Archive for the ‘Yunnan Travel’ Category

Pudacuo is an earthly paradise

Sunday, May 27th, 2018
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Pudacuo ( or Potatso 普达措 ), officially known as Pudacuo National Park, is a surreal unpolluted Tibetan tableland with beautiful woodlands and forests, limpid lakes, lush meadows, and grazing yaks, gnus and all its thriving plants and vegetation and living beings against the backdrop of majestic peaks. It is a soul-recharging place with the great enjoyment of its serenity.

Pudacuo National Park lies about 22 km in the east of the downtown Shangri-la City, Yunnan Province. Shangri-la City is formerly known as Zhongdian which was renamed in 2001 as “Shangri-la” aimed at attracting more tourists,  grabbing the tourists visiting its neighbour – Lijiang.

Shangri-la is a mythical Himalayan utopia, a permanently happy land described by James Hilton in his novel Lost Horizon. He probably based his writing on the articles published by National Geographic’s first resident explorer Joseph Rock, who visited Yunnan in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The Utopia Shangri-la is coherent with Tibetans’ concept of Shambhala that describes a realm of harmony between man and nature that is also linked to the Kalachakra (“wheel of time”时轮).

Pudacuo is an earthly paradise that has been preserved and protected by the local Tibetans generations by generations. It is a crystallization of the harmony between man and nature, a small piece of Shangri-la or Shambhala (香巴拉).

So,  the temptation to see Pudacuo is great!  Follow us to have a glimpse of the pure land.

Around 9:00 am, 13 October, 2015,  we get to the tourist service center of Pudacuo National Park, about 22 km in the east of the downtown Shangri-la. Mrs. Chen Ya, in our 3-people team, is formally assigned the job that mainly includes entrance tickets purchasing as well as the searching of the local travel information online or offline.

Not a tourist high season, soon she comes back with three tickets by the side of our white horse in the parking lot. I take a picture of the ticket using my iPhone camera. Wow, it is not cheap: entrance fee 138 yuan + shuttle bus fee 120 yuan (Note: The half of the ticket can be used as a post card ).

Pudacuo National Park Entrance Fee

Entrance fee 138 yuan + shuttle bus fee 120 yuan

We enter the tourist service center and line up in front of the entry gate, waiting in turn for swiping the tickets and getting on a shuttle bus parking by the gate. There are still many tourists – some are individual tourists like us and there are more tourists traveling in groups with their tour guides holding guide flags, making the entrance area a bit crowded. The shuttle buses are operated based on free seating, filled up and go.

The Pudacuo National Park mainly comprises three parts – Shudu Lake (属都湖),  Militang Alpine Pasture (弥里塘) and Bita Lake (碧塔海). The eco shuttle buses are scheduled to take us to these three places. At Militang Alpine Pasture, people are only given 10 minutes for picture taking and viewing the grandeur grassland while bused on route from Shudu Lake to Bita Lake.

So  you will spend most of your half day trip to Pudacuo on the two scenic spots – Shudu Lake and Bita Lake. It is a 13 km shuttle bus drive from the tourist service center to Shudu Lake.

At Shudu Lake,  you can either walk on board walks around the lake ( 3.3 km walk ) or you may take a boat cruising on the lake (50 yuan); same with Bita Lake, you can either stroll on well maintained timber walkway around Bita Lake ( 4.4 km ) or take a boat (50 yuan) if you don’t have strong legs or you just want to cruise on the lake. We choose to walk on the both  occasions, a total 7.7 km walk.

Pudacuo Shuttle Bus

It is a 13 km shuttle bus ride from the tourist service center to Shudu Lake

The 13 km bus ride is not dull at all. It is an exciting warm-up exercise before we are bused to Shudu Lake. Lush meadows, grazing yaks, clear streams and undulating hills flash past, unphotographable though I have taken out my camera for several  times, trying to catch the roadside scenery.

Scenic Walk around Shudu Lake 属都湖
Soon a full busload of us arrives at the first stop known as Shudu Lake. “Shudu” literally means “cheese as sturdy as a stone” in Tibetan. It is a tectonic lake (构造湖) of geological fault (地质断层) with a high evelation of 3959 meters. Shudu Lake covers an area of 120 hectares with an average depth of 20 meters.

The overall ecological system of Shudu Lake comprises plateau lakes, swamped meadows, primitive dark coniferous forests with varied rare animals and plants resources. Autumn is the best time to view the lake scenery with inverted reflection in water and motley-colors.  Walking a few steps and we see a well-maintained boardwalk winding above the swamped lake, easy for walk and good for the environmental protection of the lake.

