Kangding...gateway to Eastern Tibet

{Part 2 - Our Founding Director Fionna Heiton is currently travelling in Tibet with her teenage twins}

Set in a deep valley on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, the sprawling town of Kangding initially appears to be just another ugly Chinese development of high rise concrete blocks. However, a few days in Kangding not only helps to acclimatize before climbing to the Tibetan plateau but has much more to offer. Staying at Zhilam hostel, owned by an American family, rooms are tastefully decorated in Tibetan style. We enjoy excellent meals and look out on Paoma Mountain lit up at night.

Cable cars take us up Paoma Mountain the next morning. We are literally pushed by Chinese attendants into the rather dilapidated compartment and are soon dangling over the forest adorned with prayer flags. At the top, an elderly Tibetan couple invite us in from the cold, to sit and watch as they make traditional Tibetan tents. We climb further to visit the yellow painted temple offering a peaceful place to meditate.

The highlight of our visit to Kangding was visiting Nanwu Monastery which has a fascinating complex of prayer halls. Belonging to the Gelugpa (yellow hat) sect of Buddhism, the monastery is one of the most active in the area with about 80 monks We witness monks debating and meet elderly Tibetan residents turning prayer wheels chanting Om Mani Padme Hum.

Kangding has a surprisingly good range of places to eat. At one of the towns best Tibetan restaurants we tuck into vegetable momos and thukpa. To our surprise we also discover the Himalayan coffee shop serving huge mugs of freshly brewed coffee and slices of homemade carrot cake! The night before we leave, we abandon our plan to join the community dance as heavy snow is falling. We wake to a picture postcard view of deep white snow all over the town. Our adventure on the Tibetan Plateau is about to begin!