Shangri-la, Yunnan

Is it just a legend? Well, yes, originally. Legend about Earth paradise. Supposedly somewhere in Tibet…

But not that long time ago – just 10 years – Shangri-la officially appeared in the map of China. One of districts and cities in Yunnan province was renamed to Shangri-la.

The city itself is small and there are not much things to do. There is a temple. Actually, this temple is the main tourist attraction there. But as the entrance fee is fairy high (80 yuan) many travelers skip this temple now.

I didn’t go there cause I’ve heard a story that there is a regular public bus which stops just in front of the main gates. But if there are any foreigners (“lao vay”) in the bus, it will stop near the ticket office where all lao vais will be told to leave the bus and most part of them will do so, as they don’t know that it actually goes straight to the gate. But the trick is that even if white folks know about it and won’t leave the bus near the ticket office – bus won’t go any further. Then the police will come sooner or later and will ask to leave you anyway.

Actually entrance fee is a very unpleasant thing in China. Fees are high and you have to pay to get to any forest, hill, park with a pagoda or just good view. And still these expensive entrance tickets do not guarantee that there is anything interesting at all. In reality temple, palace or canyon could turn to be nothing special what does not worth any fee.

But yeh, back to Shangri-la!

It’s easy to reach it from Tiger Leaping Gorge from Tina’s hostel for 50 yuan.
The road is very beautiful and worth to not sleep in the bus. Coupe of times driver stopped and pushed us to take pictures outside.

But yeh, there is really not that much things to do in the town. “Old town” is very small, so it’s hard to spend a lot of time exploring it. There is a very nice temple. But I don’t have any pic of it.

One of the main things in the city is a stupa:

And one more interesting place is a dancing square. Actually there are two of them and Chinese people and some brave white guys dance there Chinese dances in the evening.

To catch rest sightseeing you have to get out of the city and the best way to do it is by mountain bike (20 yuan per day). But then in Shangri-la it was the worst bike rental experience in China. We rented 6 bikes and we figured out soon that gear didn’t work on two of them, one had broken seat and the luckiest guy lost a pedal.

But still, even if bikes were sucks the trip worth it! Our destination was Lake Napahai. We were told that it’s just hour-hour and a half drive.

The road was pretty boring even it was new and good as it passed through dusty cities and there were a lot of tracks.

All of us were fed up with this monotonous riding after hour and a half. And there still were no signs of the lake.

Cities changed to fields with yaks finally and road became more pleasant but still no lake. So, finally we stopped in front of the field and started discussion if we should go back now or not.

We were almost ready to go back but two locals appeared so we decided to ask them just in case. That were two grannies and I approached them with piece of paper where hotel’s receptionist wrote the name of the lake in Chinese. But they started to show with gestures that they don’t know even not looking to the paper. And… we realized that they can not read! Alright, I said the name of the lake and they got it and then…they pointed to the field! What the hell???

But then memory recalled Wikipedia article and yeh, I remembered that the lake is seasonal! And it was the middle of September. So, it simply was almost dry!

Well, anyway, let’s go to have a look if this is a lake!

And yep, that was an extremely nice place. Yaks, hay, bit of water, and fields, fields…

Architecture was more Tibetan that Chinese.

And there was a hill. We got an idea that we must hike it asap we saw it. So we did. And God, it worth it! It worth it so much! That place have got so harmonious atmosphere!

There was a stupa:

From one side it has view to the road but from another side – to fields, lake and mountains.

We spent there 4 hours and we could easily spent more but sunset was coming what means cold and darkness which is not that suitable for riding a bike in China.

The atmosphere is really magic there. Peaceful… Wind, yak’s bells… sacred place, it seems.

But we had to go back to the town and we arrived pretty tired as half of us had broken bikes which are not that easy to ride on up and down road.

While drinking evening portion of beer all of us agreed that there is no reason to stay in Shangri-la for another day.

So, I’ve spent there just day and a half and it was not on my way to Dali actually but that view from the hill and that atmosphere there make me say that visiting Shangri-la so worth it!

If you haven’t got any accommodation for your next trip booked yet, try it here: Airbnb.
You will get $25 discount for your first booking
and would be able to stay in a nice room or apartment rented from locals and not just in a dorm!  

And if you haven't decided yet where to stay on your next trip - try AirBnb! You can rent a room or a house from locals and that's usually cheaper and cozier that staying in a hotel. Plus, $20 bonus for your fist stay is a nice bonus! Enjoy!