Luocheng 罗城镇 Teahouse Town and Boathouse Architecture: Travel Update

Luocheng 罗城镇

Teahouse Town and Boathouse Architecture

罗城镇 Luocheng teahouses
罗城镇 Luocheng

We’ve just received a travel update on the amazing teahouse village Luocheng 罗城镇  in Sichuan province. Many years ago we had a long and bumpy ride to Luocheng from Leshan. It now seems the trip can be done in around 3 ½ hours by bus directly from Chengdu along a good road. We’ve had a detailed comment from Wayne on our previous post.  The bus timetables are below but click here to read the rest of the comment and more about Luocheng.

Buses to Luocheng leave from Chengdu’s Shiyangchang Bus Station 石羊场汽车客运站 at 8.20 / 9.20 and 12.20 and return to Chengdu at 12.30/ 13.30 and 14.30. Tickets cost 67 Yuan. Bus number 28 goes to Shiyangchang Bus Station from downtown Chengdu.

Margie having tea in Luocheng 罗城镇
Margie having tea in Luocheng 罗城镇

Luocheng: Is This The World’s Best Teahouse Town?

Luocheng ( the ultimate teahouse town)

Location: Sichuan Province, China, in the vicinity of Leshan (2-3 hours)

Luocheng boat shaped village teahouses
Luocheng Teahouse town famous for its boathouse architecture

The ancient town of Luocheng is a gem for those looking for traditional teahouse culture. Luocheng is renowned for its boat architecture: the two sides of its main street narrow down at both ends and widen gradually towards the middle, thus creating the oval shape of a boat.

Luocheng boat shaped village teahouses
Luocheng Teahouse Town

Straddling the street and forming, as it were, the prow to complete the boat- like appearance of the town, stands a beautifully restored theatre. It is covered in traditional grey tiles and flamboyantly decorated with historic scenes and smiling Buddhas.

Luocheng boat shaped village teahouses
Tea drinkers in Luocheng

However, the absolute highlight of Luocheng is the swell of teahouses lining the main street, sheltered by the overhanging wooden porticos of the buildings. Overlooking this sea of bamboo tables and chairs, occupied by querulous old men in faded Mao jackets, arguing over heated games of cards or Mah-jong, while smoking small stubby pipes carved out of roots, visitors can truly imagine themselves in a time warp.

Luocheng boat shaped village teahouses
Teahouse Luocheng

Joining the regulars over a cup of tea, you can really get an impression of what village life must have been like in the old days. The whole place still oozes authenticity and atmosphere; two elements that are often lacking in many of China’s more popular historical places. In fact, Continue reading “Luocheng: Is This The World’s Best Teahouse Town?”

Slow train to Chengdu 成都的临客: Photo of the Week

Slow train to Chengdu

成都的临客

 CITS (China’s official travel agency’s description of an L Train 临客)

“L – Temporary Train In Chinese: LinKe (临客)
L trains operate only during the peak travel season, such as the Chinese Spring Festival and the National Holiday. These trains are not listed in the official fixed train schedule. It is not advised to take L-trains if you have other options as they are known to be relatively slow and regularly subject to delays”.

Slow train to Chengdu

“46 hours”. I doubted my Chinese at that moment, but the ticket seller repeated the departure and arrival times, there was no mistake. Bagging next day hard sleeper tickets from Beijing to Chengdu can be a taxing experience at the best of times, but in early August, you’ve got about as much chance as winning the lottery. Unless … unless, of course, you are willing to take the slow train 临客 , or L Train as it is known in China!

We got two middle berths, which are the best, as during the day you can escape the crowded lower berths, where everyone sits, and they have more space than the often claustrophobic upper berths.

Pandemonium broke out when the gates were opened at Beijing West Station 北京西站 to allow the passengers on. Those without reservation ran frantically, pushing and shoving the old and weak out of the way, to grab one of those precious seats. It was a simple case of survival of the fittest; get a seat or stand for 46 hours.

Legs

With a reservation in our hands, we took a more leisurely stroll to the train. Unfortunately, Continue reading “Slow train to Chengdu 成都的临客: Photo of the Week”

Songpan Festival

Songpan Festival 松潘: What the crowds were watching

Last week’s Photo of the Week showed enthralled spectators enjoying the entertainment at the 2004 summer festival in Songpan, Sichuan Province. What was captivating them?

