Archive for the ‘Shangri-la’ Category

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
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Last night we wandered Shangri-la’s old town – Dukezong (独克宗), having an authentic glimpse into the cobbled lanes and looking for a place to grab our dinner. The old lanes were flanked by two-storey wooden buildings used as restaurants, shops, cafes and hostels. We felt a bit disappointed that many of the buildings and lanes were still under reconstruction due to the fire that broke out on January of 2014, lasting over ten hours and destroying most of the town.

We saw original wood used to rebuild the houses in the old town instead of concrete, keeping the old lanes and houses in an old-fashioned way. It was still a laid back, peaceful town, but we sensed that something had disappeared from the over-thirteen-hundred–years-old-town and the old town’s spirit and charisma would never come back.

We tried to forget the fire, not to be distracted by the new wooden structures and construction sites here and there. Fortunately there were still some houses that had survived the fire,  making you feel time had stood still here, at least momentarily. There were not many tourists milling in the old town, partly due to the devastating fire and partly the tourist shoulder season.

Some hostels, shops and restaurants, for various reasons, were closed with no lights on, making the nearby lanes very dim and lifeless. We kept on walking on the cobble-paved lanes, trying to find a place for a sit-down dinner. Before we lost our patience, on our right side we saw a restaurant brightly lit and most importantly it was packed with dinners inside.

Without hesitation, we entered the Tibetan-style restaurant and it was a yak hot-pot restaurant, clean, warm and cozy. Luckily there was a small table available for three of us and a man came up to us, waving us to sit down. Later we knew that the man was the owner of the restaurant.  He was tall and thin, talkative with a sense of humor. After he bragged about his hot-pot,  we ordered a medium-sized yak meat hot-pot, and a big barley cake as our staple food.

yak Hot pot

Yak Hot Pot in Dukezong Old Town

Before the hot-pot was ready, I stood up and walked around the restaurant. It was a fascinating restaurant with some of wall areas and pillars posted with small pieces of paper by diners who had written down their hopes, work, love and futures for life.

The diners inside the house were all travelers who had came far away from their home towns like us, drinking like fish and talking loudly. It was raucous, but a feel like home. It was a wonderful experience leaving your residential place and traveling around the world periodically.

The yak hot-pot was a bonus. The yak meat was soft, delicious and a little spicy; the soup was rich, and very flavourful; the barley cake was tender and fluffy, very tasteful. We discussed the travel plan for the next day – drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng over the hot-pot.

The yak hot pot Dukezong

The yak hot pot was a bonus

Today we will start our last leg of our loop trip which has a total length of 1272 km from Daocheng and back to Daocheng: October 11, Daocheng to Litang ( 148 km 理塘) ; Litang to Batang ( 177 km 巴塘), to Zhubalong (35 km 竹巴笼),  to Mangkang in Tibet (75 km 芒康), to Feilaisi at Deqin (216 km  德钦飞来寺); October 12, Feilaisi (Deqin )  to Shangri-la (200 km ).

So today, 14 October, 2015, we will return to Daocheng ( 421 km 稻城) via Xiangcheng (乡城). While we talked about the drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng over the dinner last night, we overheard the people at our next table and learned that some of them had just came from Daocheng to Shangri-la. Mr. Chen started  up a small talk with them and got some practical information on the drive route and road conditions involved. It would be a very tough journey with some bad road conditions and possible landslides.

We leave our lodging hotel in Shangri-la around 8:30am, and drive up the National Highway G214 north. We are supposed to drive across Jinsha River, getting to Xiangcheng (乡城县), and Sangdui Town (桑堆镇), finally Daocheng (稻城县),  totally 421 km.

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

At Fulongqiao Town (伏龙桥镇), we branch off the National Highway G214, crossing the bridge over Jinshan River and entering the Derong County in Sichuan Province. It is a county-level mountain road, dusty, bumpy, potholes and narrow with deteriorated road surface. We pass by one section of the road under reconstruction with pickup trucks, a mobile crane and workers busy working on the road.

Half hour later,  the vehicles ahead of us aren’t moving, and we come to a halt.  Soon a word comes that there is a big landslide ahead not far from us. It seems the possibility of reopening the road is very slim. After discussing with the drivers from other vehicles, we decide to have an alternative road –  Shangri-la – Derong – Xiangcheng – Sangdui – Daocheng which is one third longer than the original road.

