12 Apr China: Shangri-la, The Lost Horizon
In Tibetan, Shangri-la (香格里拉 ) means the “sun and moon in heart”, an ideal home only found in heaven. This place is so mystical even the journey feels dreamlike. Some people seeks only beautiful scenery, but for me, overall atmosphere and vibe play a huge part. I had mates were telling me about their ‘bad’ experience when they went Shangri-la, citing that there was nothing but barren lands when it’s not snowing. I though barren lands could be quite nice as well, depending on your own perception.
“In the early morning of January 11, 2014, a fire broke out in the 1,000-year-old Dukezong Tibetan neighbourhood. About 242 homes and shops were destroyed and 2,600 residents were displaced. About half of the old town was destroyed by the fire, half was spared. After the fire residents were allowed back to their homes and shops. By the end of 2014 rebuilding had started and tourism started to come back. Generally tourism was not affected by the fire, since the main sights in the old town, such as the prayer wheel and temples were not damaged. Many of the other main sights are located outside of the old town.”
After a four hour bus ride, I arrived at the station, alone. By this time, I was not as wary and paranoid as before. I guess you need some luck and guts when travelling solo. I saw a girl alone too and approached her to check if she wanna buddy up with me. Good news for me, she was totally cool about it. She immediately searched for hostels using her local search engines, which, trust me, were a lot easier than our international crap. We settled for a hostel and they sent a driver to pick us up. I need to mention that there were tons of drivers lining outside the station entrance, asking you to ride on their cars.
松赞林寺 Songzanlin Monastery དགའ་ལྡན་སུམ་རྩེན་གླིང་
Undoubtedly the most memorable place for me during this trip. It is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple complex in Yunnan Province. It’s located at the foot of 佛屏山 Foping Mountain, at an elevation of 3380 metres.
When I arrived at the site, I was blown away by its presence. It’s beauty was beyond words. The cluster of temples with golden roofs and embellishments was almost unreal to the human eye. There were gloomy skies on that day and it was a magnificent sight to feast on. Little bells were sounding to the cold winds, tibetan curtains and prayer flags were swaying serenely and crows were cawing and flying above the roofs.
Ironically, it looked like something foreboding was coming up and I love love love that moment.
The interior of the temples was as impressive as the exterior. There were many golden Buddha figures, lamps, scriptures, intricate designs and details on the decorations. It is said that they are collections accumulated from many dynasties and are made by Tibet and Han people. There was a main hall that can accommodate about 1,500 people. Photo-taking wasn’t allowed in the halls.
I know I need to visit Potala Palace in Lhasa after seeing all these.
I wasn’t able to capture the best of Shangri-la due to the stupidest reason. It was too cold. The cold affected me so much that I wasn’t in the condition to bring along my EP3. I shot all my pictures using my iPhone.
But if you’d like to see some amazing views of the place. Here’s a blog I stumbled upon.
石卡雪山 Shika Snow Mountain
It was snowing heavily that night and everywhere was covered with snow the next day. Again, I was lucky because the view along the way to Shika Snow Mountain was astounding. Snow, yaks, the horizon, and dramatic skies: perfect elements for an award winning shot. We dropped off a few kilometres before the snow mountain entrance and had a walk. There was no one along the road and that’s refreshing for a start. We were able to immerse in the tranquility and snap really nice pictures of the area.
Mani stones are stones inscribed with mantra as a form of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism.
“Shika in Tibetan refers to a mountain abounding in red deer, one of the auspicious animals in Tibetan Buddhism symbolizing longevity and justice. Thus the Shika Snow Mountain is regarded as a holy mountain for the local Tibetans.”
The entrance fee is 220Yuan (SGD47) inclusive of a cable car ride up and down the mountain. If you get to know some local friends, they can help to buy cheaper tickets online.
金庙 Golden Temple
This temple could be seen from afar. It’s in Du Ke Zong Old Town. It had a huge golden prayer wheel which required at least 6 men to move.
I didn’t walk the entire Old Town, that was quite a shame. This old town was burned down in early 2014 and rebuilding works have been going on. But truth to be told, I’ve had quite enough of Old Towns.
That afternoon, we carpooled back to Lijiang.