Friday, November 30, 2012

I ate YAK…and I liked it

We were all too quickly moving into our last day of the trip. 

After we arrived at the Songtsam Retreat we had a whopping 30 minutes to get ready for dinner!  There were three of us in our room and yes, three women managed to all shower and wash hair in 30 minutes!  We were moving.

Our first order of business was dinner.  We had moved towards Tibet (we’re in what is known as Little Tibet…or the Diet coke of Tibet) so we were hopeful that with that move came a change of menu.

And BOY did it change,

We went to a lovely restaurant where we were served a nice vegetable soup, noodles and then…Yak with Barley.

The Yak was pretty cut up…in fact, downright tiny pieces!  It was cooked with a nice rich gravy and along with that and the barley, made for a really really good dish!  I do not have a picture of the dish

I DO however, have a picture of a Yak

IMG_6925  It is pretty big !  Think of it as a kind of  cross between a cow and a buffalo.

After dinner we went to a local show.  this was suggested by our guide.  First, see the coats?  Yea, they don’t close the outside doors…it was FREEZING in there.

IMG_6836 We got to taste Yak Butter Tea (I can’t make that up people), tasted like (chicken) bullion,  and a home made liquor that was served in tiny cups and had the kick of that Yak up there.  WOW.  The Chinese business men behind us (well, in China I guess they are just called business men) were LOVING this stuff and toasted each other through the entire show.  I personally wanted to have my eyesight the next day, so I left it alone.

The dancing begins:

IMG_6837 The pictures here are not good because of the lighting and the speed of the dancing.  I wish the show had been half as long as it was, but it was nice to see all the costumes.  The flutist was amazing


After the show we headed back to the hotel, where we set our room on fire…well, kind of.  I was just this side of asleep when Betty noticed our room filling with smoke from the wood burning stove and fire the staff set up for us.  Open all windows and all doors and a frantic call to the front desk handled THAT little emergency.

The next morning would bring our last day of touring, It was bright, beautiful and COLD!

IMG_6863IMG_6856Here is the retreat.  The first picture shows how spread out the place is. 

We were walked over to Songzanglin…the largest Tibetan Buddhist  monastery in Zhongdian – built by the fifth Dalia Lama!  It was built in 1679 but was majorly re-developed in the 1980’s b/c it was pretty much destroyed during the cultural revolution

I need to come up with a new adjective…WOW.  These two pictures are just one part!




First, as the sweeper, I brought up the rear while my traveling companions took pictures…and somehow before we got there…the early birds found Shoppertunities!  At a monastery?  YES

This is our guide:  Mr. Tom.  He brought us over the mountain and now was with us for the last days of our trip:

IMG_6875 He was so informative, that strangers joined our group to hear him talk!

IMG_6880 (it’s the girl in with the long black hair in the grey cap…yep…not one of ours)

While we were there, the monks were “un-decorating” the Monastery by removing these flags…there were hundreds of them!

IMG_6878IMG_6877IMG_6876 -See …up on the roof!

The monks run the place…so while some were inside praying, or working on the remodel of the main area, others were outside chatting, un-decorating or just moving through their day! Click on the pictures and check out the shoes!  Some in Nikes and some in traditional footwear!  Quite a cross-blend!


We were not allowed to take pictures inside…and the place is so massive (it consists of three main halls…the one of most “significance” being in the center of course.  In the main hall, there are HUGE Buddhas!  26 feet tall.  I went upstairs to go “eye to eye” with these incredible representations .

Here in the entrance of just one hall.  I’m sorry I don’t’ remember “who’s” hall this

IMG_6882  It was in this hall that you could make an offering and receive a blessing from one of the Monks…Many of us did this.  We received a bracelet in return.  I treasure mine.

Too soon we had to be on our way to lunch (does it seem to you that all we do is EAT on these trips??  YES!).  We saw this couple on the way out, traditionally dressed

IMG_6913 I bet they weren’t cold!


These were just some of the stairs we had to climb down to get to our bus.  It made me very happy we took the “back” way in…these were tough and STEEP (they were steep and at an altitude of 3300 meters…everything was just harder)


In the parking lot, locals would sit, socialize, and cook

IMG_6917IMG_6916IMG_6915 (Hot Pot)

IMG_6918 Me with the Monastery in the background

SO…were were scheduled to go and have lunch with a Tibetan family in a village for hot pot…but upon making an early morning phone call to confirm, our guide was told no one would be home to help us (huh? there were 22 coming for lunch!!) so we went to a nice restaurant where we had…

MORE YAK!  Lunch this time was very fun b/c YES! new foods AND it was Hot Pot so we could cook it ourselves. 

Here is the place:

IMG_6921 (just in case you want to stop by)



I was still pretty much off my feed, but I did have the broth from the Hot Pot and some Yak (when in Tibet…).  Both were very nice.

The afternoon would bring us to our last tour of the trip.  Off to another Tibetan village where we were welcomed.  It’s a lovely place!  That’s next time  --here is a link to Wikipedia..I’m only including it b/c they have WAY better pictures than I do…and there are pictures of the Giant Buddhas they we could not snap!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hi Ho Hi Ho…a trekking we did go!

