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Tibetan Summer Grassland Horse Festival in Kham & Amdo
(Sichuan & Qinghai Provinces)

16 Days Khampa Tibetan Horse Race Festival Tour 2012

This is a very special trip designed for those who love nature and are interested in different cultures to study the nomads and their arts, ritualistic festival, very old monasteries, visits with local people, nomads and many different clans of Tibetans on the “Roof of the World”. We will be tracing the routes of early explorers throughout the Tibetan provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai , known as Amdo & Kham. In the summer months of July and August, it is more like a late spring with deep blue skies, billowing white clouds, and green tundra like a carpet laid over rolling hills embroidered with wildflowers. We travel slowly by four wheel drive vehicles caravan-style and have the best hotels available in the remote area, clean with facilities. There will be 3 persons plus 1 driver per each car and a native experienced knowledgeable Tibetan / English speaking tour guide per group. We will have excellent food such as fresh fruit and vegetables, Tibetan yogurt, fresh mutton and yak meat, chicken, eggs, rice, noodles and soup, etc…

Day01 --Arrival in Chengdu (D)
Arrive at Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province and hometown of Chinese Panda. It is one of the densely populated areas in China, centrally located in the western Sichuan Plain, renowned for its fertile land and agricultural wealth as well as its popular and tasty cuisine. There is something for everyone in this city that Marco Polo described as China’s Paris and you will find it both traditional and modern with department stores selling the newest international fashions. Buddhist and Taoist Temples are full of heavy incense with chanting monks and vendors hawking everything from pirated software to chicken feet. People are everywhere as life happens on the streets, in the markets, alleyways, restaurants and roadside shops. It is also one of the major gateways to Eastern Tibet through deep valleys and magnificent gorges along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River from inland China. Overnight Chengdu 4 star hotel

Day02 --Chengdu / Barkham (Maerkang) (B/L/D)
We drive for 360km along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River’s high mountainous region with deep valley and awesome gorges to Barkham, the capital city of Aba( Tib: Ngawa) Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, where features representative Gyarong Tibetan and Qiang architecture and life. Now it is a big and quite modern city and an important trading and traffic center connecting the eastern and western China. The Gyarong is another Tibetan tribe which is different from Golok and Khampa Tibetan. They speak their dialect and maintained unique way of life with their own culture for centuries. The dress is also distinctive. Most of the women wear multi-colored embroidered headscarves and elaborate belts and aprons. Overnight Maerkang 3 star hotel

Day03 15th July --Maerkang / Damba /Ba-me (B/L/D)
Today we drive from Barkham, the northern limit of the Tibetan Gyarong region further to the south through the important Gyarong Gorges which offers you a fantastic view along the main tributary of the Yangtze River. In old days in this area, almost every family has its own block-house built with stones, ascending to heights of between 30-60 meters, which kept the powerful sino-Manchu armies at bay for 10 years during 18th century. We will pass Chuchen County (Jinchuan), lies deep in awesome and unwelcoming Gyarong gorge. Formerly known as Rabden, it was at times the most powerful of the Gyarong kingdoms. The valley looks so beautiful and the farmland rich in many kinds of fruits and grain crops at each bank of the Do-chu (Dadu) river scattered with typical style of Gyarong castle-like stone houses and some with high stone towers. Today we will pass the modern border between Ngawa and Kandze (Ganzi) prefectures and driving into Kham, an amazing and full of mysterious land. We can stop at any villages to taste their fresh fruits and have a nice talking with local people. Lunch will be arranged in Rongtrak (Damba) County. We continue drive for 75km up through thickly forested Tongu-gorge to reach Tongu La pass (3840m), then drive down to Khampa nomadic pasture land to Ba-me, a nice and small town for overnight. Overnight local best hotel

Day04 --Ba-me / Ganzi (Kandze) (B/L/D)
Ba-me is an important road junction to Kandze and to Kangding (Dartsedo). Before starting our trip to Kandze, we need to drive only for 16km to visit Lhagang (Tagong Si) monastery built in 7th century under the advice of Princes Wencheng. A legend said when Princes Wencheng traveled to Tibet, she stayed overnight here, and Jowo Shakyamuni image which she brought as her dowry to Lhasa is said to have spoken out aloud, requesting to be left in that idyllic setting. For thousands of years, pilgrims from Kham who have seen this image will proudly say that the blessing resembles that of seeing the Lhasa Jowo image itself. Then we continue our scenic trip to Kandze, along the fertile meandering Yalong valley and gorges at the confluence of the Zhe-chu with the Yangtze. Kandze was once the largest and most important town in Kham area during the 17th century. Ganzi Gonpa is in town built in 1642 by Mongols who lived here. Overnight Golden Yak 3 star Hotel

