May 25, 2010

Last Bus to Shangri-La

Darkness had encroached by the time I arrived in Shangri-La on the last bus of the day. I was completely soaked from my rain filled adventure in Tiger Leaping Gorge. My backpack was ripped beyond repair. Shivering with cold, I walked in to town holding my damaged rucksack and wet articles of clothing in my arms. Although the temperature was several degrees above zero, I could feel the Himalayan chill permeating my rain ravaged body. My first order of business was bargaining with the local shopkeepers for a coat to replace my wet one. I negotiated from a position of weakness, but still walked away with a satisfactorily priced jacket with the words 'Jack Wolfskin' emblazoned upon it. The old town consists of only a few streets, so I found my hostel with relative ease and dropped off my few remaining belongings there. I filled my stomach with some yak meat at a Tibetan diner and called it a night.

The next morning I rose early, purchased a backpack, and wandered the streets. It dawned on me that Shangri-La resembled a movie set more than an actual town, with saloons, shops selling trinkets, and Tibetan temples alternating in an almost predictable fashion. In fact, the town I was in had been known as Zhongdian until 2001. It was renamed after the mythical Shangri La from James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon to attract more tourists. The modern day Shangri La still has a certain charm to it, and I enjoyed my few days there before heading off to Dali.


"I think I'm going to like it here." ~ Robert Conway, Lost Horizon