Shudu lake boardwalk

A well-maintained boardwalk winds above the swamped lake

Late September and October, the whole lake is hemmed in by a palette of mixed colors like a fairyland on earth. It is the best time to view the multi-colored fall foliage on the surrounding forests with stunning inverted reflections in water.

Shudu Lake

The lake is hemmed in by a palette of mixed colors.

Shudu Lake has great inverted reflections in water, a scene for soul-recharging moments. Every step allows you to have a different angle of enjoying the stunning inverted reflections. Just watch your step while enjoying the views or taking photos.

Shudu Lake

Shudu Lake great inverted reflections in water

It is a mirage and very often it is difficult to tell the white clouds and the mountains upside down reflected in water. This is the primitive beauty of our nature, pure and unpolluted. Human beings should not be just content with a full stomach, we need clean and fresh air, and unpolluted environment.

Shudu Lake Inverted Reflection

It is a mirage!

Soon we face two choices –  walking further along the wooden walkway or taking a boat cruising on the lake. We definitely choose to stroll on the plank road around the lake, a scenic 3.3 km walk. The Shudu Lake boating costs you 50 yuan.

Shudu Lake Dock

Shudu Lake Dock

People are on the north edge of Shudu Lake standing on the suspended timber walk, turning  left for the dock for lake cruising and right for the board walk along the lake. The high wooden walkway provides a good vantage of have a panoramic view of the lake and its surrounding meadows, trees and hills.

North of Shudu Lake

Wooden walkway provides a good vangtage

Shudu Lake is dotted with swamped yellow meadows given this time of the year.  The golden-colored meadows look like large connected thick mattress and cushions, soft and warm.

Shudu Lake is dotted with swamped yellow meadows

Shudu Lake is dotted with swamped yellow meadows

We are walking on the wooden walkway with our eyes busy in catching views and sights Shudu Lake has to offer. It is an amazing experience walking in the primitive forests by the lake.

Shudu Lake walk

Amazing experience walking in the primitive forests by the lake

The water edge provides spectacular views – fall foliage and inverted reflections in water.  My long-range camera does a very good job making copious pictures of these soul-refreshing moments.

Shudu Lake Fall Foliage

Fall foliage and inverted reflections in water

The water on the edge is dabbled with golden colors by the yellow coniferous forests in autumn. People enjoying the view also become part of it.

Beautiful Shudu Lake

The water on the edge is dabbled with golden colors

Fiery leaves with Spanish moss draped on the branches are a common sight here around the lake. It is said that only in unpolluted areas can such mosses like Spanish moss grow.

Shudu Lake Spanish moss

Fiery Leaves with Spanish moss draped on the branches

Motley-colored alpine trees, white Spanish moss, swamped meadows and the water edge dabbled with mixed colors like a palette, or an oil painting.

Like an oil painting

Like an oil painting

On the other side of the river bank is an expansive pasture dotted with Tibetan summer houses. The local Tibetans are grazing their yaks, sheep and horses, a bucolic and picturesque view!

Tibetans are grazing their yaks, sheep and horses

Tibetans are grazing their yaks, sheep and horses

It is said that if you come here in May and June,  you will be flooded with the  sea of Rhododendrons blooming with bluish violet, yellow and pink colors. They grow around Shudu Lake and Bita Lake as well. Nothing is perfect  and we have to enjoy the autumn hues while leaving the amazing Rhododendrons in our minds. Maybe we’ll return here someday in May or June.

The Shudu Lake scenic walk takes about 2 hours. We feel time is flying quickly especially if you are indulged in doing something. At the end of the 3.3 km Shudu Lake boardwalk is a simple service stop where we are supposed to wait for the eco shuttle bus going to the next sight – Militang Alpine Pasture.

Before going to the next stop, we sit down for lunch on the bench in a corridor of the service building. The service stop offers little choice of food. Fortunately, we have bought something to eat the night before, a good job done by Mrs. Chen Ya. Simply fed and then a short break, we go to the shuttle bus stop waiting in line for the next bus ride to Militang Alpine Pasture.

A Glimpse of Militang Alpine Pasture 弥里塘
Soon we are on a green shuttle bus bringing us to the next stop known as Militang Alpine Pasture. Militang literally means “a long and slim eye-like meadow” which resembles a narrow eye of Buddha. Militang is located midway between Shudu Lake and Bita Lake, 4500 meters long from north to south, and 500 meters wide from east to west with an evelation of 3700 meters.

