Home >> Tours




---By Mrs. Gina Corrigan
Expert on Textiles and Tibetan Culture

This tour is a rare chance to travel extensively in the remote Tibetan region of Amdo. We shall have the opportunity to drive through some of the most beautiful scenery in this region and visit little known monasteries as well as outstanding monastic establishments that were as important as those in Lhasa. On the way we will see traditional Tibetan nomadic life, little changed, and we will visit nomadic encampments so that we will learn at first hand. This is also the best season for wild flowers which grow in great profusion. Also, we are able to incorporate two quite different festivals into our programme. Visitors to this area are few and we shall be among local Tibetans. This journey is a unique photographic bonanza but also an opportunity for textile lovers to study costume and jewellery. We have also arranged demonstrations of a wide range of textile techniques used by nomadic families and monastic communities. This quintessential tour has been put together by Gina Corrigan following her extensive travels in Amdo. Gina says you need a spirit of adventure for the tour but hotel facilities have much improved and we are using land cruisers so that everyone can travel in comfort and enjoy a good view.

Thursday 13th July This afternoon we depart London Heathrow on Air China flight to Beijing flying overnight.

Friday 14th July Following the early afternoon arrival in Beijing the capital of China we will be met and transferred to a centrally located hotel. The remainder of the day will be at leisure or resting. An efficient taxi service makes it easy to move around Beijing although there is increasing congestion on the roads.

Saturday 15th July After breakfast we will depart by air to Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, one of China's least visited provinces, yet one of the most exciting destinations almost unknown to western tourists. Xining is situated on the edge of the Tibetan plateau at 2000m and is pleasantly cool. Depending on the time available we will walk into the city and see the exceptionally exciting market with its local products. En route we will stop at the park and join the local people drinking tea, which is served, in special teacups with, dried fruits and berries. In Xining we will meet our National Guide that will travel with us in Qinghai and our drivers and land cruisers which we will use for the rest of the trip.

Sunday 16th July Today we visit Kumbum Monastery, one of the biggest Yellow Sect monasteries in Qinghai., which has been well-known for many centuries all over Tibet. It was founded in 1560 to commemorate the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Yellow Sect. The monastery was built round a tree, which was the reputed birthplace of Tsongkhapa. The Dali Lama's brother was for a short time, abbot of this spectacular monastery with its great assembly halls and schools of learning. This will be our first opportunity to see how rich brocades and silks are used as wall hangings in the monasteries as also are appliqu¨¦ thangkas. Here, too, we find a large trading area where one can buy everything needed for monastic life, as well as antiques and tourist trinkets for the visiting pilgrims. Perhaps one of the most interesting workshops is where they make great metal images of the Wheel of Life and the deer which surmount temple roofs. Textile enthusiasts will be delighted to find various embroidery materials as well as some antique embroidery. One of the most interesting items is the embroidered plait cover, which the Tu minorities wear. We stay once again in Xining

Monday 17th July It is an easy drive of 190km to Tongren (Repkong) where we will stay four nights. The altitude here is only 2400 metres. We travel through a landscape dotted with villages inhabited by Muslim farmers who grow wheat, barley and rape, as well as fruit and vegetables. Since this is harvest time there is a lot of activity on the land so the journey is really interesting with local people sickling and threshing the crops. We are requesting a visit to the Dali Lama's birthplace, which is on the route, but this is not always possible, as one has to get special permission, which is not always granted.

Tuesday 18th July, Wednesday 19th July, Thursday 20th July. At Tongren
Tongren was in the past and is still today one of the most famous centres of thangka painting as well as the making of appliqu¨¦ thangkas. We have asked local people to demonstrate these two arts, as well the making of clay sculptures. In the area there is a famous hat maker who makes the hats for the Yellow Sect monks and lamas. This is a particularly interesting craft, which we also hope to see. In 2004 the hat maker was rather elderly and we only hope that he will be able to show us his hat making skills this year. Other members of the family will show us monk's robes and cloaks so we have some idea of the huge amount of work that goes into the making of these clothes. There will be visits to small monasteries in the area and an opportunity to wander in the villages of the Tibetan and Tu people who are not nomads but arable farmers growing the important crops of wheat and barley that is the staple food of the Tibetans. The valley at this time of year will be a sea of longhaired barley surrounded by sand brown eroded hills with single storied villages tucked into the hillside. It is a beautiful scene.

