Daocheng - Yading... The "last Shangri La"? A short report
Replies: 2 - Last Post: Nov 10, 2012 11:37 PM Last Post By: xilongge
Sep 10, 2012 9:56 PM
Daocheng - Yading... The "last Shangri La"? A short reportHi,
I've just come back from a trip to Dao Cheng and Yading, from / and back to Zhongdian. One way by bicycle, back on bus with bike on top.
If the weather had cooperated, I might have enjoyed the trip. Beware of the possibility of really adverse and terrible weather in early September! The elevations above 4000m had sleet/rain/ and snow, below that constant drizzle and fog. I have not seen a single mountain top during those 6 days!
The scenery in the park might be spectacular, I don't doubt that, but you need a bit of visibility to appreciate.
Accommodation in Daocheng, Rivachieng and Yubeng is of low standard and / or expensive. Food even more so.
Especially this "Mama2" hostel in Daocheng I cannot recommend. They still keep a Tibetan Mastiff dog and a monkey on 5 ft long chains in the yard. The poor Mastiff will sure keep you awake also.
If you want to come independently to Yading (4 km from the entrance of the inner park), and don't have your own car and driver, you are at the mercy of a minibus cooperative (I really like to call them M_fia). I was quoted 300 Yuan for the way back 33 kms Yubeng - Riwa, 500 for Yubeng - Daocheng. The price varies with the amount of passengers of course. In my case they said there weren't any.
All other travellers I met in Yubeng came as part of a group from Daocheng, doing everything in a single day. That means 2 times 4 hrs in the minibus and leaves you... what... 8 hrs for hiking in the park, making it a 16 hrs race day with probable altitude sickness. Some peope I spoke to were not entirely happy about the procedings.
Within the inner park there are beginning signs of disneyland tourism for the "Jack Wolfskin" crowd from Shanghai. An oversized golf buggy takes (80 Y r/t) them through the 6 km valley to the mule mounting station. The mule sets you back 300Y to the first lake. A fit person can make all that on foot in a day, no problem.
After the first lake the wilderness finally begins... but then you need good enough weather. (You're up 4.600m) In my case I was in snow, sleet and fog, I decided to return.
Would I do it again?? Only if they would somehow issue a letter of garantee for good weather.
And even then.... all the trouble you go through and the high cost to run into a group of Shanghaiers with footlong tele lenses dangling around their necks???....
Sep 10, 2012 11:12 PM
1I have been in Yading last September. The weather was not so bad (only a little rain, no snow), but the views often have been covered by clouds. I never saw the top of the pyramidlike Mountain. I don't remember the exact price, but for transport I didn't pay more then at any other place. I think, I booked the minibus from Daocheng to Yading at the Youth Hostel in Daocheng. In Yading I stayed at a tibetan house (only could do this, because a chinese guy from Shanghai helped me finding accommodation) because the hostel there was a little bit ugly. The first day the owner of the house brought us down to the entrance by his car. On the first day we only walked till to the lake with the view of Chenresig. We stayed there for one hour and for a few minutes the mountain was totally free of clouds. The way back we walked, also from the entrance up to the village.
Next day we started early using our torches when walking down from the villge to the entrance. We walked the whole way till to the electric cars. We were the first and had to wait some time because they hadn't opened already. From the endstation we walked till milk lake and later to the 5 color lake. Only around milk lake the first chinese tourists on their mules overtook us. The weather was cloudy, the top of the mountains usually had been covered. Only Chenresig once again could be seen for a view minutes when the sun came back for half an hour. Before the sun came back there was about an hour of rain at 4600 m with no place to hide. But I had an ubrella with me. Fortunately there was no lightning. We realized, that we had been quicker than the times mentioned in guidebooks. But this was because we really rushed till milk lake, because first we were afraid that there will be not enough time.
Well, all in all I stayed 2 nights in Daocheng and in between two nights in Yading. The weather could have been better, of course. But the scenery is fantastic. If you want to visit Yading you should go, before the airport in this area is finished.
Edited by: tokyojoe
Nov 10, 2012 11:37 PM
2I was just in Yading at the end of October and this was the most beautiful place I've been to in China. For me, it beat Tibet, Yunnan, Jiuzhaigou, Hanasi, Zhangjiajie, etc. Sounds like the original poster was unlucky, as I met other travelers who went in September and enjoyed fine weather. The best time of year to visit is supposedly the 10 days or so just after the October holidays, when there is less rain and leaves turn golden. This year autumn came about three weeks early and the trees were almost bare by the time I got to Daocheng. But Yading was spectacular, with golden leaves still on trees, if just a little bit cold.
