In a few hours, I will be flying to the province of Sichuan to embark upon my summer expedition into Daocheng-Yading. Digging deeper into the profiles of Daocheng county and Yading National Reserve, I was surprised to find how closely they bordered the Himalayan plateau and Myanmar to the West; the latter is merely 200km away, a two hour drive!
So why Daocheng in Southwest Sichuan? I’ve developed a habit of looking up quick specs of any upcoming trips (call it being prepared) and It looks like I’m joining an electic group of keen tourists and dedicated Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims who flock to this breathtaking alpine expanse known as the “Last Shangri-la”. I’m anticipating a rich dose of natural scenery and the chance to observe and experience Tibetan Buddhist practice. Also looking forward to exploring local life and trying yak butter.
From what I understand, Daocheng county is inhabited by just over 32,000 people, of whom 96%+ are Tibetan and 90% work in agriculture. It is home to ancient mountains, lakes and glaciers considered highly sacred to Tibetan pilgrims. In particular, three holy mountains were believed to be blessed by (and hence named after) bodhisattvas in the 8th century. I’d just had the pleasure of spending a semester studying Buddhism in China (shoutout to RRO at Cal) so this history captivates my mind. Not sure if I’ll be visiting any one of these peaks but excited to see the 6,000+ m tall giants in all their quiet grandeur.
We’ll be bussing from Chengdu which should grant us a nice, gradual adjustment to the rising altitude, averaging 4,000 m (~13,000 ft) when we reach our destination within the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. I’d last visited Lhasa and its neighboring towns in Tibet in 2010 (Potala Palace in photo above). To say the least, it was a spiritually, visually, and physically unforgettable experience- respectively, for the Buddhist culture, the astonishing plateaus, and my body’s first and relatively comfortable attempt at coping with high altitudes.
In my imagination, Daocheng will offer something of the sort mixed with something entirely different. I shall find out! Goodbye, Hong Kong.