My Trip to Yunnan Province: Shangrila – the most beautiful place in Yunnan
2010-10-24China travel Guide
Travelling to Shangrila is like travelling into a postcard, it is beautiful and inspiring in a way a big city could never be. The air is so clean and so strikingly blue and the people are remarkably friendly in a way that is refreshingly genuine and contrasts sharply to Lijiang.
We boarded our bus in Lijiang in the good company of our reliable driver Mr. Li, who had seen us all the way from Dali, the journey from Lijiang to Shangrila was amazing and beautiful, travelling by road is so much more immersive that sitting in the empty vacuum of an aeroplane. The road is dotted with small orchards and farmlands with local peasants perching along the roadside selling sweet, juicy peaches and sizes of grapefruits. The highlight of travelling from Lijiang to Shangrila is stopping by at the Tiger-Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡). Upon arrival at the gorge I wasn't sure of what to expect, what I discovered is a torrent of gushing water being funnel furiously through the narrow gorge creating enormous forceful rapids in the process. The walkway that runs alongside the gorge can get quite congested, but if you take your mind off the hundreds of fellow tourists moving past you on either side and focus on the sheer beauty and scale of the gorge then you are bound to have a great time.
The landscape begins to gradually change as you head up higher into the plateaus of Yunnan, fields of crops become less frequent and herds of yaks lazily graze on open grass plains, we all felt as though we had entered Tibet. The town of Shangrila is very small, notably however construction of a Sheraton and Shangrila Hotel have already begun, so it's a great time to get to Shangrila before this two mega-hotels alter the traditional cityscape forever. Our hotel was located around 20 minutes outside the city near the Sumstling Monastery (Songzanlin Temple), a beautifully restored Tibetan guesthouse of the bank of a beautiful lake and in the shadow of a colossal monastery, the rooms are beautifully tended and the staff are all extremely friendly, the Sumstling Hotel is a great place to base you tour of Shangrila out of, they also prepare excellent, gourmet and Tibetan food, easily the best we ate in Shangrila.
The highlight of visiting Shangrila is a trip to the Putacao National Park, around 40 minutes from the centre of the city, this is without a doubt the nicest national park I have ever been to in China, not only does it have a variety of different landscapes to enjoy but its natural environment is so pristine and well-preserved, this park really belongs to the Tibetan people and you really get a profound sense of that ownership. For those visiting the park, when the bus descends into the valley it's worthwhile getting off the bus and travelling by boat across the lake.
Walking through the town at night is a real experience, for such a small community it really comes to life, locals gather in the centre square and seemingly dance for dusk till midnight, the music and the atmosphere are infectious, however a word of warning, be careful where you dine, we had a distinctly below-par dining experience near the town centre, if in doubt check with your guide who will more than likely point you in the right direction.
Shangrila is a beautiful little gem hidden in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains, it is charming and beautiful and in many ways captures the best of both Dali and Lijiang, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would recommend it to anyone, especially when looking over the lake and monastery at dusk.
--- By Brett Hartley-Wilson (VisitOurChina)