Last November of 2015 I got a chance to travel to Tibet to help with Tibetan responsible tourism entrepreneurs with their marketing challenges. The trip was part of a very cool, practical grassroots project that directly teaches Tibetans how to run successful tourism companies. At the end of a two week trip that went from Chengdu to Shangrila and Lhasa, my Tibetan ecotourism colleagues and I talked about creating an exceptional new women’s pilgrimage tour to Eastern Tibet – envisioning an unparalleled opportunity to meet, learn from and share ideas with Tibetan nuns, villagers and students. (Eastern Tibet is outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) that many westerners think is actually all of Tibet. In fact, Tibetan people and culture extends through parts of many provinces in Central China, including Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan.)
That first ever women’s pilgrimage tour is now ready for a select group of first explorers to join us in 2016. To follow is the introduction and itinerary for this new eight-day tour. Also, you can visit this google drive link to download a complete tour description, photos and a custom map of where the tour takes place in Eastern Tibet. Please share it with others who might be interested and see if it is a fit. https://drive.google.com/open…
NEW! Tibetan Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour for Women
8 Days Eastern Tibet – Amdo Region, Summer & Fall 2016
Offered by Tibetan Tour Company: Milarepa Tours
About This Tour
Nuns in the Damo Nunnery
This exciting new pilgrimage tour by Milarepa Tours is offered as an inaugural cultural exchange experience and adventure spirit journey to eastern Tibet. We will spend 8 days in eastern Tibet, which encompasses much of Sichuan Province and southern Gansu Province in the central part of China. This region is culturally known as the Amdo Region of eastern Tibet. Our goal is to learn about Tibetan Buddhism from the perspective of Tibetan Buddhist nuns and local Tibetan women and share cross-cultural experiences with them. We will get a glimpse of their typical studies, daily lives and general living conditions at nunneries and in villages, and be able to compare and contrast that with the better known world of Tibetan Buddhist monks and famous monasteries that we will also get to visit. Along the way, we’ll get some first hand lessons in meditation and key Buddhist principles by practicing Tibetan lay students and nuns. Wrapping up our tour will be two extraordinary days in the world-renowned Jiuzhaigou National Park on the edge of the Tibetan Himalaya Plateau in northern Sichuan province. Few westerners have ever experienced this UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its jewel-like blue and green lakes, waterfalls, wildlife, and diverse bird species.
Who should go on this inaugural Tibetan Pilgrimage Tour?
View from Maigang Village, Eastern Tibet
This first tour is for women only – it is an exploratory inaugural tour and we’ll be invited to stay in the homes and nunneries of Tibetan nuns. You don’t need to know anything about Tibetan Buddhism in order to join the tour, and you don’t need to be a Buddhist! This is for any gal who is inspired to experience a cultural exchange with a little-known area of eastern Tibet and to see the unique, rugged landscape of the Eastern Tibetan Plateau. Accommodations are simple yet comfortable, authentic and at times rustic, with shared bathrooms. We’ll experience the same accommodations as our Tibetan friends at the nunneries, monasteries, and homestay. Chengdu accommodations will be 3-star hotels with private bathrooms. Be prepared for huge smiles, gracious acts of kindness and generosity, and to learn something new every day. Moderate fitness is required, as we will get to walk daily and enjoy your choice of easy to moderate hiking on several days of this tour. There is a full day driving to get from Chengdu up to eastern Tibet and back– and we have worked hard to include stays in the same general area to minimize daily driving in the middle of the tour.
Why a Women’s Pilgrimage Tour in Tibet?
This tour was envisioned and brought to life when an American woman (that would be me!) visiting Tibet in November of 2015 on a cultural & training exchange working with Tibetan tour companies, started thinking about those last two weeks of her amazing trip in Tibet. They were enjoying a great dinner at an authentic Tibetan restaurant in the Tibetan district of Chengdu, China with great food and drink, followed by an inspired friendly round robin of singing among the merry Tibetans and Americans. She recounted the visits to monasteries, temples, seeing all the monks during her visit, reading the history of Lamas, Rinpoches, etc. at famous sites and said, this was awesome – but where are the women? Where are the Tibetan Buddhist nuns? She saw some nuns at Jokhang Temple in Lhasa and wanted to know more – but no one had much to say. She never heard a peep about nunneries, famous nuns, or learned anything about what their experience growing up in the Tibet Buddhist tradition was like. “Wouldn’t it be great” – she said to some fellow Tibetan tour company leaders, “to create a first of its kind pilgrimage tour to explore Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture from the perspective of women practitioners – the nuns and women laypeople?”
