August 2nd: Kangding to Tagong

We returned to the bus station early in the morning trying to get tickets to Tagong, but were again refused because we were foreigners, I guess the workers hadn’t gotten the memo about foreigners being able to travel freely in the area. We walked across the street and got some breakfast before jumping into the fray of the unofficial transportation bureau outside the bus station. We found an acceptable price but had to wait for the driver to find two more people before he was willing to leave. We waited at the bus station for awhile but then we got into the car and drove up and down the streets to another unofficial bus station where we found one more passenger but the driver still wanted to find one more to fill the car. After a few minutes passed we went back to the real bus station and the man that had joined us got out of the car and walked away to find another ride, now we need to find TWO people going to the same place… the driver would come back and we would return to driving around the streets. We finally found a woman going to the same place and after what may have been between thirty minutes to an hour both she and the two of us were getting very impatient and told the driver that if he didn’t go we were leaving. He asked us to split the four person’s fare but we all refused threatening to find someone actually leaving. Our driver would finally give in and we were off to Tagong. The landscape between the two places was gorgeous, except for the incredibly ugly writing on the side of the one of the mountains that said, “The Love Song of Kangding,” in Tibetan, Chinese, and English, this was really an eyesore. Close to the Kangding airport there were several nomad camps with their herds of yak grazing on the grasslands.

We arrived in Tagong, which isn’t much more than one street with a few hostels, a temple, and some restaurants. We entered Sally’s hostel because Jeremy wanted some coffee and I had a yak breakfast sandwich. There were many people walking around the temple in town as part of the pilgrimage.  After finishing our lunches we wanted to walk around and take some pictures so we took some time to enjoy Tagong. I walked around the temple clockwise, as Tibetan culture calls for all religious things to be walked around in this manner. When I arrived around the backside of the temple I saw monks jumping around in the field and thought I would have a look as to why they were jumping around.

I walked over cautiously because I wanted to be respectful and didn’t know if I could walk over but they told me that I could take pictures and eventually asked me to sit with them and talk. We started speaking in Chinese but then one came over who spoke a fair amount of English. We spoke about Buddhism, Obama and the Dali Lama, and other general things. They also told me that their jumping around was because they were practicing for the festival that was coming up the following week, from what I remember it takes place between the 11th and 13th days of the lunar calendar. During our talk I was able to find out a lot about the monks’ and apprentices’ lives. The rule is that if you are under 18 years old you cannot consent to becoming a monk and the apprentices study Buddhism for long hours everyday. The age range that they said they had in the monastery was from 12 to 90 years old with about 100 men living there at this particular temple. Sitting in the fields with the monks let me sit back and really take in what was around me instead of walking around with the camera attached to my nose. They have some of the most beautiful skies and green covered hills, after living in cities with populations over one million for so long I had almost forgotten what clean air smelled like and that skies are actually blue not grey, it really was beautiful.

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