This young mans photo was taken in Aba. Aba may now be open but at this time it was closed to foreigners. Aba is in the far northeastern corner of Sichuan. Truely magical place, at the time it was off limits because the Chinese government had yet methodically made it "attractive" to tourist. I have alot to say about Aba and will at another photo but China uses tv and newspapers to market areas. If it isn't pretty (yet) it isn't ready for mass market. The rich people of Shanghai and Beijing won't even know Aba exist. Aba is located in a valley, coming into it a person sees nothing but beauty stretched out some 20-40kms. Dotting this landscape are maybe 5-8 lovely large monastery complexes. The two biggest Benpo monasteries of Narshi and Topgyel lie just here. Narshi is large and was built in 1168, now it has 800 monks. The figures and art works in the monasteries are quite different from other sects, very impressive to see. Because of one of the important Tibetan city in Amdo and the central of Tibetan culture, religion, trade and communication, you will have a strong feeling of atmosphere of real Tibetan culture and life here.
I was there as SARS was breaking out throughout China. The disease had already killed hundreds or thousands but the people only knew how wide spread it was after the government no longer could keep it under wraps. The outside world and web was is hysterics and the governments, I know the US, was demanding China come clean to how large this epedemic was. I watched in Chengdu as a line of foreigners stood in front of the reception desk of the authorized tourist hostal and the foreigners tempers were flaring, girls were crying, screaming and all the stupid shit you see from movies- demanding for tickets out of China. My girlfriend at the time left too. The reception was manned by 18-20 yr. old girls who spoke just enough English to get angry but handled the situation like lawyers- it was impressive to see these kids not get riled up. Beautiful people the Chinese! You know the girls had to have the same thoughts as the media finally were telling the Chinese people not to leave the house, not to go to work, some news in the city even told people to get back to their village homes and check on their extended families. China later that month closed their gates to foreigners. Even to Chinese, the borders that had no cases of SARS were closing to Chinese travelers without each person having an injection card. More on that later. It was wild hysteria, I took the bus to the edge of Chengdu and hitched north. The lilac trees were in bloom as the first driver dropped me off. I walked maybe 20kms through lilacs on a sunny day when no cars drove down the road.