Daocheng Yading, with its mystical Chinese name, 稻城亚丁 (Yading is a holy land meaning “the land facing the sun” in Tibetan）is hailed as the last pure land on the blue planet, or a Shangri-La’s dream. I tagged along after learning that my close friend, Xun has the trip well planned out.
After the popular movie “I Belonged to You” (《从你的全世界路过》) was released in 2016, Daocheng Yading which was featured in the movie went viral. In fact, we met travelers who shared that they booked flight tickets to visit this paradise after watching the movie. So, what is there in Daocheng Yading? There are snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes, canyons, forests, meadows, fresh air, unique Tibetan culture and different sceneries in every season. We set off in mid-April, just around the snow melting season.
Preparation | Useful Travel Tips
I did not know that Daocheng Yading’s altitude is so high prior flying. The highest point I have been to was probably Mount Hehuan(合欢山) in Taiwan. So after knowing that I would be 4500m above sea level and on top of that, being brainwashed by my aunt who said that altitude sickness is horribly agonising and terrible, I was super anxious before departure.
Some useful Apps in China
For flight/bus/train tickets: Alitrip(飞猪), Ctrip(携程)
For accommodation: Qunar (去哪儿)
For travel tips: Mafengwo (蚂蜂窝), or subscribe to various travel agency accounts (similar to page in Facebook) on WeChat (I would encourage you to use the Baidu search engine for browsing China local information in Chinese)
To bypass China’s firewall: I would recommend this KKday sim card which does not requires VPN installation and allows you to surf Facebook and use Line directly.
The journey to Daocheng Yading is long, these are a few ways to get there:
- By Air from Chengdu or Chongqing to Daocheng Yading Airport. The flight takes about an hour. Off-season one-way ticket costs about 500 CNY ( = 104 SGD) or so. Although this is the fastest route among a few options, the Yading Airport is the airport of the highest altitude airport in the world. Hence, do take precautions to prevent altitude sickness if you intend to fly there.
- By bus from Shangri-La, Yunnan to Daocheng. This is a more comprehensive and packed schedule, as you cover both Shangri-La and Daocheng. The bus ride would be about 9-12 hours, Xun took this route and said that the journey was bumpy and shaky.
- By bus from Chengdu Xinnanmen Bus Station to Daocheng Bus Station. It’s a two days one night journey. The bus stops at Kanding (康定, Darzêdo in Tibetan) at night and you have to make your own arrangements for accommodation. The bus fare is 270 CNY (= 56 SGD), and tickets could be booked at Sichuan Transport Network Web (四川汽车票务网). I chose to take a bus because I was worried about developing altitude sickness and travelling by bus helps to acclimatise to the high altitude.
Personal experience on transportation: If you choose to go to Daocheng by direct bus from Chengdu like me, the bus departs at 10am every morning and reaches Kanding at around 6pm the same day. On the second day, the bus will set out at 6am and should arrive in Daocheng around 4pm. Be sure to prepare some snacks before the trip, the driver usually buys instant noodles when he stops. Do note that the China National Highway 318 (G318) is often highly congested along Mount Zheduo (折多山). I was greeted with heavy snow on the second day, and as roads were blocked by deep snow, we were stranded for 4 hours on the highway, reaching Daocheng much later than expected.
This is what happened due the jam. Everyone got off the bus and the highway was bustled with people. There are no toilets around certainly, so if anyone is in urgent need of relief, he/she could just resolve it on the spot!
Although the journey by bus is long, the mesmerising and diverse sceneries along the way make it all worthwhile 🙂 If you do not want to go directly to Daocheng, you could also stay in lovely cities that are along the route: Hailuogou(海螺沟), Xinduqiao(新都桥), Kangding(康定) and Mugecuo(木格措) .
Of course, if you aren’t keen to take a bus or plane, there are also other ways to get there such as private charter service or carpooling, so long as you have a sufficient budget. I even met a guy who biked across the G318, as well as an acquaintance who hitchhiked his entire trip.
Apparently Yading is prettiest in the Autumn between September to November, which is the peak season with most numbers of tourists visiting. Summer (June to August) is not bad as well, but it’s the rainy season, so rain is more frequent. We went in late April, which is considered the off-peak season. There were not much tourists, and it was just as when the snow is melting. I already find Yading exceptionally beautiful at this time of the year and what’s more, accommodations are not expensive!
We always check the weather forecast before setting off, and the predictions were that it would rain the next day, but it never did! We were blessed with clear blue skies for both days. The hotel owner told us that weather forecast online is usually not accurate because Daocheng Yading does not have a weather station.
Kanding: Kangding Konka International Youth Hostel (贡嘎国际青年旅社). Which is very near to the bus station.