Pudacuo Shuttle Bus

Shuttle bus bringing us to the next stop known as Militang Alpine Pasture

Miltang has varied landscapes – lush pasture, swamped meadows, meandering brooks. When spring and summer come ( May – September ), Militang looks like a huge green piece of smooth silk dotted with grazing yaks and sheep like pearls falling from the sky. The pasture is peppered with colourful wildflowers from May through September, an amazing spectacle in Pudacuo National Park.

In 15 minutes, we arrive at the viewing platform high above the pasture. Here we are only allowed to stay up to 10 minutes to take a few pictures and a glimpse of the expansive meadow below. We get off the bus, walk onto the viewing platform and quickly scan the legendary grassland below – Grazing yaks and horses,  green and yellow mixed pasture surrounded by dark coniferous forests.

Miltang Pasture

Miltang Pasture

 

Militang Alpine Pasture

Grazing yaks and horses, green and yellow mixed pasture

Walk around Bita Lake 碧塔海
We are bused to the last stop known as Bita Lake. “Bita” literally means “tufted oak tree leaves” (栎叶成毡). Bita Lake is well known for its ancient evergreen broad-leaves forests. Some of the oak trees (Quercus) along the plank road around Bita Lake boast over hundreds of years with average height over 20 meters. The Bita Lake timber walk is oft-lauded as “Corridor of Oak Trees”.

Again you have two choices 0f either walking around Bita Lake a (4.4km) or paying 50 yuan for a boat ride on the lake. We choose to walk on the plank road skirting the lake.  The flora and fauna here are slightly different from those around Shudu Lake.

Walk around Bita Lake

We choose to walk on the plank road skirting the lake.

Some visitors choose to cruise across the lake over enjoying the surrounding views. Boat ride per person costs 50 yuan.

Bita Lake Cruising

Some visitors choose to cruise across the lake

The Bita Lake wetland is listed as Ramsar Wetland (拉姆萨尔湿地) of international importance. There are three ecological systems on earth – wetlands, lands and seas. Wetlands are known as kidneys of the earth.

The Bita Lake wetland is listed as Ramsar Wetland

The Bita Lake wetland is listed as Ramsar Wetland

Walking on the plank road meandering the ancient forests by the lake, you are often welcomed by hospitable squirrels jumping in front of you requesting for food, spoiled? They are not afraid of visitors at all.

Bita Lake squirrels

Bita Lake squirrels

Even ultramarine flycatchers or the white-browed blue flycatchers (白眉蓝姬鹟) will fly to a trash bin looking for food showing little fear if someone is passing  by.

ultramarine flycatcher

An ultramarine flycatcher

You will also see a kind of small and active bird known as northern Lapwing ( Vanellus vanellus 凤头麦鸡).  Of course, Pudacuo is most famous for its black-necked cranes, but today we see none of them.

northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing

Ancient forests and golden meadows dotted with grazing horses, tranquil and serene, the harmony of nature.

Bita Lake Meadow

Ancient forests and golden meadows dotted with grazing horses

At 3:00 pm we find ourselves at the end of the Bita Lake plank road close to the north gate where our vehicle is parked. So  the visit to Pudacuo National Park takes us 6 hours. Before we leave the park, we turn around and again have a look at the magical lake.

Bita lake

Bita Lake

Any questions on Pudacuo National Park or how to get to Pudacuo Park by public bus, just drop a line.

Add-on:
Lijiang Yunnan Tour
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery Dwells Your Soul

Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la
Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

Kawagarbo Viewed from Feilaisi

Saturday, May 26th, 2018
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Feilaisi (or Feilai Temple), literally “Flying Temple”, is  an ideal place to view the east faces of the 13 peaks of the Prince Snow Mountain (太子雪山), also known as Meili Snow Mountain and Meili Jokul (梅里雪山).

Feilaisi (Feilai Temple 飞来寺) is a small Tibetan temple on the National Highway G214 dedicated to the spirits of Kawagarbo at 6740 meters (卡瓦博格峰), the highest peak in Meili Snow Mountain (Meili Jokul).

About 2km outside the monastery there is a growing number of inns and hostels to meet the increasing demand of tourists who come here to view Kawagarbo.

Meili Jokul

Feilai Temple, Meili Jokul, National Highway G214, Lancangjiang ( Mekong ) and Deqin

Feilaisi is located above the Mekong valley (澜沧江河谷) at an altitude of 3300 meters, about 10 km to the southwest of Shengping (升平镇), the seat of Deqin County ( 德钦县).

It has a geographical advantage to have a clear view of the east side of  Meili Snow Mountain Range which is bounded by the Salween River ( Nujiang 怒江 in Chinese) on the west and the Mekong (Lancangjiang 澜沧江 in Chinese) on the east. The snow mountain rises about 10 km west of Feilaisi.

