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Yushu eager to show off unexplored attractions

Yang Feiyue
Updated: Sep 16,2015 10:32 AM     China Daily

Highland scenery on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in Zadoi county, Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Qinghai province.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Racing on the Tanggula Mountains 4,500 meters above sea level and taking in highland scenery along the way is a dream of many driving enthusiasts.

Wei Jie, 46, from Beijing, is geared for the trip. He bought his own Jeep in July 2013.

“For us self-driving travelers, nothing can compare to driving in northwestern China, especially on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau,” Wei says.

Wei will join hundreds of others on a journey to the Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Qinghai province, during this year’s National Day holiday week, beginning Oct 1. He’s already packed his photographic equipment and is eager to record the exotic scenery en route.

Participants at the event, jointly held by the Yushu government and the Chinese club Jeep Rangers, will spend five days getting across Yushu’s Sanjiangyuan area to the Tibet autonomous region on five routes to explore exotic vistas.

“So far, we’ve had roughly 300 Jeep owners who signed up for the event,” says Li Xiao, founder of the Beijng-based private club.

Highland scenery on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in Zadoi county, Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Qinghai province.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Most of them come from the capital, and many others are from Hebei province and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, he says.

Sanjiangyuan is the origin of China’s three major waterways: Yellow River, Yangtze River and Lancang River. The area is a very important national ecological shelter and plays a crucial role in maintaining China’s ecological safety.

“Watching the glaciers and snow mountains high above and green grasslands from below while driving in the area is just fascinating,” Li says.

Snow leopards, old trees and Danxia landform featuring red sandstone and geologic formations resembling stacked pancakes are among the highlights of the trip.

“We chose Yushu because it has spectacular snow mountains and glaciers, boundless wetlands, grasslands and abundant Chinese ethnic cultures and traditions,” says Yang Yong, an adventurer and consultant for the October event.

Yang has been there three times since 2006.

Roughly 80 percent of the motorcade will spend three days driving on the well-paved roads and highways to Tibet, while 20 percent of them, including invited scientists, will go off-the-beaten track to explore from Yushu’s Zadoi county to Nyainrong county in Tibet.

The route features gravel roads and leads to the Tangbo pass, through which Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) is said to have traveled to Tibet to marry a local king to enrich political unity.

Many pilgrims trekked to Tibet that way during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and stones carved with Tibetan script can be found lying around the route, says Li.

“There are many big swamps and springs along the route, and you can see many herdsmen with their flocks of cows and sheep,” Yang says. “Clusters of villages leap to view after one climbs over the Tanggula Mountains.”

Increasing public knowledge of Sanjiangyuan, protecting China’s great rivers and promoting Yushu’s tourism resources are part of the purpose of the event, the organizers say.

Yushu is eager to introduce itself to the world, says La Maocuo, a local tourism official. She notes there are more than 500 tourist attractions in Yushu and 192 Tibetan Buddhism temples, beautiful Danxia landforms and stunning scenery.

In addition to the Jeep event, Yushu officials have talked with their counterparts in Nepal and Myanmar about organizing self-drive trips, which La Maocuo says could start soon.

The prefecture will also take advantage of its religious resources to boost tourism, especially during its rainy and cold winter, the traditional off season.

Late last year, two Tibetan Buddhism assemblies drew roughly 150,000 people there, La Maocuo says.

A total of 382,000 tourists traveled from outside to Yushu in the first eight months, up 54 percent as compared with the same period last year, says the Yushu tourism bureau in a statement. The prefecture raked in 190 million yuan ($29.8 million) in the same period, up 37.6 percent in the wake of recent promotional activities around China.

The number of flights to Yushu peaked at 11 during a five-day horse racing festival held in late July.

The improving transportation infrastructure is expected to bring in a bigger flow of tourists.

The highway from Xining, capital city of Qinghai, to Yushu will be completed next year, La Maocuo says. Three airline routes have been added this year, which connect Chengdu-Xining-Yushu, Xi’an-Xining-Yushu and Lhasa-Xining-Yushu, and expansion of the local airport is in planning stages.

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