As the sun sets on Shangri-La we ready our bags for an early flight to Lhasa. Even if people here don’t live for a couple of centuries as in the fictional Shangri-La this town was good to us. Great family style dinners at the CrossRoad guesthouse, local peaks to climb, yak pie and Tibetan disco tunes, what more could we have asked for?
Minds giddy with the thin air of 3200 meters we are closing in on Tibet. Already Yak carcasses are dangling from store fronts and prayer flags are everywhere.
A towering redwood above the apple tree that is Hell’s Canyon in Oregon, Tiger Leaping Gorge soars some 3900 meters above the water of the Yangzi river. The Yulong Xue mountain, i.e. Jade Dragon Snow mountain stands watch with its 5500 meters. Enjoy the sight while it lasts as plans to dam the river will put an end to the excessive beauty of the gorge.
Lijiang is a place of extreme contrasts as hords of affluent Chinese tourist with fat Canons with L-lenses dangling from their necks amble through the narrow alleys of this ancient city come outdoor shopping mall. The stores sell some interesting trinkets that show local color and the bars have women dressed in local tribal outfits dancing to get the crowds pumped up. Outside of town we came upon the giant fault line displaying the force that took down this town in an earthquake in 1996. Still the magnitude of the tourist invasion dwarfs the earthquake in its cultural and societal impact.
The things you discover after spending three or four days in place make it worthwhile to stay long enough to see beyond the surface. On our last morning we met the owner of this impeccably run German bakery. What an opportunity for locals to learn German baking and perhaps set off to run their own business one day.
Enjoy that rice, it was a lot of trouble to grow and harvest.
For all the bustling and excess of the main streets of Dali there are plenty of stories to be learned beyond the surface. The Mosques reminders of a late 19th century uprising to found a Muslim state. Back streets covered in grain to be dried. Uniformed schoolchildren walking in small groups nearly always with the same snacks in hand, three lollypops, four noodle soups, two lotus drinks. The coal delivery team making the rounds to deliver fuel for the nocturnal BBQ feasts. The post office clerk’s initial helpfulness coming to a screeching halt at the strike of 6 o’clock. The elaborate tie dye setups at the staid local museum.
Near the top of the chair lift leading some 500 meters up the slope of Dahei from Dali sits a small temple. After making it through some harrowing bus rides unharmed we had the intention of making a small donation thanking the spirits for their kindness. Curiously we peek into the temple and observe the two monks blessing a Chinese woman. We are invited in with friendly gestures and asked to kneel in front of the gilded Buddha statue and receive a blessing. We are lead off to separate guest books, suspicions rise as we see the entries: Pierre, France – 200 Yuan, Peter, Holland – 100 Yuan, etc. 100 Yuan, that is 20 noodle soups or ten days of lunch for us. Needless to say, Cranky parts with a big red Mao of 100 Yuan but he is able to skip the additional 100 Yuan fee for the little fake Jade Buddha and additional spiritual guidance with polite but sturdy ‘Bu Yaos’. Katja is much tougher and gets away with 50 Yuan on her end of the room. Her monk yells across to Cranky’s monk in disbelieve: ’50 Yuan do you know?’