I think that the large breaks that come along when studying abroad or even back home bring with them, oddly, some amount of pressure. Suddenly you have all this time on your hands, and you feel like you got to make the most of it with travel, especially when you're in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime experience like study abroad. And while the desire to relax and stay in can be tempting and sometimes a break well spent, I find that this pressure to travel is healthy. After all, the pursuit of adventure, of exploring, of the beauty which this world offers, can indeed make such a once-in-a-lifetime experience that much more "once." Thus did I set of with my fellow classmates to the Sichuan Province of China, about a three hour flight from Shanghai and quite a ways east into the country.
Day 1/Day 2
I am neglecting to include much from Day 1 here, as our flight from Chengdu landed very late at night, and with some of the pollution, we found that it was more convienent for us to stay inside and rest up for the early morning ahead of us.
That morning, we woke up early and hoped on the bus to Kangding, a city nestled in the Tibetan Plateau, snuggled in between large foothills shadowed by even larger mountains. The bus was a seven hour drive, but we left early enough that we were able to make it in time to explore the city a little bit.
And thus began the exploring! Pictured here is Nanwusi Temple(南无寺, nanmosi(the temple uses "wu" rather than “mo"), a Tibetan Buddhist temple situated just a little bit higher than most of the city. As we shuffled along what was a surprisingly vast and complex campus, I found myself constantly impressed by the striking colors and detailed murals and statues that made up not just the outside of the buildings but the three areas of worship that we were able to see. After one half day in Kangding it was already very easy to tell that we were in an area very much different from the familiarity of back home in the States or even from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. The exotic feel of the complex itself, along with the beauty of the city snuggling against the hills, certainly imparted upon me the feeling that I was traversing distant and mysterious lands, hunting for adventure.
Day 3 was certainly my favorite part of the whole trip, as we drove away into the heart of the surrounding mountain range and plateau, engaging in all of the Tibetan culture we could find in addition to taking in the stunning majesty of the ranges. Indeed, the mountain climbing that we engaged in on Day 3 took my breath away twice, once as we hiked and again as we stopped to take in the view.
Pictured here is one such view. This photo was taken as we stood on the side of 折多山(zheduoshan), but one mountain amoung the many which surrounded us. We made a several hour hike up the side, breaking past the trail to where we could get a better view of the greatness that surrounded us. The mountain essentially placed us in a peninsula of mountains, with massive peaks on all sides but one, where the Tibetan Plateau extended out. By the time we took this photo, we were at a staggering 14,500 feet. Don't worry, we didn't start at 0 feet, but regardless, I was certainly tired after the ascent. I was also certainly happy that I did it.
Day 4 similarily took us on more travels, but unlike the previous day which was full of many stops and places of interest, our trip this day was to just one place. 海螺溝（Hailuogou), a glacier formation in the region, is a magnificient and impressive sight packed into yet another one of the mountains of Tibet. We really started the day off in the afternoon, after a long and arduous bus up much of the mountain. Unfortunately, the base of the hike to the glacier was extremely crowded, seemingly full to capacity. But as we made our way up, the crowd thinned and we were able to breath a little bit more once we arrived at the glacier.
And here we are! On the glacier. And before you take in the full cuteness of this little girl tossing loose snow at her father, I think you should notice just how foggy the background looks. Unfortunately, we picked a particularily misty day to go, and as we made our climb the fog thickened until our visibility was, by my estimation, not more than 100 feet. This was somewhat dissappointing as you can normally look out from the glacier torwards the mountains, but being on the glacier and looking at it's truly impressive formations was still very much a treat.
Back in Kangding proper, Day 5 was much more of a relaxed day for us. Our driver had left, so we were left with our respective own two legs to get us around. After spending the morning back at the monastery for a ceremony, we grabbed lunch and decided to traverse up one of Kangding's many hills, atop which sit a monestery and several Buddhist shrines and relics, and even a small Tibetan restuarant! This day proved to be more exciting than I had anticipated, and I was very much glad for it.
Pictured here is one such temple on 跑马山(Paomashan), the hill which we hiked up in the afternoon. The many white as well as colored square supports that rest underneath the rooves, as well as the earthy red color definitely lend itself to this shrine's Tibetan origins. In addition the the beauty of the buildings themselves, we were also able to snag one last glimpse of the snow capped mountains from the hill. The foothills which surrounded us had hid from view the even larger peaks behind them, so it was wonderful to once again see them spiral up the skyline.
We had completed our time in Kangding, and thus took the morning bus back to Chengdu for a last night's enjoyment and stay until the next morning when we flew out. As the rolling hills disappeared behind the bus, I looked on with fondness, for those mountains were awe-inspiring, and I could not help but take one last sip of their image. Our arrival into Chengdu let us explore some of the city, walking around it's old town area and chatting with the people around us, including with a Tibetan family selling wares on the street for more than an hour.
This is 安顺桥(Anshun qiao), 成都(Chengdu)'s mose famous bridge and a beautiful sight, especially at night. This marked a fitting end to what was undoubtably an unforgetable trip, full of more adventure and beauty than I could've ever hoped for.
Sometimes there is a lot of good that comes from staying home. I did a lot of it after getting back from this trip. But sometimes using the time you've been given to do more than relax can bring even more good. Many people aspire to travel, to climb mountains, to see exotic destinations, to try crazy foods, to be immersed in lands far away. The breaks that you get on study abroad give you the chance to fulfill those aspirations. And sometimes you can't help but say yes.
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<p>My name is Ryan Dondalski, and I am a Mechanical Engineering major at the University of Tulsa. I love automobiles, building things, and most of all, people! I hope you'll find my posts enlightening, and thank you for stopping by!</p>