9/17/15: Pudacuo National Park/Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
I slept past my 6:30 alarm & got up at 7. We got dressed and went down for breakfast but we were too late. Some large tourist groups had already demolished the place. every table, every plate & all of the food was gone. It was like a school of pirahna’s had been through there. We waited at a table and the restocked the food slowly. There wasn’t much for me so I kept an eye out for the rice to get restocked and pounced when it did. This time it was rice fried with egg so I was golden.
After breakfast we met the guide in the lobby at 9 & we were off to the Pudacuo National Park. It was a drive of about 50 miles to get there and the road passed through lots of local farmland. All of the livestock was free-range and they took advantage of that and roamed all over the place. Yak, cows, pigs, sheep and goats all roamed free and grazed together in perfect harmony. The guide let us know that all of the animals know where home is and they do go home each night. Once we got to the park we boarded shuttle buses since no private vehicles were allowed in. The first stop was to see Shudu Lake which had a wooden platform path alongside that we walked. Think it was about 2 miles long. It was a nice walk along the lake that was surrounded by some pretty dense forest. The next stop was just a scenic overlook that looked out over the grasslands where the nomads still live and tend their livestock. Apparently they were there long before the park came along were allowed to stay. Not sure how they feel about having shuttle buses come by & thousands of tourists staring at them though. The last stop was to just get out & look out over Bita Lake which was larger. There was a similar plank path along this lake but we didn’t have time to walk it. Both lakes have the option to view them by boat for 50 yuan. The Chinese did a good job on this park. It was clean, had nice bathrooms & was well run. I hope they do more of these to preserve the huge amount of amazing places they have. It’s likely too late to save some though.
Once out of the park we made the return drive back to Shangri-La. We stopped for lunch at a place that seemed to cater to tourists since they had a western menu & rock memorabilia on the walls but we ordered Chinese food and it was actually very good. They had a KISS Dynasty picture in the restaurant so even if the food sucked they were winners in my eyes. After lunch we went to check out the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery which was just five minutes from our hotel. It wasn’t very old (at least as far as things go in China) and was built some time in the 1600’s and had some new building done recently. It was pretty interesting & our guide taught us a lot about the monastery as well as Buddhism. We had 1/2 hour to wander around by ourselves and we found ourselves in a place where a young monk was using an axe to chop yak butter for the candles. He started talking to us & another couple in broken English y asking how old we were & where we were from. Found out that he was 19 and had been there since he was 9 and is a huge fan of American basketball. We then met our guide and on the way back to the hotel I asked if there was any good Tibetan food nearby. He took us to one in Old Town & made sure we knew how to get there from our hotel.
After relaxing in our hotel for a bit we walked over and tried out the restaurant. It is in an odd place as it’s off the big streets and you need to walk through a garage to get to the restaurant. There are no signs saying it’s there either. But the food was excellent. We had some hot pot with yak meat as well as some yak Momo which are very similar to Chinese steamed buns. I had a Shangri-La beer there which was the best beer yet. It was actually pretty decent. We pack tonight for an early flight to Tibet where the next stage of the trip starts.