Monks debating in the courtyard of Dagei Gompa monastery. Image by Daniel McCrohan / Lonely Planet.
Dala Gong Monastery Guesthouse
Travellers in remote, western Sichuan who are sick of staying in dusty market towns and only seeing the drop-dead-gorgeous scenery through the window of a bus will adore this place (dm Y30, private rooms with bathroom Y100). It's a 10-minute walk from the back gate of Dagei Gompa (大金寺; Dajin Si), one of the Ganzi region's most revered monasteries. Essentially it's an old dormitory beside a small temple that three of the monastery's monks call home. They're currently building some modern, private rooms in the courtyard, but it's more fun to bunk with the monks in the ever-so-basic dormitories. Think bed and blanket, and you're pretty much there.
That's my room by the washing line. Image by Daniel McCrohan / Lonely Planet.
Food-wise, it's tsampa, tsampa and tsampa. No joke. This simple roasted barley dish is literally all the monks eat. And that, along with lashings of yak-butter tea, is all you're going to get. But this isn't the Kempinski; it's a mud-brick wood-beamed old building, with horses sleeping on the ground floor below your room, and part of the charm is its rustic simplicity. What really makes the place stand out, though, is the gob-smackingly beautiful mountain scenery - snow-capped peaks in one direction, rolling grasslands in the other - and you can climb up onto the roof for 360-degree views.
The local baths. Image by Daniel McCrohan / Lonely Planet.
Sure, there are no showers - in fact, there's no running water. But who cares? A five-minute walk along the river that rushes past the back of the guesthouse brings you to a swimming-pool-sized open-air hot spring where you can wash yourself, your clothes and, if you're one of the locals, your motorbike!
Daniel McCrohan is researching the 12th edition of the China guidebook.