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Seda (Sichuan)

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Closed city

As of June 2016, Seda region was officially closed for foreign travelers. Police checkpoint is in the town/village of Wengda, on the crossroad towards towns of Ganzi and Luhuo, and access is forbidden to all foreign travelers for the time being.

Seda or Sêrtar 色达县 is a remote county of Ganzi prefecture, Sichuan Province, China. It is one of the 18 counties under the administration of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The county has an area of 9,340 km². It is located about 780 km from Chengdu.

Understand[edit]

Sêrtar means "golden horse" in Tibetan. It is in the southeast of the Tibetan Plateau in the historical region of Kham. It is home to the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, the largest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world. The institute was founded by lama Jigme Phuntsok in 1980 and started off with just a few monks. It is home to tens of thousands of monks and pilgrims from around the world.

Seda comprises 17 towns and 66 villages.

Government opposition to expansion of the institute and protests in 2012 may explain Sera's status as a "closed city".

Get in[edit]

Map of Seda (Sichuan)

One bus a day departs from Chengdu Chadianzi bus station around 6 am and arrives in Seda town around 8 pm; ¥208.

One bus a day departs from Ma Er Kang (马尔康; Tibertan: Barkam) at 6 am. The driving time is about 14 hours. In summer, the bus will arrive in the Seda county around 21:00, but in winter the bus will stop at Maerkang for one night and arrive in the Seda county at noon.

There are also shared minivans from Ganzi, Luhuo, Kangding, Ma Er Kang.

From Chengdu, there are shared SUVs (4WD; Toyota Prado/Pajero or Landcruiser) that leave from in front of Kangding Hotel, Wu Hou Ci District (Tibetan area in Chengdu). ¥300-500 per seat, depending on seat position, next to the drivers is ¥500). They depart from Wuhouci around 4 am, and arrive in Seda town around 5 pm.

It is also possible to take a 4WD from Jiuzhaigou direct to Seda for ¥1800. It takes around 14 hours.

Seda and Larung Gar sit at around 4000 metres above sea level: make sure you are acclimatized to high altitudes.

Get around[edit]

  • Shared minivan to Larung Gar. Daihatsu ¥7 each.
  • Rent a car from Third Pole Tour [1].
  • From Seda to Ganzi County: it is possible to reach Seda directly from Ganzi, or from Kanding via Luhuo. Ganzi/Seda minivans (via Luhuo route) are relatively frequent, especially in the early morning before 9:00, at ¥100-120 (April 2016), but be prepared to negotiate to get this price. The trip takes 5½ hr. From LuHuo, frequent minivans run for ¥40, approx 3 hr 20 min.
  • From Seda to Kangding: there are daily buses at Seda Bus Station to Kangding. The driving time is about 10 hours.

See[edit]

Larung Gar Buddhist Institute
  • Larung Gar Buddhist Institute (喇荣五明佛学院). the largest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world 15 km from Seda town. A permit may be required for non-Chinese nationals to enter the institute. Larung Gar on Wikipedia
  • Dongga Gompa Monastery on a hill along Ganzi-Seda road. Marked by a big pagoda, 5 km before the town.
  • Experience Tianzang funeral/sky burial (天葬). For the Tibetans, Tianzang is the most solemn funeral. All Tibetans hope to have a Tianzang funeral. In most Tibetan areas, Tianzang funerals are not open to the visitors. Seda Tianzang Site is located at the mountainside (over 4000m) near to the Academy. Under normal condition, the funeral is held between 13:00 and 16:00 each day.
Vulture in flight during a sky burial
  • Night scene of Buddhist Academy (夜景). Around the Buddhist Academy, lights shine on the mountains and valley from thousands of Buddhist dormitories.
  • Red dormitories of Lamas and Juemu (红房子). Thousands of Red Buddhists' dormitories are scattered across the valley. Standing on the top of mountain in the daytime, you will overlook the red house areas which are distributed randomly, but encircle the Wuming Academy, which symbolizes the power of Buddhism.
Panorama of Sêrtar, facing north
Panorama of Sêrtar, facing south
Panorama of Sêrtar, facing east

Do[edit]

Larong Wuming Buddhist Academy is the world's largest active Tibetan Buddhist academy. Plan to spend a half day exploring the academy, and then witness a Tianzang funeral between 13:00 and 16:00. In the evening, climb to the top flatform, near to Larong Hotel, to look down at the valley and its lights.

Buy[edit]

Eat[edit]

  • Tsam ba (糌粑). Zanba is a nutritious dollop of roaster barley paste. Most Zanbas are white and fragrant. There are two ways to eat it: one is to mix Zanba with little buttered tea and milk, stir them together and knead it to be a mass for eating; the other is to mix Zanba with buttered tea, and then pour a cup of green tea, tasting tea while licking Zanba.
  • Beef and mutton (牛羊肉). Beef and mutton are the common dishes in Seda. The yaks and sheep grow up by eating natural grass and drinking natural water. Their meat is tender and tasty. Usually, the locals cut it into blocks and stew meat in boiling water. This is called "tuotuorou".

Drink[edit]

  • Buttered tea (酥油茶). Buttered tea is one kind of daily beverage in Seda. At most of time, it is drunk together with Tsamba. It is made by mixing butter and strong tea. A cup of buttered tea is good to replenish energy and overcome highland sickness.
  • Yak Milk (牦牛奶). On the Seda grassland, yak milk yogurt is an ideal healthy drink that helps digestion. Under a layer of yellow milk skin is the tender and ropy yogurt like pure white tofu jelly.

Sleep[edit]

  • Seda Larong Hotel (喇荣宾馆"). Larong Hotel is the highest hotel in Seda county and the best place to see the night scene of the academy. Even in private rooms, running tap water is unlikely. Private room ¥180, dormitory ¥45.
  • Seda Shengyu Hotel (色达县圣域宾馆). Add: Luoruo Township, Seda County, Ganzi Prefecture Tel: 13980694500
  • Accommodation for foreigners: Xidu International Youth Hostel 色达西渡国际青年旅舍 No.9 Jiefang Road. Sertar town. Tel. 18030908551 (Li Xing "Zebra" the reception's no.) Male-only and female-only dorms with shared bathroom. ¥65/night. Private room ¥198.
  • Golden Horse hotel on Jin Ma avenue. ¥280 (off season ¥240).

Contact[edit]

Go next[edit]

From Seda to Chengdu[edit]

  • Direct regular bus departing at 6:30 from the Seda Bus Station. The station starts to sell tickets at 8:30, so buy your ticket one day in advance. The bus will arrive at Chengdu Chadianzi Bus Station at about 20:00.
  • Bus to Maerkang, and then change the next day bus back to Chengdu (6 hr). It takes two days, but there are several buses from morning to 16:00.
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