Tour #1 (Botanical Illustration Focus): June 19 to July 5, 2011
Tour #2 (Photography Focus): July 9 to July 26, 2011
Tour #3 (Sacred Sites and Traditions Focus): August 31-August 16, 2011


The proposed activities are based on providing you with a Once in a Lifetime experience and always reflect, to the greatest extent possible, the interests of both the individuals and the group. Our goal is to provide you with a series of high impact close-up adventures, in a relaxing and informal setting--an opportunity to spend real time with fascinating people in a beautiful environment, while you photograph, collect flowers, sketch and paint.

DAY 1     


  • Breakfast at the hotel and then to the Panda Preserve

Panda Preserve
Outside Chengdu
             Althe holding panda
Althea Kent Holding a Red Panda


  • We'll have a vegetarian lunch specially prepared for us at the famous Wushu Temple
  • Time on our own to explore Chengdu (see the list below of wonderful places to visit and things to see and do) or just to relax at the hotel
  • Get ready for our early morning departure tomorrow
  • Last minute buying--fleece vests, jackets, rain gear, are available at great prices.


  • Dinner and then the famous, colorful, fanciful Sichuan Opera, which is really not an opera at all, but a visit to an old tea house where there is a professional mélange of creative acts that will delight and amaze you.

Additional Sights/Activities in Chengdu:

  • Antiques Market-- You'll find everything from jade bowls, Chinese coins, stamps, knives, musical instruments to silver hair clasps.
  • Art Supplies-- Buy paints made from ground minerals, fabulous brushes made from pheasant feathers and red squirrel, hand-made papers and beautiful hand-bound artists' books
  • Artist studios
  • Chengdu Contemporary Art Museum
  • Dao Fu's Cottage-- Dao Fu was a famous poet from the T'ang Dynasty who lived in a thatched cottage--now surrounded by a beautiful park honoring him
  • Jin Li Lu (Street) a street of antiques, interesting shops and restaurants
  • Massages from Tibetan or Chinese masseuses and masseurs
  • Sichuan Brocade Factory
  • Stroll along the Jin Jiang river, have tea at one of the many old tea houses, and watch people play mah jong and fish in the river; early morning t'ai chi with the locals on the banks of the river
  • Tibetan quarter of Chengdu for shopping and people watching; excellent place to buy stone malas (rosaries, Buddhust statues and ritual items
  • Visit the Lotus Garden
  • Rent a bicycle and ride all over the place!
DAY 2     


  • Leave Chengdu and travel West, beginning our ascent onto the Tibetan Plateau.

On the Way
from Chengdu to Lhakhang


  • Arrive early afternoon in Kangding/Dartsedo, stopping along the way for breaks and to explore for wildflowers and take photographs. This is the first area where people may have reactions to the altitude. If anyone is feeling ill (headache, vomiting) we’ll stay an extra day--it generally passes in 24 hours.
  • Visit with the Kham Aid Foundation staff in Kangding. They will give us an expert view of conditions in Eastern Tibet/Kham--health, social programs, cultural preservation, and environmental issues.
  • Continue on to the luxurious Tagong Grasslands with its unique stone houses, temples, and rich pasturelands alive with decorated Tibetan ponies and laughing children
Chorten Next To Our Hotel In The Tagong Grasslands


  • We will spend the night in a traveler's hotel run by a Tibetan couple (they are congenial hosts and great cooks!). The hotel is right next to an ancient chorten (Tibetan shrine) that survived the Cultural Revolution.


  • Breakfast at the hotel and then a walk with the villagers around the chorten; we'll learn about the chorten, the people who live nearby and the effects of the Cultural Revolution on the surrounding area
  • Time for photos and botanical illustration lessons

Dianne Painting the Meconopsis
horridula,the Famous
Tibetan Blue Poppy



  • Drive on to Lhakhang (site of an ancient monastery) and then to Ganzi We’ll stop at rivers, meadows and passes to take photos and search for flowers and picnic. During the day, we travel through small villages, climbing higher onto the Tibetan Plateau.
  • Arrive in Ganzi about 3:00pm, go to the hot springs bath house to freshen up (private rooms for deep soaking) and on to the tent camp, outside Oh Szang Village. Meet our Tibetan hosts and their children and get settled in our tents, our base for the next ten days.
LhaKhang Monastery
Dianne and tibetan children Dianne Greeted by the Tibetan Kids
Who Help
at the Tent Camp

Additional Activities in the Ganzi/Oh Szang Area:

