I am sitting here on my hotel bed typing this out. My laptop is the only thing warm in this room and I am using it as a heater on my feet as I sit Indian style. To my right is the sound of thunder and lightning shaking my windows, to my left is the sound of the shower dripping as a reminder that I now have not showered in two days. Or maybe the five or six flies buzzing all around me are the reminder. I don’t really know anymore. I do know that I am putting off showering today because I want to wait until the very last minute to discover that once again I do not have hot water. I have already verified I have no heat. I did not expect to. Actually, if we are going to list things I was not expecting, let us put “spending yet ANOTHER night in Ganzi” at the top of the list.
See, I am an independent woman who travels solo. I speak online with a lot of women who are scared to take the leap. My signature stance is that: if you are temporarily lost, just get in a taxi back to your hotel. Problem solved. No one has ever had to relocate and live in a city they traveled to because they got lost and could not get out. But I now live in Ganzi. Because I cannot get out.
I started out in Ganzi about a week ago. It was an intended stop to take a detour to Larung Gar, which was the purpose of this entire trip.
(YOU GUYS! LOOK AT LARUNG GAR!)
My first stop here in Ganzi was after a ten hour bus ride from Kangding. I am still a bit miffed about my Kangding hostel insisting I take the 9:00 bus instead of the 6:00 bus because the 6:00 doesn’t exist as I was told, and it does. Or that the ride is only about six hours, and it most certainly is not. Which is what I knew before I left, but was swayed by thinking someone who lives here would know better.
So when I arrived in a horrible rain storm, I cursed my Kangding hostel because had I taken the 6:00 bus, it may have not been impossible to see one inch in front of my fogged up glasses.
I knew about two decent hotels here. But both required me to exit the bus station, which I could not do since I could not see through the pouring rain. Because this is China, and you cannot get off any sort of public transportation without someone in your face yelling stuff at you, I had a woman who did not yell at me, but who gestured “sleep” to me. I ignored her at first because I wanted to stay in a pre-reviewed hotel. But after ten or so minutes of trying to not be soaked by standing under an awning, I realized I would either have to go out in the rain that made it impossible to see, or go wherever this woman was going to take me. I went with her.
She led me up a staircase that was about ten feet from where the bus had parked. This was fun. I wish I had pictures of this. When we got to the top, there were some couches and some outlets that had burn marks all up the wall from them.
She led me to a private room and gestured “five” with her fingers. 50 RMB. Approximately $8 USD. The walls were filthy, but the room was clean, as was the bed.
If you are curious about where to find this hotel, I took a photo from my room. That staircase with the blue writing above it is the entrance. There is no English or any indication there is a hotel up there.
I tried asking where the bathroom was and she did not understand me. She brought some guy over and he didn’t understand me either. I tried “toilet” and got nothing. So obviously let me go more complicated and ask “water closet.” Not surprising, nothing. I asked both of them “please do not make me mime this” as they stood there silent. FINE. I motioned by crossing my hands over myself and bent over like a three year old who has to pee. OOOOHHHH! Instantly they both knew what I meant and I was escorted to a shared squat toilet.
I am well aware that you cannot travel to Tibet and complain about squat toilets. Oh, Jennifer from Brooklyn is coming to visit? Let us redo all our plumbing and install Western amenities for her! No.
But I can prefer a Western toilet, even at a higher cost.
After a couple of hours, the rain slowed to a drizzle and I went out to buy an umbrella and of course, milk tea. I spotted a Golden Yak hotel that was on the opposite side of the bus station from me. I couldn’t see it before because blinding rain. I knew I would be checking in there the next morning. This is a chain that offers Western toilets.
The next morning, I ran across the parking lot and checked in. I meet a guy in the lobby who speaks English. Paul from Singapore. He offers me the holy grail, a ride to Sertar. In an 18 passenger van that him and his family are traveling in. At this point. I had just checked into a Western hotel and wanted to reap the amenities and politely declined. Huge mistake.
I get to my room and there is my beloved Western toilet. That will not flush. Oh fuck you. At least I have a shower that actually has a wall and will not soak the entire bathroom. WRONG. The part of the door that actually closes has been removed. Thanks, China!
The walls are also filthy in this hotel. I did not take a photo because at the time I was unaware that I would be starting a series.