Daocheng: Harvest Inn (梵禾谷客栈). The lady boss is pretty and friendly, but the room is too dark to my liking.
Yading: Yading Village Jiedonghou Guesthouse (亚丁村杰东后书民居)
*Note: Do make sure that the property you booked is allowed to receive foreign guests. As not all hotels/inns/guest houses can accommodate foreigners, so do check with the property before confirming your booking. I would recommend booking through agoda as it guarantees that you are allowed to stay in where you have booked.
If you choose to use booking.com, you may book through my referral link to earn a 500 TWD (= 23 SGD) rebate!
Also, there are security checks along the Sichuan-Tibet Highway for foreigners from time to time. We were required to register with the Public Security Bureau with our passports. The same applies to Daocheng too, the property would send you to the Public Security Bureau for registration.
Entrance 150 + Scenic Bus 120 (mandatory) = 270 CNY (= 56 SGD)
Student Discount (only with China Student Pass) = 200 CNY (= 42 SGD)
2017 was the Year of the Rooster, those born in the Year of the Rooster enjoyed discounted tickets at 200 RMB (= 42 SGD) too! Yes, I was born in the Year of the Rooster~~
Technical Jacket, waterproof shoes (Didn’t want to wear winter boots because they are a little too bulky), caps, sunglasses, mask, scarf, small backpack, thermal socks, gloves, dried food/snacks, medicine and camera.
Donned with all sorts of products from Quechua, perhaps Quechua can consider sponsoring my next trip? Haha!
I started taking anti-altitude sickness medicine Honjingtian (contains Rhodiola) a week before departure. While some people I met on the road told me that it doesn’t seems to help, I think it may be due to your physique! The effects vary from person to person, and I did not develop altitude sickness throughout the entire trip.
I did not buy oxygen bottles, but it was sold there at the price of 30 CNY (= 6 SGD) per bottle. Again, it depends on your needs.
Indeed, we met many people who had severe headaches, and could not stand the pain even only in Daocheng, and end up going to the hospital for oxygen therapies. They could not get to Yading, let alone climb to the peak of it. So I’m really thankful and grateful that my fellow friends and I were okay and the trip went smoothly. =)
How to enjoy Daocheng Yading?
It is recommended to spend 2 days for Yading. We departed from Daocheng by carpooling. You can ask the residence you are staying in to help arrange for such services, it takes about 110km to reach the town of Shangri-La. There is a tourist service centre in the town if you need any help. Take the shuttle bus to Yading Village, and get off at the right station that is closer to your accommodation (Do check in advance with the owner). Our guesthouse located at the 3rd station of the Yading Village.
There were also some travellers who choose to stay in Daocheng, but I felt that travelling 110 km every day is a waste of money and time.
Another option is to stay in the Shangri-La Town, which as compared to Yading Village, is more developed and cheaper. You don’t have to pay for entrance tickets to enter the scenic area the next day, but would have to spend another 60 dollars on bus fare.
On the first day, we arrived in the Yading Village in the afternoon, had lunch and it was around 3.30pm. We climbed a short route (from Longtongba 龙同坝 to Zhuomalacuo卓玛拉措, also known as the Pearl Lake 珍珠海) which took less than three hours back and forth. I swear, this route is not difficult!
I was panting at the start, but I adjusted my breathing and managed to keep up with my own pace.
A pile of Tibetan Mani stones. These stones have inscriptions on them, every pebble and stone slab are connected by the Tibetans’ pious prayers.
Because it is a Tibetan region, Wind-Horse flags or Lung-ta in Tibetan, can be seen everywhere to pray for peace.
The Chonggu Temple (冲古寺) was undergoing refurbishment, there were some constructions going on so it’s inconvenient to enter the premise. Due to time constraints, we headed towards Zhuomalacuo(卓玛拉措) instead.
After seeing the Pearl Lake, we immediately set off to catch the last bus at 6.30pm. There are not much restaurants in the Yading Village, the guesthouse sells food but they are pricey. We did not shower that night, and we do not recommend doing so because you risk catching a cold and it is difficult to monitor your body’s condition. All we can do was to rest and prepare for the next day.
Breathtaking view of snow-capped mountains and the starry sky from the guesthouse
We set off after breakfast and began the hike from Longtongba(龙同坝) to Zhaguanbeng (扎灌崩) similar to what we’ve done on the first day. Then, we sat on an electric shuttle to Luorong cattle farm (洛绒牧场). The round-trip fare was 80 CNY (= 17 SGD). If you have extraordinary strength, endurance and time, you certainly opt to trek. The one-way route we took is about 7 km.
You can also choose to ride horses to the Milky Lake from the farm. It takes about 2.5 hours and costs 300 CNY (= 63 SGD). Reservation is required.
