Hello everyone and welcome back to this week’s issue of “Bajan,” Chinese Style! Over the past few weeks, we have been taking a humorous journey throughout one of the most exotic and mysterious countries in the world, China. This week, our marvellous misadventure of an expedition pushed to the brink takes us to a place which is not only mysterious by global standards, but also by Chinese ones. Have you guessed it yet?Possibly due to the large title in bold just five lines above?Yes.Your powers of observation deceive you not! Buckle up and lets set off with a piece I’ve entitled “Survival in Shangri-La.”
First of all let us lay the setting before we jump into the piece. Everyone has some idea of the word Shangri-La. Most of us know of the existence of this ‘mysterious’ place due to the multiple novels and movies who apparently made this geographical location a genre into which they poured their creative musings. I must admit, before I myself visited Shangri-La, one of the major things which attracted me to the area was the fact that I knew so little about it, or I should say, I knew just enough to be completely enamoured by its mystery. Nothing is more titillating to the imagination, than a lack of that delicious knowledge which often casts even the amazing in hues of mundanity when it finally illuminates the unknown. Long story short, I was rearing to finally see this famed “Shangri-La” which is also right on the Border of Tibet proper. The original plan was to travel to Shangri-La and continue on into Tibet in order to get a good look at the True Himalayas , etc. However, after 2010, due to the tense political situation of the area, foreigners were not allowed to simply waltz into Tibet all willy nilly. There were two ways through which to gain legal access to Tibet and those were either by going as part of a tour group, or by applying for a temporary tourist Visa into Tibet. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was unable to do either, and this only prompted me to extend my trip in Shangri-La, which is close enough to Tibet to vicariously have that “Tibetan” feeling, but geographically within China proper,as to be completely accessible to all people, foreigners included. Thus, with this knowledge, it is at this point that my frankly unbelievable misadventure begins.
Imagine this, it was the year 2012 and a wide eyed, 2nd year university student said to his friends one summer, I’m going on a trip to the south of China. When he told his friends, and they know how they are, he was met with a combination of looks and “hmms” which belayed the future “Tyrone, I told you so,” that were to come. Regardless, our young Tyrone took off on his adventure, which eventually led him to Shangri-La. Now, As mentioned before, Shangri-La is extremely close to Tibet. It is so close to Tibet, that one would really only know it is located in China’s Yunnan Provice ( On the border with Tibet) if one as actually been there. We all know that Tibet is famed as the “roof of the world,” and that title is rightly deserved because Tibet is thousands of feet above sea level. In fact, it is so high above sea level, that it is not recommended doing any over-strenuous activities while in the region. These activities range from jogging, to jumping to even walking too quickly, oh and by the way that extends to Shangri-La as well. You may ask, Why? The answer is simple, Oxygen deprivation. It really is a killer. However, I was not to be deterred by something is simple as a little “short breathiness.” Yep, I had a dream and by God, I was going to live it out. So In August, the height of that region’s rainy season,I finally arrived in Shangri-La.
During my first two days there, it rained continuously, with only intermittent breaks between downpours. As you can assume, I was not to be so easily stumped, and by rain or shine or wind or chill, I was outside, exploring the ancient city, taking pictures and meeting people. That was how I met Qiu Qiu. Qiu Qiu, we’ll refer to her as Qiu from now on, was a 25 yr old young lady who was also travelling in Shangri-La at the time, and as luck had it, we had the same plan to go to the same scenic area the following day. Whether it was providence or coincidence, we said, what the heck, lets go together. I had originally planned to take the travel bus to that Scenic spot. The Scenic area was known as Pudacuo National Park, and it is China’s first and largest National Park. The reasons I planned to take the travel bus were as follows. One, The National park was 15 kilometres away from the ancient city of Shangri-La in which I was staying and two, because Shangri-La was so high above sea level, in excess of 5,000 ft, the difference between day and night temperatures was astronomical. In Shangri-La, it is said you can experience all the seasons in one day, and even in the height of summer that was true. Temperatures rise to a height of 30+degrees during the day and drop to below-10 at night. Thus, I thought, let’s not push things and just take the bus, to be one the safe side. However, Qiu was not so easily appeased. She said, that’s so boring, you know what we should do? Ride to Pudacuo, and ride back. For me, riding 15 km wasn’t a big deal because I was a member of the university’s cycling club, so I said okay, why not and so, the very next morning, bright and early, Qiu and I made or way to the local Bike shop and rented two mountain bikes.
Now, for all those who know me, I’m very tall. A solid 6 ft. If I ride any bike it has to be a large size with a very high seat. However, the bike I was given, and in fact the largest bike in the shop, looked like a tricycle when I mounted it. It was short, the gears weren’t working, the seat wasn’t adjustable, and the tyres were far from being firm enough. I took one look at that bike and said to myself, this isn’t going to work, but because I was faced the most beautiful day since I had arrived in Shangri-La, I said, you know what, let’s get this thing on the road!
With spirits high and smiling sunbeams shining down, Qiu and I set off on our 15 km ride to the Pudacuo National Park. The scenes along the way were breathtaking. Wild horses, yaks and herds of hairy black pigs, yes, little,hairy black pigs, ran amuck lush, green fields filled with flowers and butterflies. Birds, I assume they were hawks or some other birds of prey soared over head, and sometimes broke the surfaces of the numerous placid lakes and flowing rivers in their attempts to capture their piscine prey. It was idyllic and it actually made me forget the sorry condition of my bike, or the fatigue of cycling up countless mountainside roads. Also, on our way there, we met other cyclists, and had a truly, wonderful time of it. Eventually, after about 1 to 2 hours later, we arrived at Pudacuo with large smiles of our faces and beads of sweat on our foreheads. We were so warm that we actually had to take off our down jackets, because the temperature had already risen to at least 22 degrees celsius from the 14 degrees it was when we set off 7 am that morning.
It was thus that we entered Pudacuo and experienced all the Natural beauty that the park had to offer. However, at this point, you may be asking yourself, Well, apart from the long ride to the park, sure it was tiring, but is it really deserving of the title “Survival in Shangri-La?” The answer to that rightly deserved inquiry is yes, and you’ll see how now. It wasn’t until after we decided to return home from a wonderful day in Pudacuo that things began to take a turn for the worse…
Continued in the next issue of “Bajan”, Chinese Style!