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The postcard-like beauty of Yunnan's Shangri-La

By : China Daily | Published: 2017-December-20

Road connecting village with Zhongdian 1995. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]

[InKunming--Yunnan] In 1995 Bruce Connolly travelled to to Zhongdian (Shangri-La), a primarily Tibetan upland within Northwest Yunnan. In his previous piece Bruce discovered the fascinating Old Town. Today he explores postcard-like countryside while appreciating friendship at Songzanlin Monastery.

North beyond Zhongdian town a grassy hill became something of a vantage point both for solitude and to plan out my remaining itinerary. In 1995 there were no maps of the surrounding countryside and no smartphones to create instant records of where to go. But from the hill I could sketch out rough directions and ideas. Intriguing patterns of winding rivers, grasslands, black cattle grazing, patches of cultivation alongside villages spreading across the green plain that occupy much of the plateau where Zhongdian sits. A lot to explore. As I sat in contemplation lamas from the nearby Songzanlin Monastery would wander past, “Hello” being the regular cry. It was the presence of this, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan, that helped prompt the tourism-promoting name change to Shangri-La in 2001.

From my abode, the Tibet Hotel, I rented a heavy-framed cycle - a type previously common on China’s streets. The daily fee was amazingly inexpensive. It provided me the ability to roam into some of the enticing landscapes seen from the hill. Cycling as opposed to hiring a car and driver allowed the freedom of stopping regularly, of walking onto meadows, of being able to compose camera images and to exercise within excellent atmospheric conditions.

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