And thus, the idea for this cultural adventure spirit journey was born. Tsering Tso, Nyima Tashi, and Julie together imagined what such a tour could look like, and several months later – we are thrilled to share it with you.
The rest is history that you might be writing with us – if you join us on this first pilgrimage tour. Tashi Delek! We welcome you to join us!
Day 0: Arrive in Chengdu, China in Sichuan Province, the day before the tour starts.
Meet your pilgrimage tour guides from Milarepa Tours and enjoy an evening reception and group dinner in Chengdu. Milarepa Tours will meet you at the Chengdu airport and transport you to your hotel in Chengdu.
Chengdu, Sichuan China http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/chengdu.htm
Day 1: Chengdu, Sichuan China
Chengdu Panda Reserve, Sichuan China
In the morning after your choice of a western or Chinese breakfast at your hotel, we’ll head to the renowned Giant Panda research and breeding center six miles from downtown at the outskirts of Chengdu. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding encompasses 96 acres and offers well-signed (in English and Chinese) walking paths to the many stations to see giant and lesser red pandas. We’ll get to see tiny baby pandas in the nursery area, active toddlers of 4 months and up as they exercise their new found courage to attempt to climb nearby trees, and then the giant’s moms and dads who hang out in trees, munch the plentiful area bamboo, and take naps in their areas. The open-aired panda center means lots of opportunity for close-up pictures and videos of these iconic native animals native to this region of China. After visiting the Panda Center, we’ll visit the 7th century Wenshu Monastery, built in the Tang Dynasty. It is the best-preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu. There we’ll get to tour the temple, learn about its history and pray for our trip. The afternoon is free to rest and/or explore Chengdu. We’ll have a welcome dinner at an authentic Tibetan restaurant this evening and share information and stories about our pilgrimage journey for the next 7 days.
Overnight in Chengdu at 3 stars or better hotel.
- Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/sichuan/chengdu/panda-breeding-and-research-center.htm
- Wenshu Monastery: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/sichuan/chengdu/wenshu_monastery.htm
- Tibetan Buddhism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Tibetan_Buddhism
Day 2: Chengdu – Hongyuan, Aba (Alt: 3535m) (Total Dist: 7 hours)
Village Prayer Flags – Eastern Tibet
Today we start our journey into eastern Tibet. Only one hour’s drive out of Chengdu we’ll enter the mountains that begin the approach to the Tibetan plateau. Your route follows a mountain canyon through the towns of Wenchuan, where you can still see the evidence of the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake if you look carefully. Lunch will be enjoyed in the highland town of Miyaluo. Following lunch, we will continue to drive farther up and up onto the Tibetan Plateau and grassland of Hongyuan County. This grassland region is the home and lifeblood of Tibetan ancient nomadic culture. We will stay in an authentic local hotel tonight and visit with local Tibetan University students at the village of Hongyuan (Kyongchu in Tibetan). We’ll have plenty of unhurried opportunity to meet and share stories with these eastern Tibetans, as we’ll enjoy dinner with them in Hongyuan after touring their village with them. One of the local women we’ll meet has been working on HIV prevention in Tibet for many years and is looking forward to meeting us and sharing her work experience.
Overnight in Hongyuan.
Sichuan Province, Aba Prefecture,
Day 3: Hongyuan – Maigang Village (Alt: 2600m) (280km) (Dist:5 hours)
View from our Homestay in Maigang Village
From Hongyuan we’ll say goodbye to our new student friends and drive to Maigang after breakfast. As we travel along eastern Tibet’s grassland, we’ll see herds of sheep, horses, and yaks spread out over the miles, spotted by the black tents of nomadic Tibetan herders. We will have lunch in Zogi and then visit the Dazha Monastery, built in the Qing Dynasty. The Dazha Monastery is a Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and contains many rare Buddhist scriptures on display. The Dazha Monastery is a small monastery that you won’t likely read about in any guidebooks. It is one of the most important monasteries in Maigang village though and offers us a first-hand experience to visit nuns and learn about their life at the monastery. The monastery has both monks and nuns, with about 300 monks and 30 nuns living there. Tonight we’ll enjoy an authentic Tibetan family homestay.
