Ganzi

The city of Ganzi lies in the heart of Western Sichuan and is one of the larger cities of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Situated in a vast valley, surrounded by extremely picturesque mountains around, it is another stop on the map of my motorcycle trip.

I set off in the morning from the city of Litang located almost 300km south, which seems a short distance, but the journey along winding roads mostly leading through a deep, rocky gorge takes me almost all day. I finally arrive before sunset, which adds even more charm to the fairy-tale scenery.

I only have to find some accommodation, which in places such as Western Sichuan is not an easy task, as well as in other less frequented regions, because most of the available accommodation facilities do not accept foreign guests. The reason is the policy of granting special certificates to hotels that make it possible to host foreigners legally. Any place wishing to rent a room to foreign guests must have one, which is usually rare in smaller towns. I check a few possible options that I previously found on the maps, but after bouncing away from the reception, I have to look for something randomly. Fortunately, I am able to find a small hotel overlooking beautiful mountains for a very affordable price.

I walk the streets of Ganzi and try to find familiar corners. The last time I was here was eight years ago and the city has changed a lot since then. It has definitely grown and from a dusty intersection of several streets has turned into a small and quite neat town with colorful shops and traffic lights at intersections. Overall a positive change, except that the overwhelming majority of new buildings do not follow the traditional Tibetan architectural style. This, in turn, is a big minus. The swarming of minivans at the main intersection disappeared, with drivers loudly announcing their direction of travel, trying to gather additional passengers. There are no more rushing motorcyclists trying to push their way through the congestion blocking the road, the traffic jams are also almost gone, everything is less chaotic and more orderly.

But just like before, there are monks walking the streets and buying small items, there are people standing on the street and watching the evening life, and here and there little stands with some local snacks.

Ganzi is also home to one of the largest and oldest monasteries in the area. Over the years, rebuilt and modified, it does not look like it has several hundred years of history, but the cluster of quarters-houses climbing to the very top of the hill, on which the monastery is located, definitely creates an interesting atmosphere. From the top of the hill there is a view of the entire city, from where I can see how it has grown in recent years and how it gradually begins to resemble a small, typical Chinese town. The view from the summit at sunset offers me a panorama of colors split by layers of white clouds, which like the soft fluff hang over the city.