* Cross the bridge to the mani wall and pasture lands on the other side of the main river.
* For the Daring: Get a haircut, shampoo and head massage at one of the local beauty parlors (all through charades, unless you speak Tibetan or Chinese!)
* Ganzi Girls’ Orphanage: Home where 100 girls live and study. Dianne has been working with them on botanical illustration, trying to encourage individual girls to see this as an opportunity after they leave the orphanage. Those who wish can spend a morning in one-on-one instruction with the girls.
* Hot Springs Bath House: Go to the public bathhouses - fed by a hot spring.
* People Watch: There is every type of person, big and small, wild and not, coming through Ganzi, a main town for shopping. Take a seat and watch them go by — they’ll be watching you, too.
* Shopping: Shopping in Ganzi is a wild affair. Lots of turquoise, coral, gold and silver jewelry, carpets, silks, Tibetan clothing (including sheepskin vests and jackets), Chinese posters of Mao, Tibetan Buddhist religious artifacts, fancy sun hats reminiscent of the 1930’s and 1940’s, cowboy hats.
* Stupa/Chorten: Visit the main stupa/chorten and monastery at the south end of town (bath houses are just a short walk from there).
* Tibetan Traditional Dances and Music -- If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to see Tibetan dancers and musicians performing in festivals and in the small towns. All in an intimate environment.
* Vegetable, Fruit and Meat Market: A trip through the market will open your eyes and your pocketbooks-- fruits and vegetables (and meats) of every kind abound.
magenta flower

Collected Near
Oh Szang Village

DAYS 4-5    
(3500 - 3800 m)

Ganzi was the largest and most important town in Kham area during the 17th century, now moving quickly into modern times. It is a traveler's dream meeting people from various villages and nomadic groups coming to town to shop; visiting ancient monasteries and nunneries; shopping at the vegetable and fruit markets.

mountain Cho La Shan Mountains Just Beyond Ganzi and
Oh Szang Village


  • Morning meditation walk around the village chorten

  • Breakfast, go to Oh Szang Village to meet our neighbors, have tea in their homes, take photos and wander to the river outside the village to collect plants, watch the prayer wheel turning in the stream, stop at the woodcarver's studio, and observe village life


  • Lunch at the river; spend time wandering the lanes of the village, turning the village prayer wheel with the elders; peeking into the shops of the wood carvers; and playing tag with children coming home from school


  • We invite local villagers to the camp to tell us their stories about life in Tibet before the Cultural Revolution and before the Chinese occupation and life now.
  • Star gazing-- identify the constellations that sparkle over Tibet
      tent camp
Guests Arrive at the Tent Camp Above Oh Szang Village

Additional Activities at/near Oh Szang:

  • Cooking Traditional Tibetan Foods: You can learn to make meat momos, fry up vegetables on the solar stove, make Tibetan flat bread, tsampa, yogurt from yak milk (actually from the dri, the female yak), separate the milk and the cream for butter.
  • Delivering clothes, toys, books: Bring an extra suitcase (or two) filled with whatever you think your host family (or others in the village) might like or need. Dianne will send a list of things to bring, if you are so inclined. For those who wish to travel light, but still want to have the joy of giving gifts to the villagers, you will be able to buy everything your heart desires in the large town of Ganzi
  • Horse Back Riding into the Hills Above Rongbatsa. Rongbatsa is an hour west of Oh Szang. For those who wish to ride horses into the hills to look for flowers, this will be a special day.
dianne on horse
Dianne in Hills
Above Rongbatsa on a Day Trip to Gather Wildflowers
  • Going into Ganzi to shop for silks, turquoise, coral and amber, Tibetan traditional paintings, horse blankets, trinkets, traditional Tibetan clothing (very cool jackets, blouses, shirts) etc.
  • Ganzi Monastery: Home to 500 monks. Built in 1642 by Mongols. Beautiful temple, views across the valley, elaborate paintings and a special wooden mandala with all sorts of strange and wonderful figures circumambulating the main “stupa” figures.
  • Milking the Yaks: Try your hand (literally) at milking the yaks—if your host family doesn't’t have any, visit a neighbor.
  • Wandering through the village: This is an event in and of itself as you meet and greet new friends, children follow you along and people invite you in for tea and tsampa.
               Rick showing pix to chlldren
Ric Rosow Showing Photos to the Oh Szang Villagers
(We’ll cross a 16,500 foot pass)


  • Morning meditation walk around the local village chorten
  • Breakfast and discussion and information about Geden Choeling Nunnery, the nuns who live there, their history, the general overview of life in Tibetan nunneries in Tibet and in exile in India.