Overnight in the Maigang village
Day 4: Maigang Village –Damo Nunnery (Alt: 2600m) (50km) (Dist: 1hour)
Nuns at the Damo Nunnery
After breakfast, our tour guide will introduce us to the local culture as we tour the Maigang village and get a chance to meet and talk to villagers. Along the way, we’ll see local women working in the fields. We’ll get the chance to join in with the villagers and pilgrims doing Kora (walk around monastery). Kora is like walking meditation – you’ll see pilgrims walking clockwise around sacred sites throughout Tibetan regions – while chanting mantras and spinning ever present prayer wheels. We will enjoy a lunch prepared by our host at the village in a Tibetan home.
We will drive to the Damo nunnery after lunch. This is a really special day for us as we get to visit with and learn about the lives of Tibetan nuns at Damo Nunnery. Nunneries are called Ani Gompas in Tibetan, so this is Damo Ani Gompa. What is their practice like? Does it include academic studies? What’s a typical day like? Who joins the nunnery and why? The nunnery is located on a very high mountain outside of the village. It’s a quiet and peaceful place, rarely visited by travelers. You’ll be having a one of a kind cultural exchange experience. The nunnery was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and later Master Nixi rebuilt the nunnery in 1990. At first, there were only five nuns. Now there are around 120 nuns and they practice the Nyima lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. While the rebuilt nunnery doesn’t have a long history – it is growing fast. With our kind sisters at the nunnery, together we hope to share a glimpse of the wishes, dreams, and perspectives of our common worlds. Our guides are fluent in Tibetan Amdo language, English, and Chinese – so we hope to learn a lot.
Overnight in Damo Nunnery in the simple wooden house living quarters of the nuns.
Day 5: Damo Nunnery -Langmu Monastery (Alt: 3600) (125km) (Dist: 2 hours)
In the morning, we will get up early to join the nuns’ discussions and morning meditation. We will have breakfast with nuns, and then do some Koras around Stupas at the nunnery after breakfast. We will also get to do some short hiking to and meditation on the holy mountain. Nuns will prepare our lunch and we’ll enjoy a last meal together with them.
In the afternoon, we will say goodbye to the nuns and head to the nearby historical Langmu Monastery for monks. The Bailong River forms the border between Sichuan and Gansu province. The Buddhist Monasteries on each side of valley offer beautiful views of surrounding mountains with alpine meadows and forests. There is also a Muslim community in this town of Langmusi, where the monasteries are. The town is a diverse mix of three cultures: Han Chinese, Tibetan and Hui Muslim people. After we finish visiting the monastery here, we also have the option to do some easy hiking in Takysang Valley (Tiger Nest Valley) if we want. We will enjoy Muslim style noodles for dinner in the town, and we’ll stay at an authentic Tibetan hotel that is run by Langmu monastery.
Overnight in Langmu Monastery.
Langmu Monastery http://www.chinaculturecenter.org/tours/eventdetail.php?eventid=102
In Langmu, in the south of Gansu, there is a monastery that is divided into two parts by the Bailongjiang River, one half belonging to Sichuan and the other to Gansu. It has two Tibetan monasteries and two schools. The Tibetans who live in Langmu Monastery share their daily living routine and religious activities. Langmu means “fairy” in the Tibetan language. The Monastery got its name because inside the cave there is a rock bearing the resemblance of a beautiful young lady which was believed to be a transformation of a fairy. Langmusi is getting a reputation for being an ideal destination for the backpackers, quiet and picturesque.
Day 6: Jiuzhaigou National Park and Nature Reserve (Dist: 2.5 hours)
Jiuzhaigou National Park – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Today we will drive to Jiuzhaigou National Park and Nature Reserve, in the northern corner of Sichuan Province and eastern Tibet. Jiuzhaigou, which in Chinese means Nine Village Valley, takes its name from the nine Tibetan Villages along the length of the National Park. The site was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1992 and a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997. The tourism area is classified as an AAAAA scenic area by the China National Tourism Administration. Jiuzhaigou is known for spectacular scenery, dazzlingly clear blue and green jewel-like lakes, waterfalls, karst formations, mountains, rivers, wildlife and bird species. Similar to Yellowstone National Park in the USA, it is a popular international and national tourist destination in China. We’ll arrive by lunchtime and enjoy exploring the park in the afternoon.
Overnight in Jiuzhaigou (Locally run guesthouse)
Day 7: Explore Jiuzhaigou National Park
Jiuzhaigou National Park
We will continue to explore Jiuzhaigou National Park through the valley via hiking and the Park bus transportation. Private cars are not allowed in the Park. Jiuzhaigou is a highlight of any trip to the Eastern Tibetan Plateau and Sichuan Province. With a full day to continue to explore the park, we should be able to get in some delightful hiking, birdwatching, possibly a sunrise or sunset and outstanding photography opportunities. We stay again in a nearby Tibetan village and return to Chengdu the following day. On one of our evenings in Jiuzhaigou, we will enjoy an authentic Tibetan Opera directed by a famous Tibetan artist called Rongzhong Erjia.
