Pete Sweeney (more chengdu)|
By the time I got to Tagong I needed it more than I realized. I’d spent a lot of time in the crowded, hot Chinese summer bouncing from big city to big city, and I felt like a steamed baozi, albeit a rather sweaty one. I read a couple of guidebooks and Tagong sounded nice; a small town rimmed by mountains, hills, and grassy plains. A few fellow travelers, returning from Tagong, gushed about sleeping in yurts with nomads, surrounded by yaks. When I found out they’d paid 100RMB to sleep with yaks, I withheld comment. I feared another tacky tourist trap.
Well, Tagong is a tourist trap, to the extent that you don’t want to leave, but the bouncy bus trip from Kangding (also covered in this issue) serves as a sort of natural barrier sparing Tagong from oversaturation. A few restaurants, a few temples, you can walk out of the town in minutes and meander through the green hills, strung from peak to peak with flapping prayer flags like so many holy high wires. Apart from sleeping with yaks, which can be arranged by hostels in town, or self-negotiated if your Chinese is good, there’s no tourist industry to speak of, and the life in the town proceeds naturally. The temples aren’t there to sell tickets, and the coveys of Tibetan women who come down to sing and dance softly in the gathering twilight aren’t doing it for money, but for the simple joy of it. That said, if you take a picture of people or domestic animals, cute children will generally batten on you for a kuai or two.