300 hectares inside
This monastery was first on our agenda this morning. The weather was only drizzling! The monastery complex was huge, and built on a sloping site above the town. There were many Chinese tour groups, but hardly any Europeans. The buildings were ornate, with gold roofs which could be seen and marvelled at for miles around. A village had sprung up around the complex, with many houses still under construction. I took the 100 plus steps up to the top (where the gigantic Buddha sat) very slowly, because the altitude made me quite breathless. Many people had left offerings for the monks, items of food or small denomination notes; we saw monastery officials going round collecting the money in a large bag. You have no idea how much there was: it was being scooped up like Monopoly money in large handfuls!
Afterwards we went to visit a "typical Buddhist family home" in the village, where we were given some snacks for morning tea. Their house was quite large and featured a loft where a massive amount of turnips and hay was being stored for the winter for animal feed. The two women were busy doing the washing, with a twin tub (of which they were very proud), but doing the rinsing by hand with a running hose pipe! Their living area was quite large, with a special fire for boiling water in 4 large pots and (hanging from the ceiling) several pumpkin-like solid balls of lard, also for feeding the animals through the winter.
In the afternoon, we drove to the Napa Lake, a nature reserve, and did a circular tour, stopping once to observe many holiday cottages which had been submerged by rising water levels. The owners seemed to be replacing them with larger structures higher up. It was still a largely farming community sound the lake, with many horses grazing on the rich grass and even more black pigs and piglets running around or asleep by the roadside.
In the evening, we persuaded our guide to let us have Western food for a change. I had a pizza with 2 glasses of red wine. M and V had chicken and chips with pepper sauce! Tomorrow we are on the move again, flying to Kunming.
We had dinner here on our first night in Zhongdian. The first floor window overlooked this square, where locals and a few visitors gathered every evening for a couple of hours dancing.
Chinese tour group arriving.
Left: in the monastery gift shop;
Right: one of the courtyards.
Inside the typical Tibetan home.
Top left: stove for boiling water;
Top right: rendered pork fat for feeding animals;
Bottom: turnips stored in the loft.