Overnight again in Jiuzhaigou
Day 8:Jiuzhaigou –Chengdu (320km) (8 hours)
Today we will travel back to Chengdu, leaving the eastern Tibetan Plateau. We will arrange a farewell party in Chengdu.
Overnight in Chengdu. Airport transportation the following day for guest departures. We can arrange additional travel in China or other parts of Tibet for you, post or pre-pilgrimage tour, at your request.
Minimum number of Guests: 5
Maximum number of Guests: 12
- $1575USD – per person of 5 people
- $1475USD – per person of 6 people
- $1375USD – per person of 7 people
- $1275USD – per person of 8 people
- $1200USD – per person for 9 to 12 people
- $50USD per person that goes to the Bridge-Builder Tibetan Scholarship fund that offers scholarship help to Tibetans pursuing university degrees in China or abroad.
- Transportation (toll fees, parking fees and gasoline)
- Airport pick up and drop off
- Accommodations (shared room) – 8 nights
- Local English speaking tour guide
- All meals for 8 days
- The expense for driver and guide
- Entrance tickets to all attractions
- Airline Flights to/from Chengdu, China
- Travel insurance
- Personal expense
- Optional guide gratuities
- Optional donations at nunneries & monasteries (often requested in order to be able to take photos inside monasteries)
Flexible Tour Dates:
This is a special exploratory first ever tour. The tour needs 5 participants to go. Customizable tour dates are as follows:
- August: Any weeks available
- September: First two weeks available
- October: 22-29, 2016. Confirmed.
About Milarepa Tours
Pilgrimage Tour Photos – in Google Drive
Map of the Eastern Tibetan Pilgrimage Tour Route
Tsering is from Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, part of the Amdo region of Sichuan. She received both bachelor and master’s degree in South West University for Nationalities. She is a tour operator with more than four years of experience in planning, developing, guiding and implementing tourism projects and designing itineraries based on clients’ interests. She is also an English teacher and has experience in teaching kids and adults. She is a member of international Toastmaster Club and the founder of Himalaya Toastmaster Club. She likes to donate her time to help people realize their potential and achieve their dreams. Tsering is a natural bridge builder and helps match Tibetan University students with financial needs to international sponsors. Tsering speaks fluent English, Chinese and, of course, Tibetan! Tsering will lead all 2016 tours.
Nyima Tashi was born in Kham Drakgo. He is the main tour operator of Kham Voyage Travel Agency and Milarepa Tours. He majored in Tibetan and English languages from ETP (English Training Program) of Qinghai Normal University and studied Eco-tourism in the US through Columbia University. Nyima Tashi is fluent in English, Chinese, and of course, Tibetan! He also speaks conversational French. He obtained his Chinese National Tour Guide license in 2008, and since then has been working in tourism focusing mostly on guiding tourists across Tibetan plateau, especially in Kham, Eastern Tibet. Nyima Tashi’s extensive experience guiding and running both Milarepa Tours, along with his deep understanding of the greater Tibet region, which includes Kham, Amdo, and the Lhasa area are tremendous assets in designing these tours. Nyima Tashi is a fantastic storyteller and beautiful singer, too! He is the general manager and owner of Milarepa Tours and Kham Voyages.
Julie Thorner –
Julie is a seasoned international adventurer with a past that includes being a river guide, kayaking instructor and bike tour guide. She speaks conversational Chinese, Spanish and is learning Tibetan. She lived in China for six months decades ago and fell in love with Tibet after her first visit there in November of 2015. With an avid interest in the intersection of Eastern, Western and Indigenous religions, science and philosophy, she helped design this trip to be a special and unique opportunity to explore Tibetan Buddhism and its early Bon remnants in an extraordinary cultural exchange between sisters of different countries. Julie is the founder and president of Liquid Spark, an adventure tourism marketing company and parent of two teen sons. Julie will accompany the October tour as your sister journeyer.
If you are interested in participating in this tour and/or have more questions, please reach out to us via email, website, or phone (USA#):
- Tsering Tso: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nyima Tashi: email@example.com
- Or, Contact Us on the MilarepaTours.com website: http://milarepatours.com/node/10
- Tour Name: Eastern Tibet Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour for Women
- Julie Thorner: Julie@liquidspark.com, 828-736-1695 (USA calls)
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