(English version from the text posted in Jun/2014)
308 kilometers and 11 hours of bus separate these two villages near the border with the so-called Autonomous Region of Tibet: Shangri-la, in the Yunnan Province, and Dao Cheng in Sichuan Province.
Although since the mid-eighteenth century Tibet was under the administration of the Emperor of China, it was only in 1950, when occupied by the People’s Liberation Army, that it became part of China, with the majority of its territory on Autonomous Region of Tibet. The remaining area was then divided by the nearby provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan.
Given the difficulty of traveling in the Tibet Autonomous Region, which requires specific authorization and obliges to travel in groups, which inevitably push foreigners to travel agencies, that increase significantly the cost of the trip, it gets too expensive to visit Tibet for a backpacker budget. The best option for those who want to know what remains of Tibetan culture and to enjoy the remarkable landscapes of the Tibetan plateau is to visit the villages located nearby the Autonomous Region of Tibet border, where the easiest access is made by the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.
Alternatively, the region of Ladakh, in the far north of India, is also another way to get close to Tibet. In Kathmandu, Nepal, and in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, it is possible to have contact with this culture due to the presence of a large number of Tibetan refugees, including the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala district, precisely at McLeod Ganj village.
The bus ride, in spite of the poor road conditions, where part of the beaten path, crossing the mountain chain of Meili Xue Shan, also called Mainri Snow Mountains, climbing high passages and descending to the valleys to cross rivers, with the road winding up the steep slopes, offers breathtaking landscapes.
On the way out of Shangri-la, the landscape is dominated by the green of the pines covering almost every slope of the mountains, except for the highest peaks where the rigor of winter still leaves traces of snow covering these landscapes. In the valleys run streams and rivers whose low level of water reveals a rug formed by stones, rounded by the passages of the icy waters.
Leaving behind small settlements surrounded by modest agricultural fields, arranged along the fertile banks of water lines, where yaks and wild horses graze, we start to go up the steep slopes. Increasingly the landscape gets more desert, with the human presence disappearing almost completely. The abrupt gray cliffs seem to touch the white of the clouds that decorate the blue sky.
The settlements lying along the road, which are no more than a few houses scattered along the road, feature a characteristic Tibetan architecture, with buildings consisting of three thick stone walls forming a rectangle, within which are built With aid of robust wooden trunks the habitation, almost always of two floors; Whose main facade is entirely wood; The doors and windows are framed by elaborate and colorful designs painted in wood carved in intricate geometric shapes that stand out in the white of the walls.
As you enter Sichuan Province, the houses acquire other characteristics, the outer walls being entirely built of stone, with the door and window decorations giving way to a black trapeze frame, making these dwellings more solid and Dark, feeling enhanced by the gray stone walls that at cost stand out from the dry, dusty landscape.
Crossing the highest points, and moving North, the landscape grows more and more arid, with the forest giving way to sandy and rocky slopes of gray and brownish colors, giving the landscape a wild and inhospitable tone… the typical Tibetan plateau landscape!
Note: photos taken from inside the bus