Muslim Hui Minority
A watching spectator in Songpan

The Songpan Festival was a marvellous spectacle. The spectators were spellbound by a riot of colour as Chinese dragons, Tibetan Qiang minority dancers, and Muslim Hui singers took over the town, paraded through the streets and usurped the public squares.

Songpan Festival
Tibetans with their dragons

The real fun began after the Communist Party leaders had made their speeches, sped off to lunch in their limousines and left everyone to an afternoon of spontaneous revelry. Here are some photos of what they were enjoying.

Click on read more for some larger photos. Continue reading “Songpan Festival”

Songpan’s Amazing Festival

Location: Songpan 松潘 / Sichuan Province / China

People watching in Songpan 松潘

People watching Songpan Songpan's Amazing Festival
Hui and Tibetans watching the Songpan Festival

Songpan’s amazing festival takes place in the walled town of Songpan. The town is the gateway to the scenic heaven of Jiuzhaigou 九寨沟 and wild horse treks to Ice Mountain雪玉顶. Songpan is also a destination in itself.  It`s a pleasant town with plenty of old architecture, local life and some fantastic tea houses.

Songpan People watching
What are they Watching? See next weeks photos

Songpan’s Amazing Festival Passing Through

When we passed through in 2004 we were lucky enough to stumble upon a huge festival where the local Muslim Hui and Tibetan Qiang minorities were celebrating their local culture and dressed in their finest clothes. Joining them were a host of Chinese Communist Party Bigwigs, including the then vice-president, Zeng Qinghong.

Songpan's Amazing Festival Songpan People watching
Muslim Hui enjoying the Songpan Festival

The residents of the entire town and surrounding villages turned out to see the festival. This small group of photos captures them enjoying the moment. Next week’s Photo of the Week will show what they were watching.

songpan festival
Having a rest in the Songpan Festival

For large people photos and Songpan Practicalities see below. Continue reading “Songpan’s Amazing Festival”

Danba 丹巴 Festival Video slideshow: Holachina’s first video

Danba Festival Video slideshow

This is our first holachina slideshow video. The photos were taken during the preparations for the Danba 丹巴Festival August 2004. Danba is a small town in Western Sichuan about a 3 hour Bus ride from Kanding 康定. The town itself is small and scruffy but its setting, nestled in a deep valley at the confluence of two rushing rivers and surrounded by traditional Qiang (a Tibetan minority) villages, makes it quite idyllic.  The highlights include stunning villages, such as Jiaju 甲居藏寨 and Badi (not Baidi as I have written in the video) and the Qiang watchtowers peppered on the slopes of the steep valleys.

The year we visited Danba there were very few other foreigners and no domestic tourists. The following year, 2005, the Chinese National Geographic claimed that  Jiaju village 甲居藏寨 (7kms from Danba) was the most beautiful village in China. Since then its popularity among travelers, foreign and Chinese alike, has grown rapidly.

We hope you enjoy the slideshow. Some people may find the music a bit painful. It’s the same music that was being played on the VCD’s on all the buses we sat on during our trip around Western Sichuan in 2004 and it brings back great memories.

If you are interested in going to Danba, click on read more below. Here you’ll find the information we published on holachina.com in 2004. Expect there to be a much bigger selection of hotels and restaurants now. Continue reading “Danba 丹巴 Festival Video slideshow: Holachina’s first video”

Two days in Langzhong Ancient City 阆中古城 (from our diary 29-31 July 2006)

Two days in Langzhong 阆中古城 (from our diary)

Langzhong Ancient Town 阆中古城

 This small town, with a big history, is situated on the banks of the Jialing River, some 225 kilometres from Chengdu (Sichuan Province). It is all at once the burial place of the Three Kingdoms general, Zhang Fei, birthplace of the Han dynasty inventor of the Chinese Calendar, Luo Xiahong, and home to a wealth of traditional Sichuan architecture.

Langzhong Gucheng 阆中古城

In short, Langzhong has plenty of things to see and do to keep a visitor busy for two days.

Langzhong Gucheng 阆中古城

Day One

Your first priority on arrival is to find accommodation in one of the many traditional family mansions that are situated in Continue reading “Two days in Langzhong Ancient City 阆中古城 (from our diary 29-31 July 2006)”

Zigong自贡: Dinosaur & Salt City (updated from 2005)


As you approach Zigong, sculptures and posters of dinosaurs announce that you’re arriving in “Dinosaur City”, as the city is known by the Chinese.

