Xiangcheng (乡城; Xiāng chéng - Tibetan: Chaktreng), is in Sichuan Province in south-west China. It also belongs to the ancient Tibetan province of Kham. Being a necessary overnight-stop on the 'Backdoor'-route to Yunnan, the town is a pleasant place to linger or to serve as starting point for excursions into the surrounding mountain areas. Coming over the mountain passes from either direction, you will at once spot the beautiful villages scattered amongst wheat-field-paddies in the valley ground. The large, cubicle houses look like little castles and with their white-chalked exterior walls give the whole valley a north-african air. Xiangcheng itself consists of an old village paired with a modern Chinese downtown.
Roads to the north are sealed, while the southern part to Shangrila is rubble and dirt, currently under reconstruction.
The Bus Station is at the southern end of town. The ticket-office is through the side-entrance of the building on your right hand side when facing uphill. Be sure to buy your advance-ticket on arrival, because buses can get crowded in summer. In low season it's ok to buy your ticket just before you leave, but the ticket office opens very short time before the bus leaves, especially in the morning. Buses arrive from Shangrila (6-9 hours, 85 yuan, departs daily at 8:00), Kangding (12-14 hours, ~160 yuan, departs daily at 6:00).
If you want to go to Litang you have to share a minivan or taxi for about 600(May 2013) yuan per vehicle. It's a scenic 4-5 hour ride(with the construction 5-6), at three points climbing to 4700m(May 2013 road north to Litang is currently being widened and is currently a bumpy dirt track most of the way). You'll find vans at the main road near the bus station (take a left out of the bus station). To share a ride with locals be there at 6am!
In April 2012, it was reported that Shangrila bus station was not selling tickets to foreigners for Xiangcheng, due to a ban on foreigners in the region. Apparently there were road blocks where police will turn away foreigners trying to get in to Ganzi province. In December 2012, there is no restriction at all in the whole area.
You can easily visit the town on foot.
Small shops downtown provide typical Tibetan clothing and jewelery.
Supermarkets on main-street sell food and toiletries, you can also buy bottles of beer and decent Chinese wine to make up your own nightlife.
Plenty of small restaurants are to be found on the main road. Look out for Muslim-specialties where the restaurant sign bears Arabic writing, green color and dried meat and yak carcasses are displayed in front of the shop.
There is not much nightlife in town. To have a beer, simply visit a restaurant.
People around Xiangcheng supposedly still own firearms left over from the guerilla war against the Chinese invasion in the 1950s. In July 2007 a dispute about mushroom-collecting grounds between two villages in the district turned into a gunfight with more than 10 persons killed (story read on South China Morning Post).
Going south to Yunnan and Shangri La, if you are on your own (car, bike) try the S217, a rough piste through the mountains. Nearly no traffic but fantastic landscape. This road is sometimes closed few kilometers after Xiangchang at the end of the asphalt portion. If so you'll have to take the main road.
Buses for Shangri La depart daily from 6am at the Bus Station. The ticket office is open in the morning before the bus leaves but in Summer it is probably better to buy your ticket the day before (after 2pm). Don't expect any help from the ticket ladies!