This weeks issue of “Bajan,” Chinese Style sees us well on our way to exploring the beauty that is Yunnan Province. As we have learnt in last week’s issue, (Re: Travel Exposé: Yunnan Province (1) ), Yunnan province is not only one of the most bio-diverse areas of China, but also boasts some of the regions most iconic UNESCO world heritage sites and towns.
One such of these towns is one known as Shangri-La, and I am 100% sure that the mere mention of Shangri-La in any context conjures up visages of cloud piercing mountains, grand ancient plateaus and all the adventure forth with. Adventurous spirit or not, Shangri-La is not only very real, but also quite accessible. Let’s start our Yunnan adventure with, “Simply Shangri-La.”
First of all, let’s speak a little about the logistics surrounding a trip to Shangri-La. If you arrive in Yunnan through Kunming, which is the provincial capital, then Shangri-La will most likely be one of the last stops on your trip if you follow the regular travel pattern. This is simply because, if you are exploring North-Western Yunnan, then you can trace how “North” you are by the towns you have passed. The regular traveller will you take a course which take you from Kunming to Dali to Lijiang and then to Shangri-La terminating in Deqin prefecture. Any more Northerly and you would have entered Tibet.
Thus, if it is your desire to take a travel bus directly from Kunming to Shangri-La, it is very possible but will take at least 14 hours. If you are not daunted by the length of time, then have at it. If you wish to speed up your trip, you can take a train to Lijiang and then continue by travel bus.
Having arrived in Shangri-La, you will first be taken to the local long distance bus station which is located in Shangri-La proper. Not what you expected? Don’t be alarmed, because Shangri-La has been spilt into New and Old town. The Shangri-La of your expectations is what is now called “Old Town” or “Ancient City”. To get from the Bus station to Old Town, if it is daytime, then I recommend walking or taking the public bus. Most,if not all buses in Shangri-La will pass the Old Town and there really is no fear of getting lost. However, if it is night, then I recommend taking a taxi. Even though the taxi drivers right outside the bus station will rip you off by at least 10 RNB, it is still a better choice that suffering from flash hypothermia or oxygen sickness.
Always bear in mind that Shangri-La is also located within the range of “ The Roof of the World” and is 1000’s of feet above sea level. Oxygen sickness and nightly subzero temperatures are commonplace and should be taken into consideration. Learn from my mistakes (Re: The Weekly Funny: Survival in Shangri-La)
If you are still with me, then it means that we have finally arrived at our destination, and our adventure can truly begin. The first thing you will notice about Shangri-La is the architecture. This Old Town is different from the ones of Dali and Lijiang, as the main ethnicity here is the Tibetan people. The Gem of Shangri-La Old Town is most certainly the two temples for which the town is famed. The Fei Lai Si and the Deer Temple, of which the Deer Temple boasts the largest prayer wheel in the world. It weighs over 300 tonnes and requires the cooperative effort of about 15 people to move. A visit to these temples is truly rewarding as they have been meticulously maintained and are within walking distance of most if not all hostels and hotels.
Apart from the pristine temples, exploring the Old Town is rewarding in and of itself as you can experience the daily lifestyles of the local people, as well as partake in local bazaars and sample the locally made Qing Ke Vodka( Qing ke jiu 青稞酒.) However, if you seek excitement, then the Shangri-La region also boasts a beautiful and diverse natural landscape of which the Pu Da Cuo National park (Re: Travel Exposé: Yunnan Province (3) Simply Shangri-La (2)，Pudacuo National Park 普达措公园) is the figurative cherry on top. Grand Gorges carved by the source of the Yangtze River, crystalline glaciers which extend for miles, golden coloured icy peaks,mirror like tranquil lakes and magnificent oceans of wafting grass are but a few of the natural delights which await you in Shangri-La.
During my trip to Shangri-La,I explored the Tibetan style Buddhist Temples,Old Town,the highland grasslands and the nationally renown Pudacuo national Park.
I can frankly say, that one second inShangri-La is a delightful memory which will be a part of you forever. Breathe new life into your memories which will reflect the truest you. Shangri-La awaits.