Zhangye Shi, China
We drive to the Tibetan town of Mati where the famous Grottoes were built in about 400AD during the Jin dynasty. The minority living in this area are called the Yugu; there are only 10,000 of them. It is mostly farmland on the way to the mountains with this breathtaking backdrop of snow covered Linsong mountain range. This area is quite rich in minerals. People live a very simple but productive life. You can see them farming each other’s land together. As our guide explained these people are now richer than the city people in so many ways, because they are given land from the town’s cooperative, which is passed on from generation to generations . The main temple is built in the shape of a pagoda carved inside a stone mountain with an intricate system of narrow winding stairways. There are 21 grottoes and so much of it remained intact, Including the many jewel painted alcoves. Surrounding these imbedded grottoes are many stupas which today remain sacred grounds as they contain the various Buddhas ashes. We went from floor to floor to see how they carved these stairs in stone. As we climb up, we hear this solemn deep chanting. As we climb the last narrow staircase we feel this tremendous heat, the voices get louder and then we see this altar filled with hundreds of candles in front of a beautiful painted Buddha behind a glass wall. Monks are sitting, praying and singing in the same constant rhythm inside this 1600 year old room with the most beautiful view of the snow caped mountains. I was simply mesmerized as I closed my eyes and heard the sound of their voices. We headed down for lunch and had a bowl of their various concoctions of noodles in the Mati town at the base of the mountain. It was quite satisfying. Down the road we saw another collection of temple grottoes, now these were more ornate but also built in a more recent past. We then head to our One terminal Zhangye airport for our two flight transfer to Chengdu. We are greeted by our wonderful guide Jimmy and will stay at a Holiday Inn express. The accommodation are not bad. On the other hand on a trip such as this one , as long as the room is clean, the bed comfortable and there is running water, it’s all good! I don’t get to bed until two in the morning.