Published: August 3rd 2012July 31st 2012
Picking up where my last entry left off, we had a nice bus ride from Tiger Leaping Gorge up to Shangri-La which afforded some incredible views. We had a quick stop for pictures and also to buy some nuts and dried fruit from a local vendor.
We arrived in Shangri-La fairly late so we had showers and went out for dinner in the town. Shangri-La is a great option for people who want to experience Tibetan culture but don’t have the time/permits to actually go to Tibet (getting a permit to Tibet requires 5 people from the same country…so random…considering I don’t even have 1 person from the same country as me that would be hard…plus Tibet is kind of out of the way.) Anyways, we were immediately charmed by Shangri-La and pleased by its COLDNESS because it is so high-altitude. We were happy to wear our pants and scarves and jackets! Yunnan has in general been a welcome change from the scorching heat of the rest of China.
Anyways, we went out for dinner and had some Tibetan food. Along the way we witnessed some local dancing in the public square and we decided
to join in. It was pretty fun! The food specialties of the area seem to be barley and yak meat so I had a delicious yak meat pie while Fernanda had a yak meat noodle soup. Our general verdict was the yak meat was a bit tough. After dinner we just relaxed in the hostel because we were pretty tired.
The next day we wandered Shangri-La. It’s pretty small so that’s not a very big endeavour. We had barley pancakes for breakfast which were really good. We then visited the big monastery up on the hill which was really cool. There was this big prayer wheel that people would turn. We thought about joining in but we weren’t sure if that was appropriate for non-Buddhists. After visiting the monastery, we checked out the local museum on Tibetan culture. The propaganda hit us face-first from the second we walked in – check out pictures for more details! There was a whole mural of propaganda! Anyways the museum itself was interesting, especially the many pictures of Tibetan medicine and anatomy. After the museum we got some yak yoghurt which we weren’t totally fond of but which was sold by
Fernanda and some Tibetan ladies
right after this picture was taken she was asked to have her picture taken lol karma
some really cute old Tibetans. And it was super fresh! Then we caved in and did what is now sort of a thing of ours: we dressed up like Tibetans and took pictures. We fully admit that we’re tacky tourists! But we don’t care! Cause it’s awesome!!! Anyways enjoy the photos. There was a really cute little girl dressed up as well and I tried to ask her in Chinese to take a photo with me (“Wo gen ni paizhang zhaopian ma?”) but she ran away. Either I was scary cause I was white, big, or had terrible Chinese!
We wandered around Shangri-La after our photo session but it didn’t take long to see all that there was to see. We had skewers for lunch out in the main square which were really good and CHEAP. We then were feeling sort of tired and lazy so we went in for a nap. Shangri-La is sort of a lazy town. When we went out for breakfast at around 9:30AM (we’d slept in) the town was empty and a lot of places were still closed! It was a big contrast with the crowds from the night before. So we
felt that we should be lazy too!
After our nap and computer time, we headed out again for dinner. Turns out the city is just much more lively at night – we’re not sure why! We had some more Tibetan food for dinner – we each had a bowl of noodles (with pork, we didn’t need more yak) plus we had Tibetan dumplings (pretty sure they had yak in them) and some barley bread. It’s really not a Tibetan meal unless there is barley and/or yak! It was all really good but we’d ordered too much food! We also both decided to sample the local alcohol. I had Lhasa (capital of Tibet) beer while Fernanda had barley wine. She was not so fond of her choice lol. After dinner we walked back through the bustling streets and watched the dancing again. There were a LOT more people than the night before and the dance steps were much more challenging so we didn’t join in. Fun to watch though! Plus we saw some of the vendors we’d seen throughout the day dancing so it was clearly a lot of locals!
That night we were stripped
of our title as the token white people at our hostel when two Belgian girls moved into our dorm (we seriously had been the only white people the night before).
Tuesday, July 31st
, we joined a tour to a local Tibetan village and hot springs! Our guide was a Tibetan guy with a funny sense of humour. He was very friendly and helpful. The two Belgians joined us (we had told them about the tour). We got dropped off near a monastery and climbed up to it. It was quite the hike at our altitude (about 3,600m!) but we survived, despite lots of panting. It’s one of the oldest monastery’s in China but there isn’t much to see now because it was destroyed during the cultural revolution. We had a Chinese girl with us so it was interesting to see our guide talk about the damage done by the communists while she was there listening. Anyways, this monastery had a bunch of animals – apparently the monks buy them at the market to save them from slaughter. They were pretty fun – especially a little baby goat who was soo cute! We also got chased by chickens
which was fun.
After the monastery we hiked through the rolling hills to the Tibetan village. It was soo peaceful and beautiful out in the hills. Really nice. We arrived in the Tibetan village and came to the house of our host for lunch. She made us some fresh flatbread, yak cheese, and yak butter tea. We also added barley to the yak butter tea to make these ball things. It was all really, really good and very fresh! A great lunch. We also got to warm up a bit (a lot!) by her stove.
After lunch we began our hike to the hot springs! It started raining and I hadn’t brought my jacket but our guide came to the rescue – he got some very large leaves which could be used as rain hats. I put my scarf around the leaf to keep it on my head and it actually provided good rain protection! The hike was maybe a bit over an hour and was pretty easy though there were a few uphills. The uphills were killer because of the altitude! It was a good workout!
When we arrived at
the hot springs we changed into our bathing suits and jumped in. The water was amazing and it was really relaxing. We also managed to find a nice spot away from the loud Chinese tourists. This trip to Shangri-La (and Tiger Leaping Gorge before it) has been a great escape from Chinese people. 2.5 months and China really starts to grate…Tibetans are a nice change!
After our swim, we had some fried rice at the restaurant at the hot springs. We then came back to Shangri-La for showers and relaxing time. Our quick trip into Tibetan culture came to an end, as we were leaving the following morning on the early morning bus!
There are more photos below