SERSHUL COUNTY སེར་ཤུལ་རྫོང་། (Shiqu Xian 石渠县) aka Dzachuka
Sershul Dzong སེར་ཤུལ་རྫོང་། (Shiqu Xian 石渠县) – 4100m
NB: Sershul Gonpa (monastery) is 30km away from Sershul Xian. See below.
Sershul is often panned in guidebooks, but though there’s little to do in the town itself, it’s nevertheless a friendly town which holds some interest as a trading center for the surrounding nomadic grasslands. High (4100m), cold and windswept, Sershul is somewhat less touristed than the towns and monasteries to the south. In keeping with this, there are also fewer tourist-friendly facilities (or facilities of any kind) and you’re likely to be on the receiving end of an uncomfortable number of astonished stares. Don’t be worried, however – people are friendly, just curious about you!
There’s a small monastery on the hill above town. Go farther up into the hills for spectacular views of the surrounding grassland region. In the summer (and sometimes in other seasons as well), be aware of the nomad tents, which are often closely attended by viciously barking, mangy Tibetan mastiffs who will have little compunction about tearing out your throat. You have been warned.
Hotels include the Zhaxika Fandian 扎溪卡饭店 བཀྲ་ཤིས་ཁ་གྲོན་ཁང་།, which could optimistically be described as “rustic”. Located at the intersection where cars and buses to Ganzi stop, the hotel’s main building is closed in the winter, but a low-slung building inside the courtyard is usually open year-round. There is no heat but the friendly owner will offer you (hopefully functional) electric blankets. Beds will cost 40-80/night with shared bathroom. The main building apparently has private doubles. If you want to go upscale, head to the Shangdeenyma Da Jiudian (香德尼玛大酒店), which is an impressive-looking building inside a massive courtyard off the main street. This is also open in winter, with possible water.
If you visit out of season, expect very little to be open and seriously reduced hours of electricity (7pm-10pm daily). Also expect Sershul to do its best climatic impression of the outer moons of Saturn. A visit in January 2012 saw temperatures well below -20C, and don’t expect any heat to make that number seem warmer.
Apparently, there is a bus from here to Ganzi (via Manigango) as well as a bus that passes through for Yushu, but locals didn’t seem aware of it. Cars to Manigango (4-5 hours) are 70-80 kuai (if it snows, prices double) and to Xiewu 歇武 (in Yushu prefecture, 2-3 hours) for 50 kuai or more. Cars to Sershul Gompa (1 hour or so) are variably priced depending on the weather and on the foreignness of your appearance.
Sershul Gonpa སེར་ཤུལ་གོན་པ། (Shiqu Si 石渠寺) – 4000m
This large Gelugpa monastery is located on the edge of a wide, beautiful grassland about 30km from Sershul Xian (in the direction of Yushu). Strangely, the monastery and its sizeable town (for the region) don’t appear on most maps; on my map of Sichuan, the location of the town is simply a blank white space. However, the town and monastery most certainly exist and together make an interesting and beautiful place to visit. The monastery has just finished the exterior of a massive new assembly hall (interior still being decorated), and numerous woodframed temples are under construction along the main road. Just as beautiful as the monastery itself, however, is the pilgrim-packed kora which encircles the complex and takes you up on the hillside for wideranging views of the monastery, town and grasslands beyond. Several hillsides are perfect for picnicking; expect lots of curious locals to keep you company here! The monastery town is one of the more wild-nomadic towns in the region, and an interesting place to spend a bit of time. There are numerous teahouses and restaurants; one of the best is a small 2nd-floor teahouse on the left (as you walk away from the monastery) maybe 100m after crossing the bridge over the smaller creek (the painted door advertises Amdo food; there are numerous colored lights inside). Other good options include a noodle joint and a “Rebgong restaurant” (安多热贡饭馆 ཨ་མདོ་རེབ་གོང་ཟ་ཁང་།) which does good bread. The town also hosts more than a few very high-end clothing and fabric stores; especially notable is one hand-woven fabric store on the right soon after you enter town (just search for it; there are no signs). If you want to stay overnight, there are several hotels, ranging from reasonably nice establishments (70-100RMB/dbl) to serious dumps (10-20RMB/bed).
Transport: From Yushu, take any Sershul/Ganzi/Chengdu bound bus and get off at the monastery. From the south, you can take a Yushu-bound bus or a shared car (variable pricing) from Sershul Xian. From here, you can easily get cars to Xiewu 歇武 (in Yushu prefecture, 30-40RMB), Sershul Xian (15 RMB), or more far-flung destinations such as the Bage Mani wall, one of the world’s longest.