“Does it feel like we’ve been on this bus a bit too long?”, Lee asks.
I’m half asleep, with my head on my backpack. “I’m not sure. How long have we been on? Have we even stopped yet?”
We’re on the bus after a few days in Lijiang, on our way to Hutiaoxia town, the stop off point and start of a Hiking trail over Tiger Leaping Gorge. I check my phone and Lee is right, we’ve either been slow in traffic or we’re already 2 hours later than when we should have gotten off the bus.
The bus stops and it’s apparent that we’re at the last stop as everyone else is getting off. We’ve inadvertently arrived at Shangri-la City!
The city, once called Zhondian, was renamed to Shangri-La at the turn of the century, based on the mystical (and fictional) land of the 1933 novel, ‘Lost Horizon’. The things China will do for tourism!
This is the furthest North-West I have travelled in China. A couple of hours away from the Tibet border and you can feel the influence in the town…..the tibetan prayer flags are scattered and tied to everywhere and everything you can lay your eyes on. Combined with the Sunshine, blue skies, and clear air, it’s a pretty beautiful place…….not the worst mistake we’ve made missing our bus stop!
The town currently is undergoing a lot of construction work due to a massive fire in 2014 which destroyed half of the town. It’s a really strange blend of seeing new buildings being constructed in a really traditional style in order to maintain the appearance of the town.
Me and Lee spent a few days around the town, getting used to the altitude (3200m above sea level……first time I’ve been tired walking up a set of stairs in a while!), I even tried the local specialty – Yak burger!
It was here that I also saw my first prayer wheel. An 80 ft golden tower in the middle of the square which could be spun by a hand rail if the right number of people were pushing together.
Shangri-La was also a pretty lucky stop for me too. I had already used over half of my time for my allocated 30 day stay in China and I was thinking about extending. And a bit of online research informed me that Shangri-La was one of the quickest and pain-free places to do it in China.
As it was the National holiday I had to hang around a few days before anyone would be able to help me out, so me and Lee parted ways for a while – Lee to the Tiger Leaping Gorge with me to follow if and when my Visa was sorted.
While I hung around for the holiday to end, and the day it takes to process my extension, I visited the Baiji Temple, otherwise known as the ‘100 chicken Temple’ due to all the chickens roaming around the grounds. I hill-walk up the side of the town. The temple, flags and view over the city were spectacular…..but I only saw 3 chickens…..
Visa finally sorted, and with the friendly guesthouse owners agreeing to look after my backpack for a few days I take a day sack and head down to Hutiaoxia, also been recently renamed in the name of tourism from Qiaotou…which made researching these 2 places a bit of a problem :-)
This time I get off at the right stop and start the trek on the Tiger Leaping Gorge trail :-)
In contrast to all the blue clear skies and sun I’d had recently, the weather took a turn for the worse. Light drizzly rain all the first day. I was wrapped up pretty well with a raincoat and a waterproof poncho, so the ran wasn’t bothering me to much…..but the mist that came with it was pretty bad and took out nearly all the visibility :-(
One highlight, even int he rain, was all the bizarre little blue warning signs from the fire authorities: “Forest, such as love. Fire on Everyone!”
After 4 or 5 hours, the rain had all but broken me and I tapped out at the Teahorse guesthouse for some food and a place to sleep and dry my clothes for the night. I wasn’t the only one, as I met up with a friendly group of Australian teachers….all of us huddled around the stove with 90% of our clothes and items around it in an effort to thaw out :-)
Fortunately, the next day the weather had cleared up. No rain and the clouds had lifted slightly….it was like a completely different place when it opened up a bit!….still gray….but gorge-ous! (see what I did there?)
Now I ould see a bit better I was also thankful for stopping when I did the previous evening before it got dark…..I now had full visibility of the sheer drops you could just walk off :-)
Amazing experience. Time to get back up on the road and out of the Countryside…next stop is Chengdu City…..a meet up with Lee….and a meetup with some Pandas! :-)