(as always…click on the pictures to see them larger…they are the best thing here)

I didn’t mention that after dinner last night, some of us ventured to the deck of the (not so) Halfway Guesthouse to star gaze.

I think this is one thing I was looking forward to the most.  One of my most cherished memories was sleeping outside with the kids when we went river rafting on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho (I said “cruise” Corey heard “boat”).  The children had not seen a sea of stars, let along satellites crossing over.  It was magical. 

Well, the kids weren’t with me this time, but I could still look up, remember, and be in awe of the sight.

Too quickly it got just a bit cold for this, so I headed in.

The next morning our “Uber” hikers ventured out early to get a head start as they would be not only doing the 5K out to Tina’s Guesthouse, but also venturing into Tiger Leaping Gorge.

I arose to see them off, get last minute instructions from Betty (don’t lose anyone), and basically catch a glimpse of the brightening sky.

My appetite was still gone…nope…no broccoli this morning….actually pancakes, but eh, not interested.

I packed up my backpack and took some final pics of the deck.


Yes, that is a Communist Flag.  On the pole are wood replicas of flags from all over the world.  This place is POPULAR!

14 of us set off with our two guides to finish off the last 5K….which was advertised as Flat…then downhill.  OK…NO….It was a relatively treacherous hike…doable, but I thanked heaven YET AGAIN, for my 30 RMB (5 bucks) walking pole.  Very handy for balance!

Here are some snaps….

IMG_6731 The Halfway Guesthouse

IMG_6733 These three let it BE KNOWN that we were NOT welcome there…and made quite a fuss!

And then

IMG_6735 The sun made it’s appearance.  Breathtaking.  It was worth staying behind just to see this. The sky was BOOMING blue!

We moved along at our own pace, which is nice because it lets you chat with a person…then rest, and move on to another.  I was with 21 of the most diverse and interesting women on this trip!

IMG_6752IMG_6748 All Happy and all accomplished!


See these ?  Down there is where we were heading…and not via the paved road (the very very bottom…where the water is, is where the first group trekked to earlier in the day)

IMG_6740Water from the mountain.

IMG_6744 Temple up in the rocks

IMG_6743 This is a shelter for hikers who did not either make a booking or want to make a booking at one of the Guesthouses.  You could see the remains of fires as you walked by.

IMG_6754IMG_6753 The day was just spectacular!

5K and 2 hours later (exactly on schedule), we arrived at Tina’s Guesthouse for lunch…yes, you guessed it….same meal, different venue.  We were ALL looking forward to getting to Shangri-la just for a change of pace.

We hooked back up with our big bus…but before driving to Shangri-La, we stopped at ;

TIGER LEAPING ROCK…yes…there is a rock!

IMG_6759 See that big thing in the middle?  That’s it!  There is a platform down there where non-hikers can take the steps and go down to the rock.  We didn’t stop…but did grab a few pictures

IMG_6757Me (and the rock)

IMG_6761 That’s Betty with me!  She was the “leader” leader and my trainer for when I lead trips.

We drove on towards Shangri-La.  We stopped at “Small Zhongdian” to visit a traditional Tibetan Village.   All I can say is WOW

We were greeted at the Village by THIS little darling and her family


Needless to say, the village was pretty simple. 

IMG_6779 Drying rack…they were everywhere These are turnips.


Here is a villager moving through his day….trying to avoid the gawkers


Interestingly, houses are not “reused”.  Once a family (probably 3 or 4 generations) leaves a house for a new one, the old one stands empty. 



It’s hard to see here, but these homes are very ornate.  The villagers help each other build their homes…and the craftsmanship is off the hook.  (more on that in a second)

We made our way through the village and at the very end came upon a family working very hard clearing out their “yard”


They were building this mound from the muck and compost etc.  See the lady waving!

They were so kind as to invite us in to see them.

IMG_6814IMG_6813We would take pictures, and then show them to our subjects.  They LOVED that!  Such beautiful smiles and welcoming hearts.


After this we were invited inside their home!  Wait until you see the mantle

IMG_6815 Not a great pic…but this is all carved.  The senior member of the house offered us cigarettes and a seat (no thanks…we have to be going).  We gave them some money for their generosity and for posing for our pictures.

Back to the bus for the final push to our last hotel

IMG_6820 Due to the pollution in Hong Kong, these skies are rare for us…we took picture after picture after picture.

On our way to the hotel we stopped at a road-side…”hole” for those that had to go.  There is a keeper of said area…and it costs $1 RMB to use the facility.  Well, facility is a loose term… NO pics of the hole…but here is the “keeper”

IMG_6826IMG_6824IMG_6822 She likes her picture!  But you were NOT getting out of there without paying up. Most of us stayed on the bus!

Our last hotel of the trip was the Songtsam Retreat at Shangri-La.  It was right behind the biggest monastery in Zhongdian.  It was a sight to see.


Just a couple quick pictures from the bus…We would run and check into the hotel…where we had 30 minutes to change and get to dinner.