Asia | China | Tibet | Langmusi – Langmusi
Gentle rolling hills cradle the sweeping meadow between Songpan and Langmusi. Herders in colorful robes ride high and proud on their horses, vultures gliding above their heads. A little girl dressed in flaming red walks alone in the deep grass. There are no tents or herds or running streams around, yet she walks as if she has a destiny to fulfill, her tiny figure overwhelming the vast green earth. Herds of yaks relax in the ponds, nurse the calves, or run with their bushy tails flying in the breeze.
Smoke rises out of the chimneys of the far away black tents where the herders spend their summer months. Along the road, white tents house temporary community centers of make-shift convenince stores and mobile clinics. People wave to us as our jeep drives by, dust rolling behind on the dirt road. This is the wild west of China, a mesmerizing tale of its own.
Langmusi, a small Tibetan down sitting on the border of Sichuan and Gansu, is one of the weirdest places I’ve been to. Majestic temples on the hills overlook the dingy town where trash is strewn about on the unpaved the streets. Considered the outback by most Chinese, the places is quite poor and both kids and adults come up to beg from visitors.
Yet Langmusi is a popular Western backpackers’ destination, so the place has undergone some modernization of its own. Every building on the street is convenience store, restaurant, or hostel, some of which are attended by lamas from the temple looking for some extra income and a second profession. English signs abound. The hostel rooms are basic, but the bathrooms are clean with functional flushable toilets and showers, a first on this trip so far. A down-to-earth tiny cafe catering to foreign toruists have a creative menu featuring shakshuka, yak burger, and spaghetti done chwo-mein style, just to list a few. I eat a dinner of yak yogurt and Tibetan bread with 8-flavor tea while watching the proprietress running the place like a super-woman.
The town government, very much in sync with the rest of the country, start a round of firecrackers the same minute tonight as the Chinese delegates in Moscow started cheering live via satellite. Beijing has won the bid to host the 2008 Olympics. I wonder if the local Tibetans, most of whom don’t even speak Chinese and seem to live in a world of their own, give a damn about what the entire country is celebrating. So all the cultures and events come together remarkably in this unremarkable town, and surprisingly they are not clashing a bit.