The only reason we came to Sichuan this trip was to visit Larung Gar, the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist settlement, nestled in Larung Valley, over 4000m above the sea level.
We heard many stories about altitude sickness. All the advices we gathered from blogs and travel websites told us to take our time. Ascend slowly. Stop every 1000 m. So we tried to accommodate that into our one-week schedule in Chengdu.
There are many ways you can approach Larung Gar. Heck, if you are used to breathing at 4000m, you can even take a more-or-less 18-hours bus ride from Chengdu all the way to Larung Gar. Both my smoker-lungs and ass would not survive the trip, so I gave it a miss. What we did instead, was take a bus from Chengdu to Kangding (康定). That’s 500m going to 2000m.
There are busses leaving from Chengdu’s Xinnanmen (新南门) Bus Station heading for Kangding in the morning. The mountain roads are steep and there are no lights anywhere, so there are no transportation once the sun is down. Tickets can be bought the day before. Unless it’s a public holiday, there will always be seats available for at least one person. Expect bumpy roads. Expect delays and unreasonable traffic.
We got to Kangding just before sunset. We stayed at Zhilam, a hostel run by American expats. One of the girl working there told me that Kangding has awesome hiking spots. Pity we only stayed there for one night, so we didn’t get to hike at all.
Overall, Kangding was quite fun. Our goal was to get closer to Larung Gar as soon as possible, so we did not explore much of Kangding. Had to conserve our energy for the next-day early morning bus to Luhuo. If we had more than just one week in Sichuan, I would have stayed longer in Kangding to check out the hiking spots suggested by the hostel.