The Tibetans of Tongren are Buddhists but in August there is a most unusual secular festival in each of the villages, which has its origins in pre-Buddhist traditions. The people re-enact the Bon traditions and they worship the Mountain Gods. No monks of the Yellow sect are allowed to take part but sometimes give their blessing to the ceremonies early in the morning. The shaman of each village conducts this important ceremony, which honours the local Mountain God and asks for the good health of the village and a successful harvest for the local community. On the first day the image of the God is paraded round the village and the local populace give gifts of spirits, beer, bread and sweets. In only one village on the second day two goats are killed as a blood sacrifice to the Mountain God. This ceremony is early in the morning and if you wish to avoid it you can stay at the hotel. In another village butter effigies of a goat, sheep and yak are burnt as a sacrifice to the God. Various ceremonies go on all day, watched by the whole of the village dressed in their best clothes. The male members of the village dance in front of the shaman and at the height of the ceremony long needles are placed in their back and through their mouths. The men continue dancing, with the needles still in their mouths to the beat of a goatskin drum. Beautifully costumed women perform elegant dances to the God. Villagers enact costumed comedy skits. Each village ceremony is a little different and we will visit three villages, which have different costumes and traditions.

Friday 21st July Today we drive 110km to Jentsa County which straddles the Yellow River. Originally this was a Tibetan area but Hui Muslims traders and farmers have recently to settle in the county. However, important Tibetan monasteries still remain in the area and we are visiting Achung Namdzong Red Sect Monastery, which is surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks and is in the middle of Khamra National Park which is a spectacularly forested region. The monastery has strong connections with Padmasambhava and the area has been a place of pilgrimage since the 8th century. Sadly many of the temples still need restoration. Nearby, Chorten Tang the biggest nunnery in Amdo houses 200 nuns. We plan to visit it. Road construction has finished so it is now possible to visit both areas and then drive to the Lijiaxia Hydro Power Station hotel to overnight

Saturday 22nd July. It is an interesting drive to Maqen (Machen), the Tibetan Golok capital. The Goloks in the past were the most feared Tibetans, as they made their living from plundering the caravans that passed on through their way from Xining to Lhasa. We encounter a great variety of landscapes, from a sea of sand with huge dunes and a heavily eroded landscape of strange shapes, to pastureland, where nomads can be seen herding their flocks of sheep, living for the summer in black yak hair tents. We will stop at a monastery en route and admire the huge lhatses of coloured flags and spears, refurbished every year by the men of the family in honour of the Mountain Gods. The altitude is higher at 3800m here but we shall be acclimatised as we have driven slowly higher.

Sunday 23rd July If the weather is fine we should see Amnye Machen, which is the sacred home of the protector deity Machen Pomra, revered by Bonpo and Buddhists alike. Many thought, as late as 1949, that Amnye Machen was higher than Mount Everest but in the 1960's the height was fixed at 6282 metres. It is a day of wonderful skyscapes and rolling pastureland, grazed by sheep and yaks. A picnic on the open plateau among the wild flowers is just perfect. Madoi (Mato), where we stay, stands at approximately 4300 metres is one of the highest points on this journey. It is an outback frontier town and is an administrative centre for the Golok prefecture. This is the most testing hotel and there are no private facilities but the rooms are clean and warm and the food is fine. It can be very cold on the windswept plateau and white clouds scud across the blue sky sometimes changing to grey which can even mean the occasional snow storm, which passes as quickly as it came.

Monday 24th July Starting early we travel 400 km to Yushu (Jyekundo), which stands at 3, 700 metres. En route we see black yak wool tents, flocks of horned sheep and huge yak herds. Prayer flags flutter as we pass towns and villages. We stop to see rare yellow and blue poppies on High Mountain passes as well as water meadows rich with flowers. Lunch is at a typical frontier town and we will probably see nomadic girls wrapped in wool chubas wearing yellow amber pieces on their long black hair contrasting with blue turquoise. As we approach Yushu the hills are a rich green and we note a number of monasteries, perched high on the cliff face, painted in earth colours to our right. Yushu is the capital of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and this region is known for the monasteries belonging to Sakyapa and Kagyu sects.

Tuesday 25th July. Wednesday 26th July, Thursday 27th July Friday 28th July
At Yushu
Our arrival coincides with the opening of the Yushu Horse Fair and on the first day there is a huge parade of the participants which includes the dance teams, horse riders, the monastic communities dressed in their ceremonial clothes, the local schools, the services and the army. It is a riotous display of colour and beautifully costumed. Flags fly and the Tibetans dance vigorously to the music with their feet stamping in time. Ankle bells jingle. There is a huge programme of events for the next four days and we pick and choose. The favourite events are always the acrobatic riding and target shooting from horseback and the dancing. The Tibetan families live on site, at the time of the fair, in huge white canvas tents decorated with appliqu¨¦ designs. It is enormous fun to wander round and meet the Tibetan families who nearly always invite you into their tents to picnic from the huge quantities of food, which has been brought with them. Yoghurt and cold lamb with fried breads are some of the favourites, washed down with quantities of beer and chang. Most people are wearing their regional costumes and the women wear their richest turquoise, amber and coral jewellery and exotic hairstyles. There is also a thronging market on site, which is well worth exploring.