I spent the day sulking in bed, reading a book. I went out late afternoon and braved the rain for as long as I could handle the staring. Like literally traffic stops for westerners here so that everyone in the over packed cars and vans can get a good look at you. I got a couple of nice photos though.
When I checked out the next day, a woman kept trying to give me back 100 RMB. I think she thought I paid a deposit. I hadn’t. She kept motioning to me for a pink deposit slip, which I did not have because I did not pay a deposit. The rates on the wall were 200 RMB, which I paid.
So she hands me a notebook and motions for me to write in there. So I wrote “I have no idea why I am writing in this book” and she keeps trying to give me 100 RMB. I keep insisting “no” and she won’t stop so eventually I take it. So by this happening, my room now cost 100 RMB, which was a much fairer price than 200 RMB so whatever.
I returned to Ganzi after Sertar. You have to come back to continue to Yushu, where I am flying out of Tibet from. This time I tried the Hotel Himalaya. This involved picking up some random stranger to show my minivan driver the way. I could not figure out how to enter the hotel. Then a Westerner dude saw me and told me in English where to go. Up a ramp, high altitude, I can’t breathe.
When I got to the top, a woman automatically appears, takes my luggage and brings me to a room. She motions to wait and I sit on the bed heaving from the walk up the ramp. She comes back with a registration form and a piece of paper showing me 200 RMB. Wifi and Western toilet, sign me up.
I did not realize the toilet would look like this:
By now, I expected the walls to be looking like this and I was not disappointed.
The next morning, I walk to the bus station. I strike out with everything I ask for. Manigango, Dege, Sershul, Yushu. The woman answers “no” to everything I ask, and instantly turns her head away from me so I have to yell “NI HAO” to get her to turn back around so I can ask for a new town, only to be told no. I don’t know if she means there is no bus today (they leave early morning) or if she means it is sold out, or there is no bus at all, or if she just hates me.
Outside the bus station, I am approached by three English speaking people. Why I did not ask them to go inside the bus station and ask where the fuck buses go from here, I will never know.
On the walk back to my hotel, there are a bunch of mini van drivers yelling “Dege” at me so I decide I will stay here one more night and go to Dege tomorrow.
I go back to my hotel and Western boy from last night is there. Again, I should ask an English speaking person anything and dont. The woman who gave me my room comes up and I point down to motion I am staying here again and hand her 200 RMB and she nods.
I went to the store later on and when I stopped at the top of the ramp to breathe, she came out and handed me 80 RMB. So I guess you pay less if you spend two nights.
I went back Inside, psyched to take a shower and use a towel for the first time in days. No hot water. Argh.
I woke up this morning and took photos on my phone of things written in Tibetan. Yushu, Dege, Manigango, Sershul, and the word “tomorrow”. All I got at the bus station was a head shake “no” before the woman would turn away. This was so insanely frustrating. Like look at the fucking photo before telling me no. There are many places on the internet that say there is a daily bus to Yushu that stops in Manigango and she told me no for both Yushu and Manigango.
Next thing I know, I am standing in the bus station crying hysterically.
I calm down and as I walk out of the bus station, some guy yells “DEGE” in my face. I want to convey that yes, I am going to Dege, but I have to go back and get my stuff from my hotel. But I can’t so I just shake my head “no.”
I head back out and have someone yell “DEGE” at me. A horseshoe forms around me of men trying to tell me something, I don’t know. I keep saying “Dege” and some of them say “Dege” back and this gets boring to me. Like let’s go. Finally one steps up to the plate and pulls out his phone and shows me 2000 RMB. Oh fuck you. This ride should be no more than 120. I burst through the horseshoe as they are all yelling ‘DEGE” at my back. I resist the urge to give them all the finger.
Back to the minivan drivers by the bus station. First try, I get a ride to Dege for 120 RMB. I am taken to a minivan and put inside. After about an hour (of still sitting there) I am moved to a second minivan. We wait about another hour. A couple comes up, traveling to Dege. So now we have three. My driver motions that he is going to drive around the corner to see if there are more people and for me to stay here. Okay. As soon as he pulls away I start panicking because my stuff is in his van. I pull out my phone and text myself his license plate number and then continue to wonder why I did that, rather than run and pound on the window to get my stuff out. I spend the next half hour begging him to come back. I feel like I am going to vomit. And during this time, everyone is starting at me, coming close to my face, talking to me in a language I do not understand, yelling “CHENGDU” in my face.