  • Walk (1 hour easy walk) or drive into Ganzi to hang with the locals, have lunch, search for interesting jewelry, antiques, silk fabrics, visit the small monastery in town and soak in the pools at the hot springs bath house
  • 5:00, the nuns from Geden Choeling come to the camp to walk with us up to the nunnery


  • Dinner with the nuns, meet the main Geshe (teacher) who will tell us more about the nunnery which is under his charge; explore the nunnery and the ancient nunnery walls beyond the now-restored complex
  • Meditate with the nuns while they do their evening prayers, and watch while they practice debate in the courtyard (a traditional monastic education method)
  • Settle in for a peaceful night's sleep in the main room at the nunnery, tucked in by the nuns, surrounded by the vibrations of centuries of religious masters dedicated to ending suffering for all sentient beings
Anne Anne Miller with the Geden Choeling Nuns
Phil at nunery Kathy Franzen and Phil Hage Sitting with the Nuns During Evening Prayers


DAYS 7 - 8
(3,800 - 4200 m)

YiLhun Latso Lake Outside the Village of Manigango


Morning (Day 7):

  • Early morning meditation while the nuns chant their morning prayers
  • Breakfast and walk down the hill from Geden Choeling Nunnery back to the tent camp
  • We’ll head West by jeep (only 3 hours total driving time to Manigango/Yi Lhun Latso Lake). We’ll stop after an hour at Dargye Monastery, a recently restored monastery at the village of Rongbatsa. The Manigango area is on the high nomadic pastureland.


  • Arrive at Manigango and YiLhun Latso Lake (a celadon green glacier lake) - 3800-4200m


Cheryl Heller Painting an Aster Found on the Shores of Yi-Lhun Latso Lake


  • Night at a hotel in Manigango. Evening will have us out on the streets, bargaining with the nomads who are in town to buy supplies, playing pool with villagers and nomads and photographing the women in their sun bonnets, amber headdresses, and fur robes.

Dianne with the WINGS WorldQuest flag above
YiLhun Latso Lake


Additional Activities at Yi-Lhun Latso Lake:

  • Dzogchen Monastery (Full day Side-Trip): Drive to the famous Dzogchen Monastery (crossing Muri-La Pass-15,500 feet) and spend the day at the monastery, visiting the temple, having lunch, and hiking in the surrounding fields; will visit another centuries old monastery along the way. Spectacular views.
  • Riding horses into the mountains (14,000 + feet above the lake).
  • Walking/hiking around the lake. The lake is backed by the unforgettable glaciers of 6018m Tro-la peak; can walk an hour or two up the left side of the lakeshore for glacier views.
  • Yarze Monastery - Known as the place here a high lama turned into a rainbow body upon his death. Your chance to buy nomad jewelry from young women looking to trade their turquoise, amber and coral for your Chinese money.
riding horses
Vicki Underland-Rosow Riding Above Yi-Lhun Latso Lake to Search for Wildflowers

DAYS 9-10
(We’ll cross 16,500 foot Tro-La pass)

Morning (Day 9):

  • Visit the nomad tent beyond Yi-Lhun Latso; Meet the nomads who live there, take photos, bargain for jewelry, knives, clothing, and have tea.

  • Drive to Derge, stopping along the way to take photographs and collect flowers at Tro-La Pass; stop at hot springs .
nomad tent


We Visit a Nomad Tent Just Byond Yi-Lhun Latso Lake and Have Tea with the Family

nomad woman



Nomad Woman Who Spent the Afternoon with Us at the Lake


  • Arrival in Derge--Derge is known as the cultural heartland of Kham.
  • Visit Derge monastery
  • Visit the famous Derge Parkhang printing press, where monks pound Stellera chamaejasme roots into pulp and make strong paper that used for printing Tibetan sacred texts. They use ancient woodblocks for the printing itself. You may buy printed texts and even used woodblocks.


  • Hotel in Derge for one night

A Break from Flower Collecting to Picnic with the Guides

Additional Activities Around Derge:

  • Shopping: town is filled with Tibetan stores and vegetable and fruit markets.
  • Internet cafe.
Aku Tsega Heads up
the Mountainside Ahead of the Guests in Search of
Rare and Endangered Flora
DAY 11


  • Leave for Ganzi; Chance to go back over Tro La Pass, collect those flowers you missed, take the photos you wished you'd taken on the way to Derge, throw those paper prayer flags into the sky as a blessing!


