Driving to Tagong
The transition from the Chinese to the Tibetan world was swift. The dividing line was the several-kilometer-long Erlang Shan tunnel between Emei Shan and Kangding. On the Emei side, we were surrounded by lush greenery, fog and rain – on the Kangding side it was dry and the vegetation was much more sparse. More exciting than the change in landscape was the change in people once we got to Kangding. Here we saw the first “real” Tibetans among the Chinese!
Next day, we rented a car and driver who took us on a 5-hour scenic drive to Tagong, a Tibetan town in the grasslands. Our driver seemed to know everyone along the road and turned out to have the best connections. At every roadblock, he bypassed all the other cars and was waved through with a smile.
When we got stuck in a traffic jam caused by a broken down truck, he went ahead on foot to untangle the mess while he had Tony follow him weaving in and out of traffic (this was especially fun as you can see in Tony’s face since foreigners are not permitted to drive without a Chinese license).