It is really a workout to drive over the narrow, steep, zigzag mountain road at the sea level of 2000m – 3000m. Road conditions in some areas are fairly good – asphalt road; some are not good, or very bad – just dirty roads especially at a higher sea level. When we arrive at Daocheng, it is almost 10:00pm! That means we drive on the mountain road in some areas just in  almost complete dark.

Shangri-la - Daocheng road

Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng

It is also a rewarding drive trip. En route, we take in the spectacular views through the side windows while driving – deep valleys, alpine meadows, snow mountains, fall foliage and dense forests. Some of the pictures below shot with my iPhone camera staying inside our vehicle.

Daocheng

Alpine meadow, snow mountain and coniferous forests.

 

Xiangcheng

A wide and open valley dotted with white Tibetan houses

 

Barley Fields with barley racks and straw stacks

Barley Fields with barley racks and straw stacks

Any questions on the drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng, just drop a line.

Add-on:

Drive from Litang to Daocheng

Chengdu tour

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery Dwells Your Soul

Monday, November 23rd, 2015
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Around 3:40 pm, 13 October, 2015, we leave the earthly paradise – Pudacuo ( or Potatso 普达措 ), and drive up to the road back to the downtown of Shangri-la and then get to our today’s final stop  – Ganden Sumtseling Monastery (Songzanlin Monastery 噶丹·松赞林寺 in Chinese).

Located only 3 km north of the downtown, Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is not just a monastery, but a large monastic complex that includes several lamaseries, halls, colleges, libraries, separate living quarters for monks and for the high lamas.

“Ganden Sumtseling” literally means ” The monastery is set up in order to fully understand the Teachings of the Buddha and let them to benefit the mass and have the rebirth in Buddhism”. The name was given by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1679 when the monastery was built at the patronage of Kangxi Emperor (r.1662-1722) in Qing Dynasty. It was completed in 1681. Part of the group buildings of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in 1960s and in 1980s it was rebuilt.

Now Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is the largest Buddhist monastery in Yunnan Province, oft-lauded as ” Little Potala Palace”.  It belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelukpa order of the Dalai Lama.

Mr. Chen suggests we don’t enter the huge monastic complex given the time left for the remainder of the day and try to locate a photo spot instead to take pictures of the grandeur holy place and view the monastery in sunset glow.

Parking our vehicle in the parking lot attached to the Tourist Service Center of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery Scenic Area,  we enter the clean and spacious service center. We are requested to purchase an entrance ticket 115 yuan (including the shuttle service from the center to the monastery). Getting on the shuttle bus, Mr. Chen asks the bus driver to drop us off at the lake area instead of the final stop of the monastery. We’ve learned that the lake in front of the monastery offers good photo spots to shoot the monastery from the boardwalk winding over the lake.

After 15-minute bus ride, we disembark the shuttle bus and see a swamp lake south of the shiny and massive group buildings throught the left-side trees and bushes. Very soon we spot a zigzag road down to the lake below. When we come up to the lake, we see a well-maintained boardwalk running over the marsh lake south of the monastic architechures.

While we are walking down to the lake from the roadside mound, the legant and huge buildings of the monastery are clearly presented before us.

the legant and huge buildings of the monastery is clearly presented before us

The legant and huge buildings of the monastery are clearly presented before us

A signboard on a handrail of the boardwalk has a brief introduction to the lake both in Chinese and English. The lake is known as Lamuyangcuo Lake (拉姆央措湖). “Lamuyangcuo”, literally “A Lake for the Soul of Heaven Fairy”,  is a holy place to dwell the soul of the Godess of Bandanlama.

Lamuyangcuo Lake is just in front of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. It is a seasonal and plateau wetland lake fed by springs and surface water. There are some waterfowl on the lake like black-necked cranes, yellow duks and more.

Lamuyangcuo Lake

The boardwalk circles the lake offers a spectacular view of the Monastery.

Walking on the timber walkway, you can easliy find a good spot to view the magnificent group builidngs of the monastery. The main structure built in Tibetan style has a gold-covered copper roof similar to the one at the Potala Monastery in Lhasa.

The buildings of the spectacular Ganden Sumtseling Monastery have stunnng inverted reflections in the water of the holy lake.

The main structure built in Tibetan style

The main structure built in Tibetan style with reflection on the water

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery looks like a castle, a walled complex with group buildings including living quarters for monks and high lamas.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is a walled complex with group buildings

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is a walled complex with group buildings

On the right side of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery are Milk River Wetland and Conggulong Village.