Kawagarbo, or Kawagebo Peak 卡瓦格博峰 in Chinese, is the highest peak of the 13 peaks of the Prince Snow Mountain (太子雪山), also known as Meili Snow Mountain and Meili Jokul (梅里雪山), a small part of the much more extensive Hengduan Mountains (横断山脉), the major north-south complex of mountains lying along the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau in eastern Tibet.

Kawagebo Peak is often billed as the most beautiful snow mountain peak in the world. It is one of the most sacred peaks in the Tibetan world, the spiritual home of a warrior god of the same name.

Kawagebo Peak is still a virgin mountain though several attempts have been made in the past by the mountaineering teams from China, Japan, the US and the UK. They have all failed mainly due to the extremely complicated geographical conditions and incremental weather.

Kawagebo Peak climbing has also caused heavy protests from the local Tibetan community due to the mountain’s cultural and religious importance. On 3 January 1991, a nighttime avalanche killed all seventeen members of the Sino-Japanese expedition, one of the most disastrous mountaineering accidents in history.

In 2000, the local government passed relative laws banning all future climbing attempts on cultural and religious grounds.

At 6:30 am, 12 October, 2015, Mr.Chen and I are waked up by the alarm clock on our iPhones. Jumping out of our beds, quickly putting on our clothes, we walk out of our rooms fast and up to the rooftop of our hotel with our tripods.

As expected, we could hardly see the peaks on Meili Snow Mountain Range which are covered with heavy dark white clouds. But we still put up our tripods, hoping magic will happen.

Around 7:50 am, suddenly appears a thin slit of clearing on Meilin Snow Mountain which allows us to have a peep of the white snow-capped peaks inside. I catch the momentary sight without delay.

Meili Snow Mountains

A peep of Meili Snow Mountain ( Meili Jokul )

 

Meili Snow Mountains

A slit of clearing on the snow mountain

Then in a few minutes the snow mountain again totally hides behind the heavy clouds. We decide to go down to the lobby restaurant for breakfast and wait for an opportunity to view Kawagebo Peak on the hotel rooftop viewing platform again.

Back to the rooftop platform after breakfast, we continue to wait for the clouds to disappear for a glimpse of the legendary Kawagebo Peak.  Around 8:40 am, the clouds are dispersing and thinning a little and we are able to see the dark forested mountains with the snow-shrouded peaks still hiding behind the clouds.

Kawagebo Peak

The snow-shrouded peaks still hiding behind the clouds.

Luckily, I have caught the image of Sinong Glacier ( 斯农冰川) below Cuguilaka Peak (粗归拉卡峰) at 5993 meters just north of Kawagebo Peak (卡瓦博格峰) at 6740 meters.

 Sinong Glacier ( 斯农冰川)

Sinong Glacier ( 斯农冰川)

Then again the whole Prince Snow Mountain ( Meili Snow Mountain ) is totally blanketed by clouds. We sadly go down stairs, back to our rooms, and ready to leave our hotel for our next destination Shangri-la.

Before we leave our rooftop platform, I see lots of people like us still standing on the rooftop platforms of many other hotels in Feilaisi, taking pictures and waiting for the best photogenic time to shoot.

Shooting Meilin Snow Mountain

Shooting Meilin Snow Mountain

While checking out at the hotel front desk in the lobby, we have a small talk with Mr. White Horse, the hotel manager. Feeling our disappointment at the bad luck of being unable to see Kawagebo Peak, he is very empathetic. He consoles us by saying that later this morning Kawagebo Peak will appear before us due to our sincerity driving over 600 km from Daocheng.

He continues to say that he can guide us to a hill nearby to have a panoramic view of Kawagebo Peak and the Prince Snow Mountain as the whole. We are all overjoyed at the proposal, deeply moved by Mr.White Horse’ kindness and integrity. Temporarily restoring our luggage behind the front desk, we happily follow him, bombarding him with  questions about Kawagebo Peak.

He says it is every rare to have the chance to see Kawagebo Peak in the sunrise golden light. The  best time to view Kawagebo Peak is from October through May. July and August are the rainy season with the least possibility to see the Prince Snow Mountain (Meili Snow Mountain or Meili Jokul).

The forested hill he is taking us is quite steep, with an unpaved path leading to a rugged hilltop.  On the way up, Ms. Chen Ya gets breathless, scrambling after Mr. White Horse. He stops and turns around, taking away her camera to reduce her load and grasping her by her arm, steadily balancing her hike up to the hilltop.