Day05 --Ganzi (Kandze) / Derge (Dege) (B/L/D)
This morning at about 7:30 a.m. we will visit the oldest part of Den Gompa to see a prayer ceremony for the local people. Den Gompa is a very important protector monastery for the area. After visit we will continue our trip for 180km to Derge. We will stop in Manigango for a meal and then we head to visit one of the most holy and beautiful lakes, called Yilhun Lhatso. From here we drive up the Tro La Mountain Pass (Alt. 5080m), which offers you spectacular scenery of both sides of the mountain. Overnight Derge 2 star hotel

Day06 --Derge (B/L/D)
Derge in Tibetan means: A village of doing good things. This is a charming place that preserves the old traditional Tibetan way of life. The town is located in a beautiful valley along the Zi-Chu, one of the tributaries of the Yangtze River, flowing rapidly right behind the hotel. We will visit the famous Parkhang Printing House; the printing works is on the second floor, where we may watch actual printing of various text of the Kangyur and Tangyur. Later, we visit Gonchen Monastery, and the old chapel built in memory of Tang Tong Gyelpo, Tibet’s first multi-talented bridge builder, dramatist, engineer, and treasure finder - during the 11th Century. There is much research to be done here that must be documented. Besides beautiful surroundings, youwill be touched by all old monasteries inDerge with a deep impression of this small special town. Overnight Derge Hotel

Day07 -- Derge /Sershul (B/L/D)
Drive 280km to Sershul (Shiqu), a very small andsimple town, asmost of the Tibetan houses are built with timber. Many nomad families come here for shopping and to taste different food in this town. This is the old post road and part of the ancient Tea Horse Trail, where we often see yaks delivering tea. En route, we will visit one of the four most important Nyingma monasteries, Dzogchen Gompa, just 3km off the main road and 53km from Manigango. It is hidden in a beautiful valley (Alt. 4023m) with snow covered mountains and was built in 1684 on the advice of the 5th Dalai Lama. The remainder of the driving on our left, you will enjoy a beautiful snow covered mountain range as well as great view of the grassland all the way to Sershul County.
Overnight Sershul local best hotel

Day08 -- Sershul / Yushu (Jyekundo) (B/L/D)
Drive 160km via Sershul Gonpa to Jyekundo (Yushu), On the way, we may stop for filming at the home of families who weave yak hair fabric to make tents and felt for large capes worn in religious dances. We pass Sershul (Shiqu) Monastery and have time to visit it. Then we drive up to cross over the Ngamba La (Xiewu) pass (4459m), which divides the Yalong and Yangtze basins, as well as the present day provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai. On the descent from the pass there are magnificent views of green grassland covered with different wild flowers and Drogon Monastery clinging to the sheer cliff-face above the town, and painted in the distinctive Sakya colours. From here to Jyekundo (Yushu) is only 50km along the Yangtze River valley. Overnight Yushu3 star hotel

Day09, 10, --Yushu (Jyekundo) Opening Ceremony of Horse Race (B/L/D)
Today is the opening day of the Tibetan Horse Fair. Nomadic families and monks from the surrounding monasteries dressed in their red robes and finery drive or ride into the camping ground and set up their tents for the festival. Everybody was dressed in his or her best chubas and jewelers. Itinerant peddlers come with their wares and local traders set up a big market. There is an opening parade of horsemen, floats from the monasteries, dressed in their finery and even costumes used for the lama dances. One of the most popular programmers during the festival is Tibetan dancing. Costumed girls and men whirl their long sleeves flying. The men’s boots stamp out a strong rhythm and their ankle bells ring; the crowds roar their approval. The crowd also cheers Tibetan singers singing well-known melodies. Perhaps the most popular events are horse racing, acrobatic riding and shooting. Tibetan is fantastic horseman and the speed of the small of their steeds is phenomenal. Recently competitions have been held for the best local costume. This gives a chance for men and woman to wear their smartest clothes and oceans of jellerys. As well as watching the various activities it is very pleasant to stroll round the fair and meet the local people who often generously invite you to tea and delicacies in their tent.
Overnight Yushu Hotel

Day11 --Jyekundo / Madoi County (B/L/D)
Drive 360km up to Matoi (Maduo, alt: 4200m). Today’s driving is exiting; we enjoy beautiful landscape and gorges of upper reaches of the Yangtze and Mekong Rivers, the famous mountain pass Bayankala at elevation 5080m and pass the first bridge of the Yellow River. Those landscapes present an amazing picture. Under the blue sky with white clouds, you see different types of mountains decorated with pray flags, beautiful grassland embellished with flock of yak and sheep, nomad’s black and white tents, the colorful dressed Khampa and Golok people, while some different sects of old monasteries on the way brings you back to the nature. Madoi means the place where the Yellow River originates. It is the nearest city to the source of the Yellow River. The road from here to central Tibet has been considered one of the most important roads for centuries. As the land around Madoi is classic yak-herding County, when entering the town, you are into a wild and wooly Tibetan nomadic world: dressed in little more than filthy sheepskin chubas edged with fur, ride into town to barter skins or shoot pool in the market square. Overnight in a new Hotel with facilities