We also visit some of the local monasteries in the area and picnic with a nomadic family. Horse gear is made from sheep and yak wool and many of the men are very clever at braiding. Some of the braids collected from here have been very much admired by specialists in the field. We hope to get a demonstration as well as a weaving demonstration on the nomadic ground looms. Men and women still make storage bags, tent panels, horse-harnesses and slings. There is time to photograph meadow flowers which are particularly stunning in this area.

The centre of the town has a number of textile shops where you can buy local materials used by the Tibetans to make their traditional colourful costumes. There are also a few shops where you can buy antique Tibetan items.

Saturday 29th July, Sunday 30th July Unfortunately too soon it is time to return the way we came up the new main highway to Madoi, where we stay and then directly to Xining for the next night. It is a total distance of approximately 800km. Although we have travelled along half of this road before it is still full of interest, as the scene is every changing. Peter Corrigan will accompany you and Gina is taking the extension to the Litang Horse Fair.

Monday 31st July The group flies back to Beijing and the afternoon is free to shop

Tuesday 1st August. We transfer to Beijing airport and fly on the Air China flight to UK. Same day arrival in London Heathrow.


The following is written by our Beijing agent who is a specialist in the Tibetan Region and we must point out we have not done an exact reconnaissance of this route, although Gina has visited Litang using a different road and in a different season. The extension is operated in land cruisers and the roads in this season can be quite testing but it is a very exciting option. Many people want to travel to this remote Tibetan region and especially to the Horse Festival with its outstanding women's costumes and jewellery, which is quite different than Yushu.

Friday 28th July
Drive 350km to Manigango, a very small and simple town as most of the Tibetan houses are built with timber. Many nomadic families come here for shopping and to taste different food. The town gives you a strong feeling of the past. On the way we pass Sershul Monastery and visit Dzogchen Gompa one of the three important Nyingmapa monasteries in Tibet. It is just 3km away from the main road and is hidden in a beautiful valley. It was built in 1684 on the advice of the Fifth Dali Lama. The altitude is 4023 m. We overnight in the Communication Hotel, which has no facilities in the room, but it is simple and clean.

Saturday 29th July
Before driving 110 km to Ganzi we drive to the beautiful and famous holy lake of Yilhun Lhatso, located 15 km from Derge. Ganzi was once the largest and most important town in Khan built by the Mongols in the 17th century. Ganzi Gompa is in the town and we will also visit Den Gonpa, a very important protector monastery. The Khampa Hotel has facilities in the rooms.

Sunday 30th July
There are two possible routes and if there is no rain we will drive for half a day along a beautiful valley and visit one or two very old monasteries hidden in a valley. Overnight at Xinlong Guest House, with facilities. If it rains the alternative is the main road to Xinduqiao Township which is a transportation hub for truck drivers. We shall stay at the best local hotel but there are no facilities.

Monday 31st July
We drive to Litang, which is honoured by Tibetans with the title of 'Paradise on Earth'. The city is built in beautiful grassland at an altitude of 4200m. The town is characterised by large stone houses and both the third and seventh Dali Lama was born here. We stay at Highland Pearl Hotel, which has facilities.

Tuesday 1st ,Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 3rd August
At Litang Horse Race Festival where we see the magnificent local Tibetan costumes and all the activities that make up a Tibetan horse fair. Litang is the wild unruly outback so anything can happen here.

Friday 4th August
Drive to Damba which is the home of another ethnic Tibetan group, which has kept its own culture and distinctive dress. Each family often lives in blockhouses built of stone, which rise to between 30 to 60 m high. They won against the Sino - Manchu armies in the 18th century. We stay at a government Guest House.

Saturday 5th August
Drive 340km to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province The road is interesting as we pass Tibetan and Qiang farmer's houses with their particular architectural style, looking more like small castles. Finally we reach the light industrial area of Chengdu. 4 star hotel.

Sunday 6th August
Fly Chengdu to Beijing and overnight.

Monday 7th August.
Fly Beijing /London and arrive the same day at Heathrow.


hqmails@yahoo.com hqmails@aliyun.com

































































(C)2007-2010 west-eastours.com. All Right Reserved. Designed by Jiyelan(JYL) Media (info@jiyelan.com)