it is monday morning in ganzi, kham territory, sichuan province, china.
i arrived here close to midnight last night, on a crazy adventure that started from 5:00 in the morning in chongqing, to kangding, to finally ganzi, one of those long days that felt like 2 days in 1.
where to begin? i will retroactively update yesterday's entry.
my roommate - a red army soldier i met on the minivan leaving from kangding - left this morning for a 7:00 minivan to continue his long trip back to his military base in shiqu, a distance of 310km northwest that will take him at least 10 hours if he can even make it because it started snowing here last night.
surprisingly, i haven't really experienced any altitude sickness, which i should be thankful for. when i arrived at kangding airport, the things i noticed were a shortness of breath, the cold temperature, and that my lower lip was numb. no numbness in my fingers and toes like the last time i was in western sichuan. and then as we climbed higher, the only thing i really had was a shortness of breath doing any kind of activity. at one point i had some lightheadedness, but that could've been from sitting in the car for so many hours and being slightly dehydrated because i didn't want to risk going to the bathroom.
ganzi is pretty high - 3400m or 11154 ft or 2.11 miles above sea level. but kangding airport was even higher, 4280m or 14,041 ft or 2.66 miles above sea level.
having just arrived, today i'm trying to figure out how to get out of here. nothing against ganzi, which i haven't even seen yet except for some wet and cold night scenery through foggy windows, but seeing the conditions of the road coming into town, there is a good chance i may not be able to leave on schedule and may need to budget some extra time for departure. i'll go the bus station - which is right across the street - and see how long it takes for the bus to get to kangding. it took us 7 hours by minivan last night - but only because our driver was insane and passed every single vehicle we saw. then once in kangding, there is only one flight leaving for chongqing and that's friday morning. that's also the last flight of the season. there are however daily flights to chengdu, at a cost of RMB$1200, double what it costs to fly back to CQ but only half the distance. a car leaving kangding for chengdu takes only 5 hours. i'll see how today goes. currently if i leave for kangding on thursday (to take the friday flight back to CQ), that still gives me 3 days to explore ganzi. i don't know, i'm just talking out loud now, i'll figure something out.
i finally got myself together and left the hotel room. first order of business: change my room from a double to a single. the single room turned out to be just RMB$100 (US$16). the room was smaller but brighter. the best part: a large window facing out onto busy dajintan road, right across the street from the bus stop entrance - a photographer's dream! i could probably spend days just sitting here and looking out the window, watching tibetan life go by.
next was the bus station to ask about a ticket to kangding. the tiny station was empty, with an unused baggage scanning machine. i waited in line behind 2 tibetan men purchasing tickets, before a chinese man smoking a cigarette and a chinese woman barking in sichuanese forced their way ahead of me in line. the 3 of us talked in unison to the clerk, who was answering all 3 of our questions simultaneously. i can't purchase the ticket until the day before the trip. the trip itself takes about 10 hours, so the earliest we'd get to kangding would be 4:00.
i've noticed this before the last time i was in western sichuan and was happy to discover this was still the case, but the internet access here is uncensored. it seems unusual, in that a sensitive place like western sichuan where the government would want to curtail locals from discovering the truth, there are no blocks on web surfing. that means i can use google with impunity (although it does redirect to google.hk which is just as good), something i've never done since arriving in china (well, i vaguely recall maybe using google while i was in shanghai, but access with intermittent).
anyway, i finally returned to the hotel a little bit after 3:00. i had enough of the freezing rain and figured i'd explored ganzi enough for one day. i noticed wifi was back on again. when chatting with my parents earlier this morning, i strategized that i'd leave ganzi thursday morning and return to kangding, where i'd take the plane back to chongqing friday morning. maybe i spent another day or two in chongqing, or maybe i go back early to changshou, i haven't decided that far yet. when i checked the online ticketing website this morning it said there was still 4 seats available. when i checked it again now, there was just seat left. i quickly ordered the last remaining ticket, the last seat for the last flight from kangding to chongqing for the season. there was a glitch when it wouldn't accept my paypal payment. i called their english-speaking hotline to pay by credit card, but while i was talking with the operator, i managed to successfully pay online. she just confirmed that i bought the ticket. departure time is 10:35, arriving in chongqing an hour later.