A sleepy village in a remote breathtaking location predominantly inhabited by a colorful mix of Hui Muslims and Amdo Tibetans. It is said that the provincial borderline runs through the middle of town with Sertri Gompa in Gansu and Kirti Gompa located in Sichuan. The power struggles between the two Gompa may have been the reason for the border location. Both temples have distinct styles making both well worth the visit alone. The surrounding mountains give off a very much alpine flair reminiscent of rural Austria or Bavaria and perfect for hiking and horsetrekking.
While there are continually construction projects in all seasons (as in virtually every Chinese town, down to the tiniest backwater), much of the money that tourists bring in appears to be going to renovating and improving Tibetan temples and meeting places, or into local businesses catering to the seeker of Tibetan culture.
At this point [October 2015], the village has developed a budget-friendly backpacker vibe, not unlike Shaaxi village in Yunnan province. Yet, even in high season [the height of the October holiday, and after the swarming hordes of Jiuzhaigou], tourists are relatively few, and this is very much an active religious community with many monks and initiates to be seen walking the roads and playing behind the major monastery. The monks and students are not shy, happy to have a chat in Chinese and to a lesser extent English, and deeply appreciative of even the most basic Tibetan greetings (tashi delek means "Hello"). The majority of the visitors to this town are Han Chinese, and few if any make the effort to learn any Tibetan phrases.
There is only one bus every day from Xiahe direct to Langmusi leaving at around 7:40 a.m. (Dec 2014) from the Xiahe Bus Station. 72Y.
If you miss this bus, or if you can't get tickets, you can take any early morning bus to Hezuo (1 hour from Xiahe) and then take one of the Hezuo（合作）buses to Langmusi. There are a couple buses from Hezuo to Langmusi each day. There definitely is one leaving at 10:20AM.
When you get to Hezuo, you will need to take a taxi across town to the South Bus Station (Nan Zhan – 南站) where the buses leave for Langmusi.
If you were thinking of hiring a car to take you directly from Xiahe to Langmusi, be ready to pay a lot of money. It will cost you at least ¥350 to hire a car for the trip. The bus is only ¥ 71 per person. If you do end up taking a taxi, be sure to ask to take the "scenic route." The road is a little bumpier than the new highway, and a takes a little longer, but you pass beautiful grasslands, mountains, and tibetan villages along the way.
There are also direct buses to Zoige (Ruo'ergai) in northern Sichuan. There is currently no direct bus to Songpan but the situation may change, as a new highway was completed in 2007.
You can also catch a bus in Jiuzhaigou to Langmusi. There are multiple buses leaving every morning between 7am and 8am. The bus will let you off on the main road outside of Langmusi, not actually driving into town, leaving you with a 1+ km walk, or there will be cars around to get you into town (for a few yuan).
To get out of town up towards Xiahe, there is only one afternoon direct bus a day. You can get morning buses to Hezuo, then a cab to the West Bus Station, then catch a bus to Xiahe. There are many buses to Xiahe each day.
Your own two feet, a bicycle or maybe a pony.
The funerals themselves are private and take place early in the morning, but in the afternoon and evening visitors can go to the site and see many of the bones left by vultures. Go into the gate of Sertri Gompa and follow the road to the left. It eventually becomes a path up through fields to a site with many prayer flags. You can't miss the actual spot where the funerals take place--lots of grisly remains. Photos are not allowed. At one point you will probably go under a fence--just head for the big prayer flags when you see them.
It's worth hiring an English speaking guide to explain the monasteries, sky burial ground and the gorge to you. Ask around in Leisha's restaurant.
One of the town's must-do activities is the horse trekking. The Langmusi Tibetan Horse Trekking Agency offers anything from 1 to 3 day horse treks where you can stay with real Tibetan nomads. The guides on all their trips are professional and experienced. Liyi, the owner at the horse trekking place speaks excellent English and is a great resource for any questions or tips about Langmusi. They also do biking trips and bike rentals. You can go to the grasslands by yourself with the bike or organize an amazing two-day homestay biketrip directly through them. They also own the Black Tent Cafe across the street(information under Drink below) Their website is really well done, and has a lot of good information: Langmusi Tibetan Horse Trekking
The end of the village closest to the main road is more Westernised, and closer to the monastery it becomes less so. The Sichuan side of town has just put in a brand new road so one hopes the Gansu side will follow suit (update October 2012: the road on the Gansu side seems to be under construction and is currently a big muddy mess). Passing through the monastery takes you up into the surrounding mountains, and there are various possible routes available to reach the summits and highs tablelands (4200m), though take care not to stray too far from a used trail or else you may have to retrace your steps to rejoin a viable route. Wild dogs live in the area and you may spot some while walking, grab a rock if need be. A school can be found near to the monastery, with private housing and a small playground.
If walking in the other direction from the village - towards the main road - one encounters an interesting sandstone formation or mesa whose top is accessible. Prayer flags are present here, and on the aforementioned higher peaks providing a great view of the Gansu monastery side.
Walking through Kirti Gompa and up the valley, you will reach the start of Namo Gorge. It is possible to walk for a considerable distance into the gorge and mountains beyond, being surrounded by amazing scenery and peace and quiet. You have to pay 30Y at the entrance to the monastery, which gets you access to the monastery itself and the gorge, but it is possible to bypass this if you walk up the road to the right of the ticket office, up and over the hill and down to the start of the gorge.
"Local artificial stuff", or craft items, are available from a number of shops, though as with many places in China, many are not particularly 'authentic' and you can find the same products over a very wide region. One or two shops towards the monastary end of town sell knives and you can watch the craftsman producing them.
When arriving by bus, walk up on the main road towards the monastery. There are plenty of restaurants, hotels and 3 hostels on this road.
You can go to:
- Zoige (Dec 2014: leaving at 7:30am, 2h, 25Y)
- Songpan: no direct bus, change in Zoige. Buses Zoige-Songpan at 10am and 2pm (3h, 45Y)
- North to Hezuo (leaves at 2pm, takes 4 hours)
- Xiahe ( leaves at 2pm).
Wait for the buses at the main junction in the center (where the bus dropped you off).