Day12 -- Madoi / Kokonor (Qinghai Lake) (B/L/D)
Drive for 360km (8hours) to Kokonor (Alt: 3200m). It is a fascinating journey across a great variety of landscapes, passing by some beautiful high mountainous pasture lands and we drive through a large, flat desert basin where no any rain falls for a long periods. The scenery is fantastic changeable geographically at every short distance. Kokonor (Qinghai Lake, alt: 3200m) is the biggest holy lake of Tibet and the largest salt lake in China. It covers an area of 4581 square km. (2,844 sq.m.). In May of 1578, King of the Mongols, Altan Qan gave the title Dalai Lama 3 to Sonam Gyatso at the east shore of Lake Kokonor. This was the start of the “Living Buddha” system of Gelukpa. On arrival, we check in our hotel by the lake for a short rest, we drive for 20km over a sea of sand with huge dunes and a surprising eroded landscape of strange shapes at north shore of the lake. And then free at leisure to enjoy lake scenery by the beach. Overnight 3 star hotel

Day13 -- Kokonor / Kumbum / Xining (B/L/D)
This morning we drive for 120km to visit the famous Kumbum Monastery (Ta’er Si), one of the “big 6” Gelukpa monasteries in Tibet was built in 1560 by the 3rd Dalai Lama and is the birthplace of Gelukpa’s founder, Tsongkhapa. His two major disciples, Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, later on became the ancestors of the Tulku (Living Buddha) system. Tibetan art such as Butter Sculpture, Frescos and Appliqué from this monastery are famous. Today Kumbum houses 500 monks. Following this we will drive to Xining (Ziling), capital of Qinghai Province, is situated on the edge of the far eastern Tibetan Plateau at 2200m and retains little trace of the old walled town (then called Shangcheng) that once was the main tea and horse trading post between Tang - China and Tubo Kingdom – Tibet. It was through ancient Xining that Princess Wen Cheng traveled to become the bride of Tubu King Songtsan Gambo in 641. The Princess was sent to cement good relations by her father the Tang Emperor. Princess Wen Cheng took tea and so began the import of tea to Tibet. It was known as Border Tea and it was traded for Tibetan horses. Also known to be a major stopping point on the ancient Silk Road, Xining is therefore a historically significant city worthy of some reflection. The population today is Chinese, Tibetan, Mongol, Muslim and Tu. Overnight 4 star hotel

Day14 -- Xining / Beijing (B/L/D)
This morning we make an early start as we fly to Beijing, (formerly known as Peking). On arrival we have a relaxed start to the day today as we begin our tour of Beijing, the capital of the Peoples Republic of China and we make our way to the Summer Palace where Qing Emperors lived in the summer. It covers an area of 290 hectares, three-quarters of which is covered by man made lakes. These are the largest and best preserved of the imperial gardens in China. Here you will also have a chance to see the famous Marble Boat which is moored on the lake. Dragon boats traverse this lake taking tourists to and from the city, but these can only run when the water level in the lake is at the correct height. Afternoon we make our way into the city to travel across the centre to take a once in a lifetime rickshaw tour through the narrow streets and alleys of the oldest part of Beijing, and enjoy lunch with a local family in their own home. This is where we will get the feel of the real China. Away from all the tourist attractions we will have a chance to experience real Chinese life and culture first hand. You will have the chance to speak with the local people about work and family life here in Beijing. You will also have chance to look around their homes and compounds in which they live. We conclude our day in the city with a relaxing cruise on Houhai Lake with traditional Chinese musical accompaniment. Tonight enjoy a Peking Duck Dinner. Overnight 4 star hotel

Day15 -- Beijing (B/L/D)
No visit to China would be complete without visiting the Great Wall. Here we have time to walk along a portion of this 3,700 mile marvel which has a history of more than 2,000 years. The Great Wall is one of the greatest wonders of the world and was originally built as a defensive fortification although some sections are now in ruins. After lunch we head to enjoy a fascinating tour visit to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City, as it is now known, was once the Imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is surrounded by a moat and has 9,999 buildings within its walls!! Beijing, with a 3,000 year-old history, is home to 2,680 temples, 51 interesting historical sites and 24 key national relics under state protection! This evening we have a Farewell Dinner. Overnight 4 star hotel

Day16 -- Beijing / Back Home (B)
This morning or afternoon depending on your departure flight, you will be transferred to Beijing International Airport to board your flight back home. Overnight in flight







 


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