Barkam is the prefectural capital of Aba Tibetan & Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. It is also known as Ma'erkang. The population is largely Han Chinese, although there are also Tibetans living in town and passing through.
There are two bus stations in town: the East Bus Station and West Bus Station. Buses for Hongyuan, Jiuzhaigou (12–14 hours, mostly over rough roads), Lanmusi and other destinations in Northern Sichuan depart from the East Bus Station. Bus staff may be concerned about selling tickets to foreigners due to checkpoints along the road. Contact the local police if there is any doubt.
Zhuokeji is a village about ten minutes taxi ride (¥20–30, negotiate before you leave) over rough road east of Maerkang. It features a watchtower fortress once occupied by a local chieftain which has been extensively renovated. Mao Zedong stayed at the watchtower several times during the Long March, and the interpretive signs outline both his involvement and the history of the local Tibetan people. The entry price is steep at ¥60, but there is plenty of atmosphere. Across a small stream is a village featuring traditional Tibetan architecture.