Dinosaur Cake Shop In Zigong

Zigong is a pleasant modern city, built along the banks of the Fuxi River that has so far managed to maintain large areas of traditional and interesting architecture, despite its recent development and prosperity.

Besides Dinosaurs, Zigong has an abundance of sites, and is definitely worth spending a couple of days. The city owes its prosperity not so much to dinosaurs, as to salt and, in particular, the important role this product played during Imperial times.

Salt Factory Zigong

The salt mining techniques developed at Zigong were among the most sophisticated in the ancient world. They included Continue reading “Zigong自贡: Dinosaur & Salt City (updated from 2005)”

Luodai Hakka Guildhalls and Teahouses

Luodai Old Town

Luodai Hakka Guild Halls
Luodai Hakka Guild Halls

Luodai 洛带 (Hakka Guildhalls and Teahouses 客家会馆与茶馆)

Luodai Hakka Guildhalls and Teahouses. The ancient town of Luodai near the teeming Sichuan capital of Chengdu is a curious place. When one thinks of the Hakka people (Kejia in Chinese, or ‘guests’, also known as China’s gypsies) the first thing that comes to mind are the amazing round or square earth buildings, the Tulou, of Fujian and Jiangxi. Other Hakka claims to fame are the Taiping rebellion, or the Hokien cuisine, which is found in many South East Asian countries.

Hakka Tulou Fujian 客家土楼福建省
Hakka Tulou Fujian 客家土楼福建省

What doesn’t normally spring to mind is an impressive collection of Hakka guildhalls in a far- off small town in Sichuan! But that is exactly what Luodai is all about and why I had always wanted to go there.

Luodai Hakka Guild Halls
Luodai Hakka Guild Halls

The Hakka, originally from Hubei Province, suffered discrimination and persecution, and were forced to disperse; Continue reading “Luodai Hakka Guildhalls and Teahouses”

Kangding’s Mind-blowing Summer Festival

Kangding 康定 / Dardo / Dartsendo
Khampa man in Kangding 2004
Khampa man in Kangding 2004

Faces of Kangding 康定 (2004)

Kangding’s Mind-blowing Summer Festival  was one event not to miss if you were travelling in Western Sichuan in 2004. Having just returned to Kangding from Danba, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a one-off festival aimed at celebrating Tibetan Kham culture and promoting tourism in Western-Sichuan.

Khampa man in Kangding 2004
Khampa man in Kangding 2004

The streets of Kangding were jammed packed with proud-swaggering Khampas, dressed up to the hilt in their finest clothes. One could easily have imagined that the entire population of these once warrior nomads, had rolled into town off the grasslands. And like in the wild-west of old, many had come in on horseback.

Khampa Lady and baby Kangding
Khampa Lady and baby

With so much going on, nobody paid much attention to me as I used up roll after roll of film. Kangding has changed and modernised radically since these photos were taken, so I hope you enjoy them. It was a magic moment.

Khampa man with earrings
Khampa man with earrings

Kangding’s Mind-blowing Summer Festival: About Kangding

On arrival at Kangding bus station, you are first struck by the ugliness of the surrounding buildings, mostly square apartment blocks.

Khampa Girls Kangding
Khampa Girls Kangding

Very little of the old city remains, except for a couple of leaning half-timbered shops and food stalls, and most of the new buildings, including the hotels, look rather ramshackle.

Kanding Festival Happy Khampa
Happy Khampa

The concrete central square is rather kitch and decorated with the ubiquitous inflatable rubber arches. 

Khampa Hands Kanding Festival
Valuable Hands

 It looks staunchly Communist and reinforces the impression of the town being predominantly Chinese.

Kanding Having Fun
Kanding Having Fun

However, you won’t find the charm and interest of  Kangding in its ugly centre. You have to look a little further out of town.

Kangding Festival
Kangding Festival

Lamaseries in and around Kangding

Kangding Festival
Kangding Festival

There are several lamaseries in and around Kangding. The largest and perhaps most attractive of these is the Nanwu monastery.  You will find the monastery set on a hill on the outskirts of town; surrounded by beautiful gardens and inhabited by a bustling and friendly community of monks.

mobile monk Kangding
mobile monk Kangding

At the time of our visit, they were busy creating large circular “paintings” on the floor and on low tables. Only, they weren’t paintings, they were made of coloured powder (Mandalas).

