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Chala, Shuangla, Bingzhongluo, Yunnan

There is an entrance fee into the Bingzhongluo region of Y50. The collection gate is about 9km before the town itself. Immediately after the ticket booth are two beautiful Nu villages on each side of the river bank. To the east across the river (on a small but motorable bridge) is Chala 查腊. The village to the west is Shuangla 双拉. Both villages are spread out along the slopes of the hills, facing each other. The former is the bigger one and has a Catholic Church.

The houses in the villages are constructed mainly from wood and nestle among beautiful wheat plots and walnut trees. The Nus here (as in elsewhere) are extremely friendly. A unique tradition of the Nus is harnessing the power of water. Hence it is common for each family to have their own small hydro generator by piping water from the river. Furthermore one is very likely to see water-operated wheat grinding mills in the villages. These mills are small huts with a water wheel underneath it. The water wheel spins a stone grinder in the hut that grinds wheat continuously. There is a string of nine such mills in Chala.

There are possibilities for walks in the villages and up the hills for great panoramas. In fact one great walk is to trek up the mountain behind Shuangla to a small Drung (or Dulong) village named XiaoChala. This is likely to be the only opportunity for anyone to have any interaction with the Drung tribe, short of trekking to the Drung Valley.

The Drung tribe only numbers about 6,000 in China. The majority of them reside in the Drung Valley in the west of Gongshan county (remote northwest corner of Yunnan), immediately east (north) of Myanmar. The Drungs are cut off from the rest of the country by high mountain passes and dense forests. The former is often impassable due to snow while there are regular landslides on the steep slopes to the valley. The Drung River flows through the valley into Myanmar as the Irrawady River.

The Dulong River Trail is still the only access to the mysterious Dulong People. Caravans can only transport supplies to the Dulong villages between June and November. Frequent precipitations make the trail along sheer slopes extremely slippery and dangerous.

(Walking time: 6 days return on the Dulong River Trail from Gongshan)

A unique feature of the Drung tribe is that the women had tattoos on their face. Apparently this was done to avoid the women being kidnapped by the nearby Tibetans as slaves. However this is now extremely rare and such tattoos are only likely to be found on the faces of very old women, which are numbered.

One such woman resides in the Drung village of XiaoChala. To meet this 80-year-old woman, one needs to ask around the village. To reach the village, one will have to trek for 2-3 hours up the very steep mountain from the road level.

Getting there and away:

Transport to Bingzhongluo consists mainly of vehicles passing through from the south. One only needs to wait on the roadside for the regular transport. The journey to Bingzhongluo is rather scenic and the highlight is the so-called “First Bend of Nujiang” -the river does a horseshoe bend here. It is definitely not the first horseshoe bend of the river but maybe the only one that is easily viewed.

Accomodations:

There is no accommodation in any of these villages. However the Nus frequently host travelers in their home. They also prepare simple meals for travelers. Just pay them a reasonable amount for the hospitality.

 

Written by CBP in July 2005



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This article was first uploaded on Chinabackpacker.com in 2005.
It was moved to this website in Feb 2009 by the author.


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