A remote settlement in the mountains of the former Tibetan province of Kham, here you can get a semblance of the spectacle of monastic life through a visit to Baiyu Si (Baiyul; 3150m), a small monastery village of striking beauty. Wander the temples and observe the 200 monks living here, then explore the maze of lanes that wind among the red and white houses clinging to the hillside.
The original monastery, built in 1665, grew to be one of the six most influential monasteries of the Nyingma (Red Hat) sect. It has been restored and rebuilt several times, and at its height had more than 1000 monks before it was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The monastery was rebuilt in 1982 with a combination of private and government funds.
The monastery has a small printing operation in a building just uphill from the main halls. On the 2nd floor, you can watch carvers create delicate script in reverse as they cut away intricate designs out of small wooden blocks.
The monastery village infrastructure remains rudimentary; raw sewage flows onto the paths after rains. There are no restaurants or guesthouses, so head back down into the modern town below.
From the Baiyu bus station the temple is a 2km slog uphill through the lanes of the modern city, or accessible by car via a steep paved road on the northern edge of town.
At the time of research foreigners were forbidden from visiting the town.