  • Lunch in the town of Manigango
meeting nomad



Ruth Sutcliffe Bargaining with a Nomad Over the Price of His Silver Knife


  • Back at the Oh Szang Village tent camp
  • Evening in the tent camp with visitors from the surrounding villages who tell us their stories

Geranium donianium
(Aigaki, 2007)

DAY  12


It's yak herding day--and we're all invited!

  • Early morning breakfast in the camp and then short walk to Oh Szang Village to begin our yak herding day. Leave at 7:00am for a full day of herding yaks on the hillsides above Oh Szang.  What will you do while the yaks graze?  Sleep, eat, read, gaze at the brilliant blue sky or the green hills, practice Tibetan and English with your partner herders, take photos of the spectacular landscape, pick flowers and sketch them, journal, chase yaks around the hills. You’ll be herding those furry guys back at 7:00pm; by then you’ll be an expert at keeping them out of the crops and slapping them on the rump to get them to move along. You’ll be running with the yaks as they cruise through the village to their homes.
Ric Rosow Wearing a Flower Wreath Given to Him by the Yak Herders
yaks coming home



The End of the Day and the Yaks are Coming Home from the Mountains

"Yak herding was brilliant! It was the closest I will ever come to walking among the stars." - Michele Meyer


  • Evening in the tent camp with visitors from the surrounding villages who will tell us their stories
DAY  13   


  • Morning meditation walk around the village chorten
  • Breakfast and morning discussion/information about Ganzi Monastery, one of the important Gelugpa monasteries of Tibet with 500 monks; information about the Den Monastery-- small, but important protector monastery for the area of Ganzi and Kham.
  • Walk or taxi to Ganzi to the monastery. Stop along the way to collect flowers, picnic, and take photos


  • Lunch in Ganzi
  • Visit Ganzi Monastery; talk to the monks, see the Maitreya Temple Room, the carved wooden Kalachakra mandala, and receive special blessings from the lamas. Ganzi Monastery has special days to see the 500 monks, young and old, debate their teachers and fellow monks.
  • Stop at Den Monastery in town to observe the differences and similarities between the large Ganzi Monastery and small Den.
da guy



The Debate Master at Ganzi Monastery Overseeing the Debate Action


  • Dinner in the tent camp
  • Visit by the local girls who will dance for us and maybe teach us a few traditional Tibetan dances, too

DAY  14   


  • Morning meditation walk around the village chorten
  • Walk, hike or ride to areas beyond the tent camp to take photos and collect flowers, or just spend quiet time on your own in the camp, the village, or nearby hillsides
  • Concoct a tincture from the Tibetan Blue Poppy--the signature flower of Tibet. We'll be bottling pure compassion, using traditional methods used to make Bach flower remedies There'll be enough for everyone to take some home.



Children of Oh Szang Village Receiving Art Supplies Donated by Botanical Artists from Minnesota and Tour Guests


  • Dinner in the tent camp and then into Oh Szang village to perform a slide show of our photos for the villagers on the walls of the village houses; we provide the treats, popcorn, tea and entertainment as they watch their lives go by on the big screen.



Final Night in the Tent Camp at Oh Szang Village

DAY  15   


  • Last opportunity for the morning meditation walk around the village chorten
  • Breakfast, pack and say good-bye to our Tibetan friends
  • Leave Ganzi in late morning, visit monasteries, nunneries and festivals between Ganzi and Lhakhang



Jennifer Briles and Dayna Marr Say Good-Bye to Khandro the Last Morning in the Camp


  • Stop along the way to collect flowers, picnic, and take photos


  • Evening in hotel next to the Lhakhang Monastery
  • Go out in the evening to see the night street life of the town
michelle Michele Meyer with the Yak Horn She Found While Herding Yaks and Searching for Wildflowers
DAY  16    


  • Breakfast and then drive on toward Chengdu


  • Stop along the way to collect flowers, picnic, and take photos; a final stop at the chorten on Gye-La Pass for photos and ritual tossing of prayer flags into the sky
fire puja



We Stop Along the Road to Join a Group of Monks Conducting a Fire Puja--Burning Negativity Away


  • Late evening arrival in Chengdu
  • Final packing and out on the town to Chinese night clubs, hear contemporary and classic music, stroll along the river, or whatever strikes our fancy

DAY  17    


  • Final Good-By Breakfast. Time for those with later flights to catch the sights in Chengdu that they missed on our first day in the city.



We Leave China, But Will Never Forget Tibet, Its Transcendent Beauty, and Compassionate People

barb at lake