28 April 2011

5. - 28 APR: Drive to Shangri-la, via leaping Tiger gorge, Tibetan villages

We leave Lijiang for a drive north, toward the Himalaya. At the Yangtse we cross the “border” between Yunnan and the Shangri-la (formerly Zhongdian) districts. Right after the bridge over the river we turn right and drive to the “Tiger Leaping Gorge”, nothing much really... but the Chinese are pretty good at making this look like a never-to-be-missed natural wonder!

We actually drove to the gorge on road on the north side of the river, but it would be possible to hike on the trail on the southern side. One or the other... if you hike one way (maybe some 3 km) you can not drive back.

After lunch at a local eatery we walk back about 30 min. to the bridge where our bus is waiting and move on and soon we are in an area inhabited by Tibetan people.

We stop at a couple of villages, Navadi and Civadi. These are not rich people who live here but the houses we see are rather big and well maintained. It is not easy to communicate with the locals, but I try and one young lady invites me inside to have a look at her home. A huge kitchen/living room displays huge chunks of smoked pork hanging from the ceiling, and a large stove in the middle of the wooden floor. There are also baskets with yoghurt left to ferment and solidify.

Some ladies are weaving wool in their yards, with lots of little children playing around. No men are to be seen, probably working in the fields. On some roofs, a small red flag, meant to bring good auspices for the next harvest, flutters quietly in the evening breeze.

Next to each home is a huge wooden frame, where grass will be hung to dry.

A friendly people that made for a warm if fleeting encounter that could have been more significant had the language barrier not closed off any meaningful communication.

in the evening we arrive at Shangri-la, formerly Zhongdian. The old name was changed after the Chinese government decided that the city was the mythical Shangri-la described by John Hilton in "Lost Horizon". Few questioned the decision, and the new name was an immediate hit for tourists.

You may also want to watch the film "Lost Horizon" by Frank Capra. This movie is in my opinion superior to the book it is based on. I found the book a bit boring, while this movie is all but! Many aspects are clearly very incredible, but then again this is a novel, almost a fairy tale, not a travelogue.

The main point I came away with is that somewhere there might a Shangri-la near all of us, we must only open our eyes to see it, accept it and be ready for change. The worst favor we can do to ourselves is stick to the beaten path.

The restored original version is great even with a few scenes missing and replaced by a slideshow with the original soundtrack.

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