This is the story of a journey Valentine took with his brother from Kunming in China to Derge in Eastern Tibet, now part of China. Valentine was recently my guest in Bristol through Hospitality Club and as you may gather, I never let my guests go without sharing a travel tale or two.
Valentine is half Russian, half French and in 2005 he took this journey with his brother who moved to China 5 years ago to study the language and fell in love with Chinese way of life. They started in Kunming on their journey to Dege, in the region of Tibet that from the 1950s to the 1970s saw some of the greatest resistance of the Tibetan people to the Chinese. The journey started by bus on winding roads that made Valentine sometimes fearful that they would drop into the rivers, swollen by rains. You can get the picture in Valentine’s video here.
As they reached the Shangri La valley their journey continued by donkey through the valley with its waterfalls and rocks carved with mantras beside the trail. Although it was August the altitude of 4000m kept the temperature down and it was also the monsoon season, so they were wet for much of the time. Take a look at Valentine’s video of the Shangri La valley below.
Valentine felt as if he was seeing the ruins of an ancient culture, because so many of the temples in this area of Tibet were destroyed by the Chinese. Now temples are starting to be rebuilt, for the benefit of tourists, but they gave Valentine the feeling of a fake culture. Every so often they would catch a glimpse of the old culture and the way it was before. Near Daochen they visited the Druk je Gompa temple, an ancient temple not as much destroyed as some where the monks were still practicing. You can see the video below;
At Manigango they reached the last village before the high Trola Pass, which you have to go over to reach Dege. This place is a crossing point of two roads in the middle of a plateau and Valentine remembers eating a typical Tibetan meal of soup with rice and vegetables, in a small cafe.
At Dege, only 6 temples remain of the 60 that were there before the Cultural revolution, and the town is famous among Tibetan Buddhists for the printing press located there. The Buddhist texts are carved on wooden blocks which are kept in a library here which holds 90% of the major works of Buddhism.