Yes, the weather is changeable in the mountains - the day before I went and the day after I left were clouded over - the roads suck, and the accommodation is lousy, but that kind of is the point isn't it? Otherwise there really would be Disneyland tourism. Unfortunately Daocheng airport is due to be completed next year and we're probably not far off. So I would not let the above deter you from visiting sooner rather than later.
The daily bus from Zhongdian (Shangri-la) leaves at 7.30am and takes 12 hours (RMB 109). The scenery on the way, winding through the mountains, is impressive, but at least half the journey is on bumpy roads. I also stayed in Daocheng Mama 2 (RMB 40 for a bed), and it was just so-so but not terrible compared to other places I've been. Sanitary conditions could be better, but there was hot water at least. The hostel can help to purchase onward bus tickets while you are in Yading, but from other travellers' experiences they may forget, so best to call and pester/remind them if you can.
To get to Yading I took a minivan organised by Daocheng Mama with other guests of the hostel for RMB 50 per person one-way. The price is probably set by some cartel, but there is no public bus, so not much choice. The van broke down and they sent another, but we ended up having to squeeze 10 passengers into 7 seats. The road was under repair and the ride took about 4 hours. The entry ticket into Yading costs RMB 150 (RMB 90 if you have a student card), which is fair value compared to other sights in China.
My minivan comrades and I looked at a couple of hostels in Yading village and found the standard to be low, with limited washing facilities. We ended up staying in Shenda Guesthouse (圣达山庄) for RMB 50 per bed, but cheaper (even more basic) options are available which have free shuttle buses to the entry point to the park. Shenda did not have a shuttle bus, and it cost an additional RMB 10 per person for a separate minivan ride to the entry point. If you prefer better amenities, Shenda also had newly renovated standard twin rooms with private shower and mountain view for around RMB 200 (depending on negotiation skills), catering mainly to tour groups.
Food is generally very expensive in Yading village, with RMB 300-400 for chicken or yak broth apparently the norm. However we did find a cheap restaurant which served dishes for RMB 20-30, just to the right as you come out of Shenda. The restaurant is called Snail Home-cooking (蜗牛家常菜) and is run by the owners of Snail Guesthouse next door.
No food is served within the park itself, but there is free hot water at the rest station if you bring instant noodles. You'll need to bring snacks and drinking water with you to the park, and these can be bought in Yading village.
It is possible to see the main sights of the park in one-and-a-half days. In the afternoon of the first day you can follow the right-hand route (branching off from the monastery) to Pearl Lake (珍珠海) - also known as Zhuomala Lake (卓玛拉措). The first 3km of the walk does not have any scenery, hence the electric vehicles which shuttle visitors for RMB 30 one-way or RMB 50 round-trip. I would suggest walking, which takes about 40 mins.
On the second day, you can take the left hand route from the monastery, to visit Luocheng Pasture (洛绒牛场), Milk Lake (牛奶海) and Five Colour Lake (五色海). The trip is about 16 km each way from the main entrance, with the highest point being Five Colour Lake at 4,700m altitude. The altitude is no joke, and many people do not make it as far as Five Colour Lake due to fatigue / breathlessness. I would suggest taking the second electric vehicle shuttle service, which takes you 7km for RMB 50 one-way or RMB 80 round-trip, as that part of the walk alone takes 1.5-2 hrs (with no scenery of note) and could tire you out for the most impressive part of the walk later on. The entire round-trip on the second day took me 9 hrs, making use of the shuttle bus for the 7km section in both directions.
I had nearly two days of clear blue skies, and saw spectacular snow peaks, golden trees and mountain pastures. It started to snow just as I was coming down on the second day.
I didn't have a problem with the "Jack Wolfskin" crowd and their telephoto lenses. Everyone I talked to was very nice, and if you have your North Faces I would bring them as the weather and temperature can change rapidly. At Luocheng Pasture (4,180m) the temperature was below zero, and I saw pools of water in the process of freezing over. If you have a telephoto lens, bring it, as the scenery will blow you away, weather-permitting. There were a reasonable number of tourists, but mainly small groups, not the bus loads such as at Jiuzhaigou etc (yet).
I would love to go again if I get a chance before theme-park culture arrives, and the remoteness and the rawness of the conditions were half the fun. Do need some luck with the weather though.
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