The 20-minute hike brings us to the rugged summit of the hill. He asks us to take a break and wait for the dispersion of clouds. I look around, and find the hill is surrounded by mountains in almost four sides, a very good natural viewing platform to see Meili Snow Mountain on the west, Baima Snow Mountain on the east and south with Feilaisi ( the area for hotels and hostels ) below the hill on the south.

As Mr. White Horse predicts, the sky is getting brighter and bluer, and grey clouds are turning into white clouds. The white clouds circling the snow capped-peaks on Meili Snow Mountain are slowing moving away. At last, Kawagebo Peak appears!

Kawagebo Peak

Kawagebo Peak appears!

On the north of Kawagebo Peak at 6740 meters is the Cuguilaka Peak (粗归拉卡峰) at 5993 meters standing elegantly with white clouds circling below.

Cuguilaka Peak

Cuguilaka Peak (粗归拉卡峰) at 5993 meters

I change my standing position and point my camera to the east of our hill. The peaks of the Baima Snow Mountain are still shrouded by white clouds. At the foot of the white clouds-capped peaks is Feilaisi Village, picturesque and bucolic.

Feilaisi

Feilaisi Village at the foot of the snow and white clouds capped peaks of Baima Snow Mountain.

 

Feilaisi Village

A  zoom-in picture of Feilaisi Village, Picturesque and Bucolic

Maybe the charm of Meili Snow Mountain lies in the ever-changing clouds which make it difficult to see its true face. The changing clouds also constitute countless views of the snow mountain, the main reason to draw a consistent flow of common tourists all year around.

Before we leave the hilltop,  I take quite a few pictures of the changing Kawagebo Peak and much delighted to share some of them.

The Beautiful Kawagebo Peak

The Beautiful Kawagebo Peak

 

Clouds are closing in on Kawagebo Peak

Clouds are closing in on Kawagebo Peak

 

Kawagebo Peak shy

Kawagebo Peak shy hiding behind the clouds

Any questions on viewing Kawagebo Peak from Feilaisi, just drop a line.

Add on:
Lijiang Yunnan Tour
Drive from Mangkang to Feilaisi
Drive from Feilaisi to Shangri-la

When is the best time to visit Lijiang?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
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Plan your Lijiang Tour? Lijiang, located in the northwest of Yunnan Province, is a place blessed with fresh air, clear streams and breathtaking snow mountains. Lijiang sits at an average elevation of 2,400 meters. Many visitors both home and abroad come to visit Lijiang every year.

Lijiang enjoys a temperate climate year around. Lijiang’s rainy season begins in May and ends in October, with the heaviest and most recurrent rainfall periods occurring during July and August.

Autumn is regarded as the best season to visit Lijiang. In fact, any time during the year is suitable for traveling, depending on the kind of traveling experience and sites you want to see.

Whatever time of year, Lijiang is said to experience “four seasons in one day”, so be sure to pack accordingly. Check out below to have some information on each season:

Lijiang in Spring
Spring in Lijiang, which lasts from March to May, is a comfortable season for visitors to come. Neither cold nor hot, average temperature is about 17℃. The sky is blue and clear every day.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain can be seen from every where of the city, and flowers are in blossom. What’s more, there are fewer tourists in spring than other seasons.

Lijiang in Summer
Summer is also a good season for traveling to Lijiang. But there are heave rains, very often too foggy to see the snow Mountain actually.

There are very little snow in the mountain in Summer. Much more expensive to come, as everything double the price. The usual cloud cover makes summer less than ideal for sightseeing.


Lijiang In Summer

Lijiang In Summer

 

 Lijiang in Autumn
Autumn is the most beautiful season in Lijiang with comfortable temperature, clear and crisp days, prismy trees and flowers. The rains are almost completely gone by mid-October.There’s little rain in the fall and the local alpine wildflowers and grasses are at their best. Nights in autumn are crisp and chilly, take a coat with you is necessary.

Lijiang in Winter
Winter in Lijiang is also very nice season for traveling. The Jade Dragon Snow mountain is the good place to go in winter. It is clean with blue sky between November to January.

It’s very warm in the daytime, temperature usually above 12℃, up to 25゜C, but it could be -7℃ at night. Very few tourists come to Lijiang in Winter. It’s also the cheapest season to come.

Tip:  Hassle-free Lijiang Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for Lijiang guided tours:

12 Days Beijing – Xian – Guilin – Kunming – Lijiang

8-Day Beijing – Lijiang – Dali – Kunming – Beijing Private Tour

6-Day Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge – Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Trekking Tour

Further Readings


Top Things to Do in Lijiang
Top 10 Places in Yunnan
Top Things to Do in Kunming

Any questions, just drop line.