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First Week of Travel!

Hello all! Just wanted to give a brief update on our X-Phase travels so far! We are currently enjoying some relaxing time in Chengdu after an exciting first week of travel!

From Kunming we traveled Northwest to Shangri-La, where we spent a day and a half acclimatising to the higher altitude and exploring the city. The highlight was definitely a group bike ride/walk out to Napa Lake and grassland, where we watched the yaks and enjoyed a picnic lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, then spent the afternoon playing toilet tag and blob tag in the grassland! Some of the group also went on a longer bike ride around the lake afterwards!

After Shangri-La, we took a long bus ride up to Yading Nature Reserve, entering Yunnan’s neighboring province of Sichuan along the way. Yading is known for it’s high altitude and beautiful hikes, with views of snow-capped mountains and alpine lakes. Yading Village is at an altitude 3900m, and our highest hike, to Milk Lake and Five Colors Lake, brought us all the way up to 4700m (where some of the group even had an impromptu snowball fight!)! Despite the influx of tourists for the four day Chinese Labor Day holiday, the hikes were absolutely stunning, and we were even caught in a snow/hail storm (officially dubbed graupel by Harry) at the top of our hike! While in Yading, we also discussed our personal and group goals for this month, as well as other topics such as “the meaning of life”.

From Yading we traveled to Litang, a town which sits on the Tibetan plateau at an elevation of 4300m. Litang is known most notably as the birthplace of the 7th and 10th Dalai Lamas, and also as a former center of resistance against the Chinese in the Tibetan independence movement of the 20th century. The grassland in this area was incredibly picturesque, and there were a number of awesome historical sites to visit, including: the 7th Dalai Lama’s former residence, a huge Tibetan monastery above the city, and a number of museums on Khampa Tibetan culture and customs. We also began a Chinese challenge in Litang, which entails speaking only Mandarin, including to each other, for five days.

Litang to Chengdu was another long bus ride, and we have since spent two rainy days in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. We’ve spend time visiting museums, seeing pandas, and exploring another impressive Chinese metropolis – not to mention getting to visit our instructor Ling’s hometown!

Tomorrow night we will leave Chengdu on an overnight train to Xining, Qinghai Province, where we will begin our rural homestay with a semi-nomadic group of Tibetans on the banks of Qinghai Lake.

Here is our updated itinerary:

May 8: All day in Chengdu, then an overnight train to Xining.

May 9: Arrival in Xining and travel to Qinghai Lake Homestay.

May 10-12: Three full days in Qinghai homestay.

May 13: Depart Qinghai homestay for Zhangye, Gansu Province, home of the famous Rainbow Mountains.

May 14: Visit the Rainbow Mountains, then travel to Jiayuguan.

May 15: Visit the Westernmost point on the Great Wall of China, Travel to Dunhuang.

May 16-17: Visit the Gobi Desert, Mogao Caves, Sand Dunes and Crescent Lake Oasis. On the 17th, take an overnight train to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province.

May 18: Full day in Urumqi, Xinjiang. Visit the Xinjiang Provincial Museum, as well as a famous market and bazaar.

May 19-20: Travel to Turpan, Xinjiang. Visit Emin Minaret, Turaq village and other sites. On the 20th take an overnight train to Kashgar.

May 21-22: Arrive in Kashgar, Xinjiang. Visit Abakh Hoja Masoleum, Id Kah Mosque, and Shipton’s Arch.

May 23-29th: Instructor-led “Transference” activities to prepare for our return home (in Tashkurgan, Xinjiang)

May 30-31st: Last two days in Kunming and the culmination of our Bridge Year Program!


Photo 1: Getting ready for our Shangri-La bike ride in makeshift bike helmets (construction helmets!)

Photo 2: Picnic in the grassland outside of Shangri-La

Photo 3, 4, and 5: Hiking in Yading Nature Reserve

Photo 6: Exploring Chengdu (and eating some delicious ice cream waffles!)