Mount Kailash On a BudgetThe main point of entry to Mount Kailash is a small village called Darchen. Once an important sheep station for nomads and their flocks, the village has now grown to provide for the pilgrims wishing to embark towards Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. It contains a number of guest houses and restaurants as well as a hotel where pilgrims must get permission from the Public Security Bureau to make the trek around the mountain. Also in the village are a handful of small stores and kiosks, as well as some grounds for camping. It is about 330 km (a one-day bus drive) from the town of Shiquanhe to the northeast, where Gunsa Airport is located, offering flights twice a week to Lhasa and Chengdu.
ActivitiesThose who come to Mount Kailash come to embark on a pilgrimage. There are two circuits in the areaone being the Mount Kailash Kora, the other the Lake Manasarovar Kora. The first involves making circuits around Mount Kailash, generally taking about three days to do so for the regular visitor. Each religion, however, has its own methods. Buddhists and Hindus, for example, travel clockwise around the mountain, while Bonpos travel counter-clockwise. Some make the 52-kilometer journey in a day, while others remain seeking enlightenment from the mountain for weeks.
The second pilgrimage circuits around Lake Manasarovar. With a distance just over 100 kilometers, this pilgrimage path takes about 4 to 5 days to complete. A good starting point for this trek is at Chiu Gompa, located 30 kilometers south of Darchen.
Food and DiningTraditional Tibetan cuisine is largely limited to barley, meat (usually mutton or yak), and dairy products. Very few spices and vegetables are used in the cooking, though most dishes are served with a very hot chili sauce on the side. Along the trekking route of Mount Kailash, there are a few local restaurants and guest houses to accommodate visitors, so tourists do not have to prepare their own food and tents. Choices, however, are limited and it may be wise to bring a supply of your own as back up. Traditionally, pilgrims only eat vegetarian food in the region due to its proximity to the sacred Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash. Some traditional fare of the region might include:
Momos: dumplings filled with meat or vegetables, steamed or fried
Tingmo: bland, nearly tasteless steamed bread
Thukpa: a hearty noodle soup with vegetables or meat
Thenthuk: thukpa with handmade noodles
Yak butter tea: salty tea churned with butter, a Tibetan staple and usually an acquired taste for most Westerners
Chang: a Tibetan beer made of barley, light in flavor
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If you fly into Gunsa Airport, serving the town of Shiquanhe in Ngari Prefecture, you are only a one-day bus ride away from reaching Darchen at the base of the Mount Kailash passage.
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