We chose to hike instead. I did not see any horses on that day but was quite curious about the experience of horse riding up there.
We were very Being excited at the beginning, we were still be able to sing and chat, and everyone’s pace was quite uniform. Gradually, it gets tougher and we stopped speaking none spoke a word. I was the slowest among the four but I did not want to slow the rest down. So, I told them rest to not wait for me, and that I would keep up eventually~
It took us about 4 hours to reach the Milky Lake. In the last 1 km, I stopped after every 3 minutes of walking, but I bite the bullet and persevere until i finally reached. Upon reaching, I was deeply moved and awestruck by this spectacular scene.
Before hiking up the mountain, we bought a “portable self-heating lunch box” at the supermarket for 15 CNY (= 3 SGD). It was great to have a hot lunch on the cold mountain top!
The best time to photograph capture the Milky Lake is probably when there is sunshine. We were lucky as the weather was really good. I heard that it was snowing a few days ago, I can’t imagine climbing the mountain with the snow falling, for it must be awfully cold!
The Milky Lake is simply too beautiful to be true. I looked at it closely and also went around it with everyone of us admiring the lake from different angles.
Risk getting altitude sickness with this ‘suicidal’ jump.
After bidding farewell to the Milky Lake, we climbed higher to the Five-coloured lake (五色海). I still prefer the Milky Lake though.
Photo with the Milky Lake from an elevated height.
This is the Five-colored lake, 4700m above sea level. We did not have enough any strength or time to walk about, only looking at it from the peak.
Around 3pm in the afternoon, we hurriedly went down the mountain and believe me, the journey is not an easy feat. We may be faster going downhill but the hike up the mountain simply drained all our energy.
Xun edited a video of our trip to Daocheng Yading in the form of a series of dialogue. Feel free to click to watch!!
【中國大旅行：一週影像故事】 week 7. 稻城亞丁－藍色星球上最後一片淨土 稻城亞丁，位在高海拔的一片淨土，也可以說是地球上的最後一片淨土，美到許多人都想去一次，和阿勳之前到過的地方相比起來較難到達，也有需多困境需要面對。 這禮拜的一週影像，阿勳和他的旅伴要聊在稻城亞丁遇到的事情和心路歷程，並透過鏡頭傳遞稻城亞丁這最後淨土的壯麗。 ▶▶詳細圖文說明： 🚀 🚀 阿勳的中國大旅行 🚀 🚀 http://ninetyroadtravel.blogspot.tw/2017/05/week-7.html============================▍找尋一場產生巨大改變的旅行 ▍#九十路公車影片Vlog｜旅行故事｜議題思考｜實用攻略
Posted by 跟九十路公車去旅行 on Sunday, May 7, 2017
Remember to watch it in *HD*
Here’s another music video shot in Yading by Easy Shen – 《Best Thing Ever》. It’s gorgeous!
It was a very arduous journey because air is thin at high altitudes. Every step requires a great deal of effort. During the hike, we were all feeling very out of breathe, so we refrained from talking to each other, leaving only talking to ourselves in the head.
This is actually my first time travelling with this group of friends. Xun and I have known each other for quite awhile, as we completed our final year project together, but we never had the opportunity to travel together like this. Now that he is on a three-month solo trip in China, I am fortunate to join him in for this trip as a part of it. Traveling with him is like having a living encyclopedia, he always has so much knowledge to share.
You may follow his page if you’re interested: NinetyRoad Travel 九十路公交车
It’s nice to be this close to the world with your own feet and feeling that you are alive. For every breath I take, every step I make, I am clear of my goal. This journey had been a real eye-opener filled with new experiences of the Tibetan culture, high-altitude hiking, 28-hour train ride, 2days 1night bus ride. Feeling thankful for this chance to take a break for the perplex me to see the great world.
After this plateau experience, I guess I am ready to embark on a trekking trip in other places such as Sabah-God Mountain, Tibet, Nepal soon 🙂
After Yading, we returned to Daocheng then went to Litang-Ganzi-Yaqing Temple-Damba-Chengdu. Will share my adventures when there is a chance 🙂 Sichuan cuisine is really delicious :p
If you think that my article is helpful, here’s a small request. On top of documenting my adventures and sharing them with everyone, I always hope that there would be some feedback. But putting a QR Code for you all to reward me is too hilarious ~
So, if you are using booking.room to book a room, you may use my referral link.
Both of us will receive a cash rebate of 500 TWD (= 23 SGD) (which would be transferred to your account after booking) !
Thank you everyone! 🙏
There’re more interesting articles with stunning photographs similar to this one. Both of them including this article are originated from Pei Qi’s personal blog, feel free to check it out!
**Currency Rate – CNY: TWD:SGD = 4.8 : 22 : 1