30th May 2015:
Today we drove to Shangri-La which is located at an altitude of 3300 meters above sea-level on the other side of Snow mountain. The drive is through the mountains themselves; country that was breathtaking not only in scenic beauty but also in some of the overtaking manoeuvres of oncoming traffic.
On the way we stopped to visit ‘Tiger Leaping’ gorge. The story goes that a tiger was being hunted and had got to a positon of no escape. To elude the hunters the tiger leap over the river which at its narrowest is 20 meters wide – normally an impossible leap. The bottom of the gorge from where he leap is 3300 meters lower than the top of the mountain. Luckily we could drive most of the way down. We still needed to take a pretty steep path down the mountain side to reach the place of the tiger leap. 483 steps to get back to our cars which all four of us did in record time. At the top we had a ‘snickers’ treat in order to restore or energy.
Like the way the country changed when we crossed the border from Lao to China; the same huge change occurred once we crossed the mountain range and got to ‘Yunnan – Tibetan Area’. The countryside changed as could be expected when you get to 3000 meters, the people changed and the houses changed. The houses are huge, three stories and built to withstand the cold; not only for themselves but also their animals that they keep on the ground floor during winter.
There is massive development occurring in the area as the Central Government pours money in to develop the tourism industry. For us we are seeing part of the China growth story – money is going into infrastructure, houses, schools etc., what was very interesting to see, is the virtual complete rebuilding of the old city of Shangri-La that was partly destroyed by fire 18 months ago. On every corner there is restoration works going on. The buildings will regain their former glory; in the meantime the old city resembles a construction site. We also learnt how a one armed carpenter bangs in a nail using just one hand to hold both the nail and the hammer – Barry and Mike are going to teach their boys how this is done when they get home.
Behind the old city perched on a hill is a beautiful golden temple complete with a golden stupor. We climbed the hill via a goat track from the construction site. It is possible to spin the golden stupor but you need a bit of horsepower or more appropriately manpower. We found out it takes the strength of five men and a monk to get the stupor moving. Afterwards we visited the temple itself and the monks. The temple is very elaborate and awe inspiring. Well worth the climb.
On the way back from the temple we came across a movie set where they were interviewing Tibetan people who were fully dressed in their traditional costumes. . Whilst we were watching the pretty interviewer came across and asked me in broken English if I would be prepared to be interviewed. Being unable to turn down the polite request of a pretty girl I agreed to take part. I am now officially the trip Movie Star.
The interview and filming was very exhausting. As a sign of respect the guys took me out to a quaint Muslim restaurant for a meal of Yak. Now we would have thought that Yak could taste nice. It was delicious. Thankfully they served the spice condiments in a separate dish so my dish wasn’t spicy. The café (it resembled a greasy spoon – a very greasy spoon) had very interesting ‘decor’ mainly the heads of Yaks that had provided their better parts to the patrons. Also adorning the walls were pieces of dried Yak that were for sale. Here is one still waiting for the table.