Friday, November 03, 2006

Travelling, Days 6 and 7: Soubo, Buke, and Zhonglu, Kham Province, Tibet

Li Tong had planned to stay in the Danba area for about a week, and I wasn't in a rush to move on, so after getting back to Danba we decided to check out another small village, called Suobo. Wang Bo did want to leave soon, but he had time for this one last sight.
Suobo is famous for its fortress towers. Until the Chinese invasion Kham was never really controlled by one government; instead it was divided into small principalities ruled by either monks or kings who often fought one another. The stone towers in Suobo and elsewhere in the Danba region are remnants of this. They are pretty impressive- they are usually around 50 feet tall or even higher, and have no doors to make it hard for attackers to enter. Locals claim that they are hundreds of years old. Suobo seemed to have a dozen such towers, but itself wasn't anything special. We just took a few pictures from a road across a valley from the town and then headed back to Danba.
The next day Wang Bo decided left, but Li Tong and I stayed in Danba. I still wanted to see Zhonglu, the village the hotel owner in Chengdu had recommended to me, and Li Tong had to wait for his wife to get to Danba. The day Wang Bo left we went yo Buke, a very small village that few tourists bother visiting, but which Li Tong's friends had recommended to him. It was set in a lush valley and had a beautiful, colorful and small monastery, and was almost totally undeveloped for tourism. It was far prettier than Jiaju, and actually made Jiaju seem kindof fake by comparison. It was probably the most peaceful place I had yet been to in China.
We didn't stay for too long in Buke, and quickly moved on to Zhonglu. Zhonglu wasn't quite as peaceful as Buke. Right after we got to the guesthouse dozen people arrived in cars with "Chengdu Judiciary" written on them. They had come to Zhonglu on a work-sponsored vacation, and seemed to spend most of their time there drinking and eating. Li Tong was pretty disgusted with them. He explained to me that it was very common for government officials to go on work sponsored trips with their colleagues. However, these trips amounted to little more than government officials wasting taxpayer's money to enjoy themselves and impress each other. These particular officials got fairly drunk, loud and annoying, though when they noticed me they weren't as obnoxious as I feared they might be- one of them was actually embarassed to be seen drunk by a foreigner. Luckily they left quickly, and soon it appeared that Li Tong and I had Zhonglu to ourselves.
Asude from the carousing Chengduers, Zhonglu turned out to be my favorite village in the Danba area. It was larger and more spread out than Buke, and there were many farms interspersed around the beautiful Kham houses. It was in a valley like every other town in the area, but it was a larger valley and was lush on one side while the other side featured sheer, craggy mountains and cliffs. Li Tong and I and another Chinese tourist we met there spent the afternoon wandering around the village, guided by two local girls. The village was a maze of paths that wound up the valley and around the houses, fields, pig sties and orchards. The main sights were some caves said to be inhabited thousands of years ago (they seemed rather small for that though); the local temple, which was more than a little dilapidated; and the girls' house. We also checked out another tower, perched near the top of the valley, which had a tree growing inside of it. The high point of the day was when we were going back to the guesthouse and the clouds that had been blocking the sun for part of the afternoon broke. The sun, which was just then setting, cast rays down the valley and on to the craggy mountains on the side opposite from us, and onto the fields below us, which suddenly seemeed to glow gold and bright green. Just then it started drizzling, and a rainbow appeared in front of the mountains, and then a second rainbow. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have yet seen in China.

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