ShangriLa, or Zhongdian, a county of Yunnan (China), is not a destination for short-stay visit.
After a short 3-hour drive from Tiger Leaping Gorge, I arrived ShangriLa in the late afternoon, and planned to stay there only for 2 days. And I immediately felt regret. 2 days were too short for wandering around Shangrila, but it became too long for just staying inside the city. Paradise couldn’t be found in town but dusty roads and freezing weather.
The more I eagerly expected to see the ethnic Tibetan in Shangrila, the more disappointed I got. The Old Town becomes very Chinese style with the cobble-stoned alleys, the new-old woody houses, and so many shops… I saw many red-cheeked local Tibetans dressed untidily in traditional clothes walking on the street. Some of them brought a basket on the shoulder, some carried their child on their back. I didn’t know how sad I was when looking them. I’d rather see them dirt-poor in their own land with their traditional living style than see them untidy in the modern Chinese style. Somehow I felt part of their paradise has been lost forever.
Shangrila was the last place of our trip [our route was Chengdu – Lugu Lake – Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge – Shangrila], but it got my first priority to write something down. I added it to my wishlist that I must come back again in the right time with reasonable itinerary.
Sumtseling Monastery – is the second largest monastery of the Tibetan. The largest one is in Lhasa – Tibet. I had a good time and more understanding about Tibetan culture.
Some parts of monastery are being restored, some parts are newly built. Couldn’t take photo inside the monastery.
Around the monastery is the Tibetan village. When you are walking around here, some local people and monks might stop you and ask something. They of course don’t understand English. Fortunately, I went with my Chinese friend, so everything went smoothly, we were even allowed to see inside their house.
The best place I was visiting in town was 100 Chicken temple [ Baiji Si] [funny name, huh?]. We stayed in Tavern 47 hostel which is very close to 100 Chicken Temple. Btw, I really love this hostel. Cheap, convenient, secured… you can easily find its information from hostelworld.com
It’s a very old small temple built in the top of the hill. Lots of fluttering colorful prayer flags laced across the hill. We were quite scared on the way up because we met no ones except some chickens finding something to eat.
The colorful prayer flags of the Tibetan always bring me peaceful. A monk we met on the way down said that each color had its own meaning, and was printed with prayers and mantras. The prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The Tibetan believes that the wind will help to carry all good things from the flags to everyone in every nook and cranny, because everyone deserves to receive all such benefits.
The prayer flags with different styles are everywhere in Shangrila, in every house, shops, restaurants… That’s very impressive image [at least with me].
Guishan Temple was seen from 100 Chicken Temple:
The biggest praying wheel in Guishan Temple. Many local people come here, walk clockwise around the temple then the praying wheel, and recite the mantra ‘Om mani padme hum’ [We just figured out what they mumbled after they finished walking].
Praying wheels on the street:
The next day we visited Napahai lake. Shangrila in May was still in dry season, Napahai just had a little water, we saw nothing except ugly grasslands, some horse and Yark cows meandering to eat grass. Really wasted time and money especially when you were walking under strong sunlight. I not only got sunburned but also felt dying from dehydration. The ‘hai’ in Napahai means ‘sea’, it means the lake should be really big and full of water as in ocean. When we visited, it looked like a grass field with some water, but they still asked us to pay for entrance fee!!!!!!!!
The best time to visit is from July.