brunch too. Later that day we had an unsuspected visit from friends. A couple we became friends with on the tour also cut the group early too (like many others) turned up at our door, so we planned to visit some places the following day by taxi, three temples and a lake which was soon to be the latest tourist attraction in the area, but was currently free as it was unfinished.
So late in the morning around 10am we all went to breakfast before finding a cab driver to take us out for the day for 200¥. We had a really nice day, the weather held up till the final part the lake, at which point we turned back and headed to the restaurant me and kraig had been eating out at for dinner. This was our final day in Daocheng, our bus ticket was booked for the following morning for 6am to get us to shangri-la.