6 Dec 2009

"Our Shangri La" by Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris

My China Trip to the beautiful Shangri La area
See all photos on Flickr - click here

Shangri La Area of China:
See all the photos in a slideshow here - CLICK HERE

INFO HERE -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhongdian

You can link to the web sites if you see underlined blue text.

I took a package tour to the Shangri La area of China from Bangkok along with 45 other people from the Government Education Department of Thailand. Similar holidays are organised throughout the year and many of them take the chance to travel far and wide. Many had been to Europe, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

We flew from Bangkok to Kunming in China and spent the afternoon walking up a forest and cliff trail called to a Buddhist temple called Dragon Gate. We then had our evening meal at a conference centre in Kunming where a wedding reception was taking place. The hotel at night was at the Enjoying International Hotel, Kunming with very comfortable and large rooms.

First impressions are that in this area of China the city and towns are very advanced and have lovely streets with plenty of trees and bushes and flowers. The area around Kunming is mountainous and beautiful. Kunming at 2000 mtr above sea level , and I guess no one in Europe has heard of this place, is a very large industrial and commercial city with around 7 million people there. There are lots of new building works including large road works ongoing. China is certainly not short of resources or revenue to proceed with all this work. They are getting ready for the tourist invasion that is sure to come from overseas tourists. Already there is a large China tourism with many of the hotels full for sightseeing tours of the area.

The second day we were up at 5am and checked out of the hotel by 7am and on the road towards Lijiang. We stopped off at the old city of Dali and toured the old preserved city and also visiting the nearby beautiful and very grand Chong Sheng Temple and the Three Towers that have a history going back 1800 years. Their mother building was known as Chongsheng Monastery and used to be the royal temple of the Kingdom of Dali and one of the largest Buddhist centres in southeast Asia and were built between 823 and 1108AD.

In the late afternoon we visited the old town of Lijiang that has been preserved to its former glory and where I managed to get hopelessly lost and got a taxi to take me back to the hotel where we were having our evening meal. The new city of Lijiang is a large bustling city and has clean, tidy streets. The old city is well preserved and many tourists from all over Asia visit here to look at the tourist shops and buy silk, woollens, stone and silver items. It was very colourful and beautiful in this area. We travelled all the rest of the afternoon through mountainous scenery on route to Lijiang. We had our dinner at the Lijiang Grand Hotel where a special Thai meal had been prepared for us. I have to say that is was the best meal of the tour because it was Thai food. The Chinese food we were presented with was always a “do it yourself” affair where a large pot of meat or fish stock was placed at the centre of the table on a stove and various vegetables and meats were placed in it. Thereafter you helped yourself to the broth and bowl of rice along with other foods that were brought to the table in random order. These included fish, pork, chicken and duck, all mostly of bones! Omlette was also presented on some occasions. Tea, Pepsi and Beer was also on offer.
We spent the night at the Shiner Hotel in Lijiang.

Day 3
On the third day we were again up at 5am to beat the queuing coaches that enter the large natural parklands to take the tourists to see the Yulong Snow Mountain (Jade Dragon?) where, unfortunately on the day I was there the weather was foggy and cold. We went on a cable car up to 4451 metres to view the mountain (18,359 ft) and the glacier that forms there. We all bought oxygen aerosols to assist us with breathing the air at the high altitude although I did not use my one. When I got to the top the sun was out and lucky to get spectacular views of the mountain area. Awesome is the word. Everyone talks about the Rockies, the Alps etc. but these mountains are equally as beautiful and rugged. After visiting the mountain tops we descended and were then entertained to a show given by 500 local people of the Nakhi tribe who told us the story of their culture formed over the thousands of years. The show was in an open air theatre and the temperature was about 6c and misty. Brrr! After this we had lunch in a Jade Water Village close by. I must say that China needs to improve the public toilet cleanliness if it is to expect the World to visit. I will say no more!

Day 4
The next day we were up again by 6pm and on the road to Shangri La. We passed through stunning scenery all the way through mountain passes and steep ravines where the coach seemed to be almost over the edge in places! We stopped at a beauty spot at Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiao Gorge) where we walked down into the gorge where the famous Yangtze River flows through a very deep, narrow passage beneath very high mountains. It is located about 62 miles northwest of Lijiang and is believed to be the deepest in the world. Again, this was very good to see nature in its raw state. We had lunch at Hutiaoxia Zhen, a small riverside village near the gorge. The afternoon was spent travelling over a high pass and on to Shangri La. On the way there I noticed many Hydro Electric Power stations that used the Yangtze River and its feeder rivers as a source of cheap power. In Shangra La we visited Zongzanlin Monastery high up in the mountains. Shangri La city is at an altitude of 4300 metres (13,000ft) so it gets a little time to become accustomed to the low oxygen levels. Some of our group fell ill here with the high altitude and freezing weather overnight. Our hotel, Holy Palace Hotel, was poorly heated and I spent a night very feeling cold. I should have kept my socks on.

Day 5
Next morning we were up again before dawn and on our way back to Kunming by air. Inside the Shangri La airport was very cold with no heating offered! When we got to Kunming we visited a herbal treatment clinic where we all got a foot massage while the doctors had us trapped and tried to sell us there splendid ointments and pills etc to cure all health problems. A doctor read my hands and told me that although I was a healthy and strong man (ha ha) I would have liver problems in the future and I could prevent this if I bought his special herbal pills that cost £250 for 6 months supply. I politely told him to forget it. We then visited another Buddhist Temple, Yuantong Temple, in the middle of Kunming. Not my favourite kind of place but very colourful buildings.

Day 6
Next morning it was another early morning rise to go to the airport and fly back the heat and bustle of Bangkok. Six full days of South West China gone in a flash but travelling with very nice and friendly Thai people who made me feel as part of the group.

Exploring and enjoying the flower and birds market, Stone Forest and Yuantong Temple in Kungming, Dali an ancient town featured for its Bai ethnic groups. I explored the ancient city, and to living Shaping Market and saw the local life. The highlights of the Shangri La travel is to discover the Lijiang Ancient Town and Zhongdian(Shangri La). Spend your leisure time there but a busy time to linger around by biking around the ancient Lijiang city, hiking of the Tiger Leaping Gorges or horse riding in Shila Sea; Peaceful and beautiful place is Zhongdian, flowers along the road on route from Lijiang to there, explore Shangri La around.


Irene said...

Hello, I want to wish you a Happy Birthday, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Looking forward to your posting on your adventures in Asia.

Irene said...

I enjoy the slideshow, thanks. Temples are beautiful. People are friendly. The food they served looks familiar to me. What is this black corn? Did you try?