Moving northwest from Dawu (Daofu), the next town you come to is a dusty, unremarkable one called Luhuo. I stayed here for a night, but quickly regretted it as I couldn’t find any decent economy lodging and even the local gompa (Tibetan monastery) wasn’t very exciting.
SO ON TO GANZE! (aka Gartze, Gantze, Ganzi, and a few other spellings)
Despite being yet another dusty town, Ganze has a certain charm to it. It’s a major town for trade and Chinese trucks can be seen (and inhaled) barreling down the main street. Ganze is also about a full day’s bus trip from Kangding so if you’re on a long haul bus to Yushu or Dege or any other town north of here, you’re going to have to overnight. I would highly recommend staying in the affordable, but quite nice hotel above the bus station.
I settled into Ganze for a few days for a few reasons. First, I just liked the atmosphere. Second, there were plenty of interesting things to investigate in and around the town. And third, it’s a great place to base yourself when exploring the more remote towns of Dege, Baiyu and Xinlong.
Like many Tibetan towns, Ganze is set in a grassy valley near a river and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. A short walk out of the town in any direction and you’ll find fields of barley, rolling green mountains topped with chortens, and small monasteries.
The main monastery is located to the northeast of town and is full of friendly monks. One day as I was strolling through, a monk noticed a tattoo on my arm and proceeded to show me his tattoos… all of his friends’… and pretty much anyone’s in the area. It turned into a fun afternoon of tea, crackers and attempts at communication.
On the southern end of town is a big chorten with nice views of the valley to the south and west. Natural hot springs can also be found in town down a small path near a hotel/restaurant called “The Black Horse” (I think). They’re not the most beautiful hot springs in the world but they do offer a hot bath when many of the local hotels do not.
To the west of town, to the west of the bus station and over a foot bridge are some beautiful farms and fields. I spent a quiet afternoon strolling around this area and found it reminiscent of Amish farms in my native Pennsylvania.
The center of town can get a bit busy and dusty, but I found that many of the locals we friendly and helpful. Being a trading town, many interesting things can be found in the stores and markets. This is a good town to stock up on supplies if you’re headed deeper into Tibet or have been on the road for a while. I also found some good Tibetan souvenirs that I hadn’t seen before.