Friday, January 3, 2014

we explore Shangri-La (Zhongdian)

so we made some changes in our schedule even before we left home in order to meet Larry in Guilin at a reasonable hour on Saturday and do a little touring around Guilin.  So the result of the changes was that we had one very long day in Zhongdian.  Our flight out to Chengdu wasn't until 11 PM (we were headed there to get a better connecting flight to Guilin midday instead of through Kunming very late in the day.)

a reminder map of where we are, have been and are headed

so far we have done Hong Kong and Guangzhou and Lijiang (the Kowloon is underlined because Larry is headed there after we leave him and head home to Chicago.)

so we got up and headed (huffing and puffing) up hill to breakfast - remember we are at over 11,000 feet (versus our measly 578 feet above sea level at home)... we said our goodbyes to the spectacular staff at the hotel and headed out on our day of adventure in the Disney-esque town of Shangri-La.

before we get to the sites and sights let's cover a bit of background on Zhongdian.  the town is a veritable backwater in Yunnan province.  very very close to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and situated high on the Tibetan plateau it has great natural beauty of the sort you see in Lhasa- dry, high elevation, clear blue skies with strikingly intense light.  the thing is, as we heard numerous times- most Chinese cannot go to Tibet because travel there is restricted for them. Yet their desire to experience Tibetan culture apparently is strong because the Chinese government is developing a mini-faux Lhasa here in Zhongdian which they refer to as Shangri-La (I believe the official designation is now actually Shangri-La)

the mini-faux Potala Palace here is the Songstam Monastery which is of recent and ongoing construction (and this in no way takes away from the impressive size and beauty of the buildings) the downtown -"old" city center- is constructed of cobble stone streets for pedestrian traffic only (save for the few motor scooters which whiz by in flagrant violation of the pedestrian only area.)  the whole place has Disney-esque qualities and is in stark contrast to Lijiang's city center which had to be reconstructed after a devastating earthquake but still has some authenticity. 

but don't get me wrong- as you will see- there were some incredible sights in Zhongdian - it just wouldn't make my "MUST SEE in this lifetime" list- which, of course, does have Lhasa, Tibet included.

but on with the photos- they will tell the story as well as I can- and by the way - the unedited photos from this day of the trip numbered over 400- so clearly there were things to see! LOL and we will start with the monastery - then go to the local market and then lunch and that is all we can fit in this post for sure- since after editing the photos are still over 100 so you only get a selection....

first as we approached the monastery you could see on other hillsides many prayer flags lining the countryside-

the monastery complex is very new and so still brightly painted - and very reminiscent of Bhutan in the colors -

one of a number of excellent signs we see this day- Do NOT making noises!

and here I add a photo of the map of the area surrounding the complex- mostly because I have mentioned (in the Lijiang posts the environmental problems that China has yet to address) here is the map showing where the lake - which in the postcards shows a lovely reflection of the monastery - should be...

and here is what the "lake" looks like now- the trees line the path that rims the lake boundary (that is if it were actually there- which it is not) this is very similar to the
Black Dragon Pool story of Lijiang....

the view of the complex from below-

- next on to the local market- and although I will divide these by type of product the market was actually more mixed up than this- but in doing the post this way I can warn the squeamish before we get to the photos of the butchering areas-

here first- fruits and veggies-



temple offerings- so the ancestors have some cash to spend wherever they are...

then food - ready to eat or almost so...

spices - ingredients - miscellaneous pickled stuff- LOL

below- yak cheese of varying ages---

and finally the butchering area- complete with tails so you know what you are getting -

apparently you can still play games on the phone and/or text despite waiting for customers at your butcher booth...

a few market shots that didn't get categorized as easily-

the dishes stack up - LOL

then we were off to lunch- where we had some excellent dumplings and soup-

more on the day in Zhongdian in the next post----

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