The 4 hour bus trip to Shangri La was quite enjoyable mainly due to the fact that Aleksei and myself were the only foreigners and also there was no problemsmoking onboard. We wound our way around the mountains for a few hours and as we were coming up to a high pass the houses became wooden cabins for a more tibetan feel. Once over the pass we came down to a narrow and flat valley full of yaks and horses grazing and the occasional large log cabin style wooden house. This continued for about 15kms before we came to a lot of very large wooden and mud houses which was obviously the outskirts of Shangri La. Wherever you looked there were new houses and when we came into the large town the streets were very wide and the office and apartment buildings very modern. Shangri La is the new common name for the city of Zhongdian as well as the surrounding area which I guess attracts a lot more tourists. The countryside has a very tibetan feel whilst the city is a bit more mixed with quite a few Han Chinese. Once at the bus station we caught a taxi to
the old town for just over a dollar. After checking out a few guesthouses we settled on one very close to the main square for $9 a room each.
Then it was off to have something to eat and a small walk in the old town before going back to the rooms to relax and to write my last blog. The next morning I got up late, had some lunch, and then walked around the old town taking some photos. I was impressed to see a decent museum as well as an art gallery and happy to find out they were free of charge. I walked up into the hills behind the old town to take a few photos and found a small temple with bull murals on one wall which I quite liked.
The next day I caught the local bus about 5kms from the old town to have a look at the Ganden Sumptseling Gompa which is a 300 year old tibetan monastery complex with about 600 monks. After being a bit pissed of about paying a high entry fee of $14, I boarded the tourist bus for the 1km to the monastery. I spent about
3 hours around the complex and thoroughly enjoyed the architecture and having a look into some of the temples, as well as playing basketball with some local kids for half an hour. That night a few of the young Chinese tourists were having a bbq at our guesthouse so I joined them for a beer and was entertained by their singing. The next morning Aleksei and I made our way down to the bus station and boarded the midday bus to Deqin in the far northwest of Yunnan hoping to do some trekking.
Before coming to Shangri La I had heard a few negative stories about the town from other travelers, such as there is not much to do, the old town is small and touristy, and around the old town is very modern. I actually really like the place, because it is modern there is a lot more room so it doesn't feel like your usual Chinese city or big town. Also there are far fewer tourists in the old town so it doesn't feel as claustrophobic as Lijiang. The people seem to be quite friendly and the weather is great.
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