Tibetan Monks Kangding
Tibetan Monks Kangding

It seemed a very delicate and transient art, given that the decorations were not meant to last.

mobile monks Kangding
mobile monks Kangding

Nanwu Monastery and Kham Traders

At the monastery gates, we came across a group of Kham traders who had hitched their ponies to some nearby posts and were about to visit the monastery.

mobile  Kangding
mobile khampa Kangding

The presence of the flamboyant Kham, as well as other ethnic groups of Tibetans, is what makes Kangding such a fascinating place.

Having a chat Kangding
Having a chat Kangding

All over town you can see these tall proud people, dressed in traditional Tibetan gear. Men wear oversized greatcoats with knives strapped to their belts, and the women in wrap-around woollen skirts or pinafores. Both sexes deck out in elaborate headgear and heavy jewellery.

Kanding Festival
Kanding Festival

Markets and shops are bustling with Tibetan as well as Chinese traders, and you can see large wads of banknotes changing hands ( not so much these days; even Khampa nomads are paying with their mobiles!)  

Kanding Festival

Thousands of prayer flags blowing in the wind

Kanding Festival
Kanding Festival

Dominated by the mighty peak of Gonggha Shan the scenery surrounding Kangding  (7556m) is impressive, and famous throughout China, due to a popular love song: The Love Song of Kangding.

Qiang Lady Kangding
Qiang Lady Kangding

An easy one-and-a-half hour hike through forests and flower strewn meadows, or an even easier cable car ride, up Paoma Shan will provide great views of Kangding and the nearby snow-capped mountains.

Tibetan Qiang Lady in Kangding
Tibetan Qiang Lady in Kangding

Thousands of prayer flags blowing in the wind, as well as small Buddhist temples and shrines, make for a slightly mystic atmosphere all the way to the top, which is crowned by a white stupa. The scenery is breath-taking. 

Khampa Kanding
Khampa Kanding

Kangding’s Mind-blowing Summer Festival: Kangding Practicalities:

Monk Kangding
Monk and friend (He has spotted me too)

Accommodation:

In 2004 we stayed at the “Sally´s Café”, otherwise known as the “Knapsack Inn”;  one of those classic Chinese backpacker hostels that we usually avoid but ended up really enjoying.

It offers / offered  (see below) clean and friendly budget accommodation, right next to the Jinggang monastery and about 5 minutes away from the Nanwu monastery.

Beds here are normally 25 Yuan in three-people dormitories, with shared bathrooms: During the Kanding Festival, end of August- beginning of September, rates go up to 50 Yuan.

The owners, who speak excellent English, can provide tourist information and arrange transport. For example to Danba or Mugecuo Lake, bus tickets and accommodation for onwards travel. Somebody from the hostel might meet you at the bus station when you get in. It’s up to you whether you want to take up the offer.

Update: Not sure Sally’s exists anymore. Last reference we found was 2017. Pity; it had a great location

 During the Festival, room rates in Kangding shoot up to astronomical levels.

More Recent

In Kangding we stayed at the comfortable Tibetan- run Ka-Sa hotel right opposite the bus station for 140 Yuan. There are many cheaper options if you are staying longer – or more expensive ones if you fancy a bit of luxury.

The restaurant scene in Kangding has improved. Only a few hundred meters from the bus station there are now lots of small family restaurants serving cheap and delicious Sichuan dishes.

Transport:

Kangding – Chengdu, 4 buses a day, about 7 hours.

Kangding – Litang, at least one bus a day, leaving at 7.00 in the morning, arriving at 15.30.

Kangding –  Danba, one or two early morning buses, but not daily, see Danba section.

Kangding – Ganzi, leaving at 6.00 in the morning, arriving at 18.00 in the evening.

Kangding – Dege, leaving at 7.15 in the morning, arriving at 13.15 the next day, overnighting at Luhuo.

Other destinations include Daochen and Zigong.

Festivals:

The Kangding Festival takes place at the end of August or the beginning of September and attracts huge crowds of Tibetans to the town, to do their shopping, watch the shows, and generally eat, drink, and be merry. While the Festival itself is nothing special: some rather bland folk dancing and singing, often performed by Han-Chinese rather than Tibetans, the crowds make it a worthwhile experience. There is an incredible mix of people, wearing the most variegated costumes.