Milk River Wetland and Conggulong Village

Conggulong Village and Milk River Wetland

On our right side, we see two barley racks on the high mound

 On our right side, we see two barley racks on the high mound

On our right side, we see two barley racks on the high mound

This is a piece of happy land where human beings, animals, and nature live in harmony.  Two Tibetan youths posed standing on the boardwalk with the backdrop of the monastery.

human beings, animals, and nature live in harmony.

Two Tibetan youths posed standing on the boardwalk

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is in sunset glow, a tranquil place to dwell your soul.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is in sunset glow

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is in sunset glow

Be sure to be back on the roadside to wait for the last shuttle bus at 7:00 pm and return to the service center.  Any questions,  just drop a line.

Add-on:

Pudacuo is an earthly paradise
Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la
Drive from Shangri-la to Daocheng
Chengdu tour

Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la (Zhongdian)

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
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Walking down the rugged hill, tired, but we feel exhilarated with our lucky encounter with Kawagebo Peak. Back to our lodging hotel in Feilaisi around 11:15 am, 12 October,2015, we check out and upload our large pieces of luggage, handbags, tripods up to our Toyota Highlander SUV, ready to go to Shangri-la ( formerly Zhongdian ) along the National Highway G214 (Yunnan-Tibet Highway).

Feilaisi Hotel

We are ready to leave our lodging hotel in Feilaisi

Feilaisi is a temple-turned “town”,  dusty and scruffy with a few unpaved lanes swarm with inn and hotels cascading the hillside. Mrs Chen Ya proposes that we should visit Feilai Temple before we start our road trip along G214 to Shangri-la ( formerly Zhongdian ).

Mr.Chen drives his white horse down to the only paved main road and stops by the roadside above the temple.

The monastery is perched on the flat land by the hillside down below the main road facing Kawagebo Peak.

feilaisi

Feilai Temple perched on the hillside facing Kawagebo Peak

We walk down the stone steps and soon see Feilai Temple just vividly standing in front of us.  Originally built in 1614, the monastery is now devoted to the flying Buddha – Juewu Nanka Tashi and Kawagebo Peak.

Inside the temple, there is a monument titled “Sino-Japanese Joint Expedition Martyrdom” to remember the  17 warriors who were killed in the accident of avalanche on 04 Jan, 1991.

Flying temple

The temple is devoted to the flying Buddha – Juewu Nanka Tashi and Kawagebo Peak

We don’t go inside the temple, just have a look at its exterior and pray siliently in hearts and minds. Retracing the steps up to the roadside where our vehicle is parking,  we get on the vehicle and Mr. Chen starts the engine and slowly drives through the two-horse town.

Very soon we find our white horse running fast down south for our destination today – Shangri-la ( formerly Zhongdian ) along the National Highway G214.

Drive from Deqen to Shangri-la ( Zhongdian )

Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la ( Zhongdian )

The G214 (Yunnan-Tibet Highway ) from Deqin to Shangri-la is de facto a sightseeing avenue, which cuts through the intoxicating Baimang Snow Mountain ( also known as Baima Snow Mountain 白马雪山 ). Lying in the mid-section of Hengduan Mountain, Baima Snow Mountain runs from north to south with 20 peaks over 5000 meters and its highest peak at 5430 meters.

With a relative height of over 3000 meters, Baima Snow Mountai has varied landscapes and rich flora and fauna. Over 10 species of plants under State Protection  such as Circaeasteraceae (星叶草) and Pseudotsuga forrestii (澜沧黄杉) ; Over 30 species of animals under state protction include Dian Golden Moneys, Clouded Leopard and Red Panda. In 1988, Baima Snow Mountain National Nature Reserve was set up.

The G214 Highway runs almost parallel along the permanent snow-capped Baima Snow Mountain for about 100 km and ends at Benzilan Town (奔子栏镇).  Located almost midway between Deqin and Shangri-la, Benzilan Town breaks the road trip up nicely where most travelers would stop for lunch and relaxation. The undulating snow line resembles a galloping horse,  hence Baima Snow Mountain ( literally White Hore Snow Mountain ).

Autumn garnishes Baima Snow Mountain with a palette of colors on its relatively low elevation areas – red, yellow and green and as if you were immersed in multi-colored fairyland.  Just imagine you are driving along a galloping white snow horse and a long fluttering palette!

Now follow us to drive through the magical and stupendous National Highway G214 from Deqin to Shangri-la!

Wow the autumn sky is so blue and high! Under the canopy of the clear autumn sky,  we feel we are driving to the edge of the world, touching the white clouds and flying in the heaven.

The National Highway G214

We feel we are driving to the edge of the world.

The Highway G214 quietly snakes around the forested mountain slopes with colorful autumn hues and a backdrop of the undulating Baima Snow Mountain.