Finally the guy comes back and I am so relieved. He motions for me to get in the van, which now has more people in it. This is it, I think, I am finally leaving Ganzi. My excitement grows as the van begins moving…and travels like the length of a city block before pulling into an alleyway. The next thing I know, I am taken out of the van and replaced by 98347387438 monks. Oh no you didn’t.
I try to get my bag out of the back (I am now fixated on keeping my stuff with me) and the driver is trying to tell me something, I don’t know what. He keeps motioning to the corner, pointing at me, and making a “driving” motion with his hands. I don’t know if he is telling me someone is coming for me, someone is at the corner or what the fuck. So I shoo him away and as soon as he is gone, I burst into tears. I am stuck in Ganzi. Again. I don’t know how to get out of here.
So as I am standing there crying, as an entertainment package to the locals who were already over excited just to see a Westerner, some guy comes running down the alley towards me yelling “Dege.” Oh! You are going to drive me to Dege! I am so excited! That driver totally did hook me up and not ditch me after I waited three hours to leave!
This new guy takes my bag for me and as we are walking, he stops and make a motion that I have now become very familiar with, tilted head up against two hands together. This is sign language for “hotel.” OH HELL NO. I am not sleeping in Ganzi. I keep saying “Dege” and he keeps nodding yes, but making the sleeping motion and then saying “Dege.”
I am done. I start crying. I cannot spend another night in Ganzi. I cannot and I will not. I am trying to compose myself. The dude is walking with my bag and I am walking alongside him trying to stop crying. We stop at a hotel and he brings my bag inside and I lose it. I just fucking lose it. I am not fucking spending another night in Ganzi. How the fuck do you get the fuck out of this fucking town if the bus goes nowhere and you cannot get a minivan to drive you further than one block away. I cannot stay here. I am in complete hysterics, I am yelling that I absolutely refuse to stay in this hotel. I am not staying here, I am not. I am getting out, get me the fuck out of here.
By now there are at least 25 people gathered all around me, trying to speak to me in a language that I do not understand. I keep talking aloud to myself, saying over and over that no way in fucking hell am I spending another night here, get me the fuck out of here, I will go anywhere that is not here, get me out of here.
Somehow, some way, someone finds a woman who speaks English. I tell her that i need to get out of here. I keep having to stop myself from saying “before I kill myself” because this is Tibet and people self immolate themselves to protest China ruling over them. She asks me where I want to go. I want to go to Dege but I also offer that I will go to Manigango, which is much closer to Ganzi than Dege. If that is as far as I can get, I will take it. Just get me the fuck out of Ganzi NOW.
I think this was mistranslated because she secures me a ride to Manigango tomorrow. No. I don’t want to go to Manigango tomorrow. I want to go right now. I need to get out of Ganzi. Now. Today. Get me OUT of here.
She is communicating with someone, while the crowd of now above 30 watches me wipe the snot off my face with my sleeve because I am still in hysterics.
The final solution was (maybe) that I will stay in this hotel that I am typing in right now and some guy will meet me outside tomorrow at 8:00 and drive me to Dege. You might think I would be elated but I am not because the price is 120 RMB, which is the price of a shared minivan. Which means that he will have to fill the van, and we could have a repeat of today I will never again in life be happy until I am at least 100 miles away from Dege. I did not even want to come here at all, it was just a necessary stop to get to Larung Gar. I saw Larung Gar. I can leave here now, please let me leave here now.
I do not know what will happen if I do not get out of here tomorrow. Will I pay some guy 2000 RMB to drive just me to Dege and then have to worry about getting to Yushu? Or will I just quit and go back to Chengdu and change my flight and go home early? Or will I go to Chengdu and keep my flight and sit in a hostel room eating Subway for twenty straight days? God I would do anything for Subway right now. Hold on, let me throw out the wrappers from my prepackaged croissants that have a 2014 expiration date on them.
Maybe I could jump out my hotel window and be air lifted out of here. Key words: OUT OF HERE. Hmm…
I do not know what will happen to me tomorrow. I do know that since writing this out, I manned up and tried the shower and found hot water. I am in bed all comfy and feel a lot better. So hopefully, my mood stays up. And maybe goes higher as Ganzi disappears in the rear view mirror of a minivan tomorrow. Or maybe I will ride this stray donkey out of town:
And of course, the walls in my fourth Ganzi hotel room. What on earth are they doing in the rooms here?
Update! I escape Ganzi. Read more here.