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Into the Tibetan regions

zhongdian (Shangri-La), China


Zhongdian or Shangri-La as the government renamed it recently is a strange place. Perched on the hills of northern Yunnan at 3300 meters above sea level its inhabitants are 80% tibetan. It is a fast growing town as most of the traffic out of eastern tibet travels through it so there is a sprawling new city sprouting up around a small but pretty tibetan style old town. It was the old town in which i stayed in a pleasant little hostel, sadly though the dorm rooms didn't have electric blankets and the nights here i discovered got VERY cold.
First day in town was spent wandering the old streets, the layout here is very different with big tibetan houses and wide open streets. Sadly there was the usual tourist tat being sold but this place was far less busy than anywhere else i'd been thus far. The small town square also became a dance floor in the evening, all the locals turning up around 7pm to dance to local music being pumped out of someone's shop. It was really cool as everyone new the dance moves so you had around 100 people doing synchronized moves in a big circle for getting on for 2 hours!
The second day was spent at Ganden Sumtselling Gompa, the most important Buddhist monastery in southwest China. It was more of a walled village than a monastery with ancient mud walled houses surrounding the monastery which was perched on top of the hill. 600 monks still live and work there and they were very welcoming allowing you into all the parts of the temples. It was a colourful place with vivid tibetan frescoes adorning the walls and bright gold bells gently tingling in the wind.

Sadly that evening i ate something dubious and was struck down with my first serious bout of food poisoning. This meant my last day in Shangri-La was spent in bed.
Next day was spent on a bus and an incredible bus ride it was too passing a 4100 meter pass to the small hillside town of Deqin.
The ride it self is worth a note across dubious roads worth regular landslides and hunks of snow impeding progress. The view from the top was stunning with white peaked mountains all around. Sadly my battery had run out on the camera so it wasn't until the next day that i could start photographing the views. Deqins surroundings though certainly didn't disapoint!


permalink written by  Dan on April 15, 2008 from zhongdian (Shangri-La), China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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