This morning, we were dropped off by Li to Potatso National Park 普达措国家公园, the first national park in China. (Incidentally, we were told by the guide there that the first national park in ths USA is the Yellow Stone National Park.) We went totally prepared, dressed in 3 layers of T-shirt, woollen jumper and windbreaker.
Travelling within the park is strictly by the buses provided. At Y190 pax for entrance fee, I wonder how the locals can afford it. There are four main stations providing tourists spots, the main station at the entrance, Shudo Lake 属都湖, Bita Lake碧塔海 and a restaurant stop.
The bus travelled along mountainous roads and a guide provided running commentary of the scenic spots. We were told that the park is opened all year and the scenery changes with each season. In Spring, especially in mid May, you see a blossoming of 杜娟 (what’s the name of this in English?) along the hills, and in the wet summer July, the meadows would be awashed with tiny colourful wildflowers. In the Autumn months, the colours warmed to an orange glow, the best season to photograph the park. In the long winter months from Nov – March, another change ranging from bare barren land to pure white landscape. We were a little early for flowers but managed to spot a few trees blooming with pink flowers.
Our first stop is Shudo Lake 属都湖. There is a 2.5km boardwalk for trekking, and security is strict about tourists walking onto the grass. On a calm day, one can see reflections of the distant snow peak mountains on the lake. The tranquil surrounding was spoilt by the noisy Chinese tourists, who spoke in voices so loud you could hear the echoes. Mike said it’s the way the Chinese were trained to speak from a young age, projecting their voice from the diaphragm instead of speaking from the throat. Thus it’s difficult to control the volume. Whatever it is, it spoilt the mood totally. The walk took us 1.5 hours from end to end.
The next stop was a restaurant stop and were were advised that this was the only restaurant in the park, yet nobody wanted to alight. The bus then proceeded to 碧塔海, a deep lake with an island in the middle of it. There used to be a ferry service to that island, but the service was stopped due to pollution until they find the appropriate electric ferry. The trek here is 4.7km long end to end, and if one is too tired too walk, you can opt to alight at the end and walk the ending trek of 1.3km. Most passsengers opted for that, but Mike and I, plus a few others photographic enthusiasts (with their large bulky SLR cameras hanging on their necks) alighted to walk the long trek.
It was a right decision, for the boardwalk was interesting, meadering along meadows, up the hill, hovering out onto the lake, and elevated among treetops. The weather was not cooperative and the cloudy sky and grey lake was not ideal for photography. While walking, I received a sms from Ivan’s chem tutor for permission to change lessons and decided to call Ivan, expecting him to be still in bed instead of studying, since it was a public holiday. Instead, I found him to be out at MacDonald’s with friends. That was a mood spoiler. To say i was fuming was an understatement. Let’s hope his results for midterm can justify his choice of action.
Aaron called a few minutes later, with a request from my mother to buy some cordycepts. Mike declined. Never having bought this in Singapore, how would we be able to tell the grade or price for those in China? I could hear mom complaining about him being on the PC the whole time, with him defending himself. Let’s say I did not really see much in my 2 hours walk after that.
We returned to the bus, and waited for the bus to fill up. I was observing the crowd, and noticed a mother carrying a toddler about three. They alighted from the bus, went to my side of the bus bay, and she proceeded to pull down his pants, squatted down while carrying him with his knees apart for him to urinate. In front, another bus was reversing. She then got up and moved out of my sight to another area to continue.
I guess nothing much in China has changed. Spitting is still a common sight, and despite the signs of wealth being flaunted, crass, instead of class remained prevailent.
We left the park at 2pm, starving, and declined any further service from Li. She had a stench in the car this morning and we suspected she had not taken a bath since yesterday, because of the late night.
We rushed back to the hotel and went into the cafe, undecided if we should eat lunch, tea or an early dinner, for we had a spa session that night at 8pm. Herman, the GM came over to chat, and before he left, he told us that this meal was on him. I was surprised and he waved away my protest and told us to go ahead and order whatever we want. I settled for a mushroom soup and an apple pie, while Mike ordered fried rice noodle. This unexpected generosity made my day.
At 4pm, David, the 22 year-old Naxi man from front desk acted as our guide to take us around the neighbourhood. The first stop was a house next to my villa. It belonged to a Miss Song from Beijing, who enjoyed her stay at Banyan Tree Ringha so much she had one villa built exactly the same next door. Further down the road, we visited a household for tea. The owner works in the resort and her daughter-in-law showed us around. They had a satallite dish and solar-water heater, courtesy of the resort. We were told that Tibetans married very young, some as young as 12. This lady, Zuoma, had married at 16 (her husband is the same age) and now at 21, was already a mother of a 2.5 year-old toddler. Try as I might, I cannot imagine Andreas being married at 16. Many Tibetan couples our age would already be grandparents.
I was taught how to make Tibetan bread with the grounded barley and yak milk, and although my hands were not washed, my hosts were sporting enough to try my handmade dough. I would made some Tibetan man a very good wife, judging by the complements i received for my delicious dough. I could just imagine myself, stress-free from o-levels kids, tending to the yaks and pigs, not exactly such a bad thought.
As i was talking to Zuoma (or Tsuoma), she excused herself to open the metal main gate, for she had heard her animals calling outside. As we watched in amazement, horses, sheep, and pigs entered the compound one by one. They had finished grazing in the field and were returning home.
Our excursion with David was an eye opener to the people living in Shangrila. David (the staff were all given English name)has been working at the resort for 1.5 years, having rejected the university as he was given a course he had not opted for. He brought us to the famous 300 year-old monastry 大宝寺, built by the 5th Dalai Lama (Current Dalai Lama is 14th). As in all the temples I’d visited in Shangri-la and Ankor, I said a prayer for Ivan’s O’levels. As we walked home through the small village, we met an elderly couple shearing their sheep with a pair of scissors. The wool collected would be woven into capes and carpets. David pointed to the numerous community projects headed by the resort, like the primary school (which had since closed from lack of teachers), and the upgrading work around. What a great company Banyan Tree is. I’m truely proud of it as a Singaporean.
There was a light drizzle and we hastened our steps, land looked forward to the spa session awaiting us at 8pm that night.