Yunan Tibet Highway

The Highway G214 quietly snakes around the forested mountain slopes

Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve is characteristic of the spatial structure of alpine trees with spectacular horizontal distribution patterns.  Subalpine coniferous forests are distributed at the altitude of 2300 – 3000m meters.

Autumn has turned the forests into a sea of colors, a token of the warm hospitality of the high mountains.

Baima Snow Mountain

Autumn has turned the forests into a sea of colors

We stop for several times on the way to view the multi-colored alpine trees as if the sky had accidentally kicked a huge bucket of paint into the forests.

Baima Snow Mountain Autumn Hues

The multi-colored alpine trees

The 20 snow peaks on Baima Snow Mountain Range escort us through the journey like a galloping horse in relay. We don’t know how many times we stop our vehicle to get a glimpse of the massive and sublime snow peaks.

Baimang Snow Mountain

The massive and sublime snow peak

I use my long-range camera to zoom in the distant summit of the high snow peaks over 5000-meter altitude, scree above the treeline, a sublime scene of rocky, barren and snowcapped mountain peaks.

Baima Snow Peak

A sublime scene of rocky, barren and snowcapped mountain peaks.

Baima Snow Mountain is characteristic of the spatial structure of alpine trees with spectacular horizontal distribution patterns – Subalpine fir, conifers and broadleaves,  alpine coniferous forests, meadows, treeline and scree.

Baima Mountain

Baima Snow Mountain is characteristic of the spatial structure of Plants

Around 4:00 pm, we drive through Benzilan Town lying on the west bank of Jinsha River, a border dividing line river with the east side of the river being Derong County in Sichuan. The town looks very basic and not different from the small Chinese towns. Many travelers would stop at Benzilan Town, a rest stop for lunch and relaxation. We don’t stop at the town for lunch since we eat some snacks we have bought in advance to save the time on route.

But seeing the valley of Jinsha River, bleak, imposing, amazing natural grandeur, Mrs Chen Ya requests her husband to stop for a while to enjoy the panorama of Jinsha River, a  major headwater of the Yangtze River.

Jinsha River

The valley of Jinsha River, bleak, imposing, amazing natural grandeur

Not far further down south, we spot a hamlet on the flat high land circled by the high mountains with a spectacular view. It should be a small Tibetan village.

a hamlet on the G214

A hamlet on the flat high land circled by the high mountains

The drive from Benzilan Town towards Shangri-la is a bit monotonous with Baima Snow Mountain leaving us. The mountains flanking the National Highway looks rocky and bleak. But this doesn’t last long.

While Mr. Chen is steadily driving his white horse, I see through the windshield using my long-rang camera, a sublime view of a glistering lake surrounded by the grassland. Mr. says this is Napa Lake Nature Reserve (纳帕海自然保护区), about 8 km northwest of Shangri-la city center.

Napa Lake Nature Reserve

Napa Lake Nature Reserve (纳帕海自然保护区), about 8 km northwest of Shangri-la city center.

Napa Lake Natural Reserve is the sort of wetland reserve, a tableland seasonal marsh lake. It has the largest grassland in Shangri-la. It is most well-known for its black-necked cranes coming here for winter.

It is a bucolic view – golden barley haystacks hanging on the drying racks with the expansive grassland and the lake.

Barley drying racks

Golden haystacks hanging on the drying racks with the expansive marsh grassland.

Through my side window, I spot some Tibetan farmers plowing a field using manual trucks with horses and sheeps grazing by the side of  golden barley drying racks.

Tibetan farmers

I spot some Tibetan farmers plowing a field

Before we enter the city of Shangri-la, we stop for a while at the viewing platform of Napa Lake on the roadside of the National Highway G214. The sun is setting with reddish reflection on the marsh lake.

Napa Lake

Napa Lake on the roadside of the National Highway G214.

Now back to our vehicle and we are ready to enter the city of Shangri-la, formerly known as Zhongdian. The name change is largely due to the local government’s desire to attract more mass tourists in the same manner of its nearby city of Lijiang.  Shangri-la is a fictional land described in his novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton in 1933.

Under the sun glow,  we slowly drive into the legendary city now officially named Shangri-la, a paradise on earth.

Shangri-la

We slowly drive into the legendary city of Shangri-la.

Any questions on the drive from Deqin to Shangri-la ( formerly Zhongdian),  just drop a line.

Add on:
Lijiang Yunnan Tour
Kawagarbo Viewed from Feilaisi
Drive from Mangkang to Deqin