Sunday, April 11, 2010


This morning I got up early, had breakfast and went out to the road to wait for a bus. There isn't an official bus stop here, but the buses do stop frequently. I was accompanied by an Australian couple and at the stop was an English guy. We waited for sometime and when a bus finally did come, it drove right past us. While we were waiting, a guy tried to offer us a ride for 250 yuen. I offered him 200 (50 each) and we were on our way.

The destination was Shangri-La, which is actually a fictional name for Zhongdian. James Hilton's Lost Horizon book is where the name comes from. No one knew he actually based it on a real place. There are actually a few places in the region that claim the name, but according to my guidebook this is actually the place. It's assumed he read about in an early National Geographic article published by Joseph Rock, a famous botanist that had spent years in this area. To attract tourists Zhongdian has now officially been renamed to Shangri-La.

The place is quite beautiful. At 3,200 meters above sea level, it's the highest town I've stayed in. I left my things in the hostel and went out to see as much of the town as I could. While running around, I ran into a Canadian couple that I had met in Lijiang, Ed and Christine. I found out they were going to the Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, a monastery that houses over 600 Tibetan monks. I asked if I could tag along as I was planning to go to the same place.

Going with them was excellent. Christine speaks Mandarin and she was also meeting up with a friend who lives here, so I got to learn quite a bit about the area, people and monastery. We walked around it for most of the day. A lot of it seems to be getting a facelift, which is too bad because I like that older look for the pictures. The monks here are apparently quite well off, they receive pretty good donations from businesses, in exchange for blessings.

The highlight of the day was at the end of our walk. We were invited by a monk into his home. Inside he had us sit around a stove and brought out a plate of baked goods, yak cheese and nuts. Jokingly he offered us some yak milk tea and brought out a bottle of Sprite. We learned a little about him and how he lives in the monastery. It was quite a nice experience.

After the monastery, I went out for dinner with Ed and Christine. We decided to have hot pot, as I had not tried it yet, as well as a few dumplings and pig leg, a local specialty. It was all very delicious.

Shangri-La Town:

The Monastery:


Mandy said...

I was just going to say, it's not a real place! Good that you are finding so many people to travel with.

Anonymous said...

Nice to know that Shangri-La is based on a real place. You have taken some incredible photos on this trip Marko. As much as I love this year's calendar, I really hope you do one next year based on your travels!


Alexandra said...

I'm curious! I was thinking that Monks live a minimalist lifestyle when it comes to material things and owning things! Is this true? What about the well off Monks who receive the donations for blessings! I wonder what kind of lifestyle they live or where this money goes! Would you have learned about any of this in your travels?

Such colorful photos! Thank you for sharing them with us!


Anonymous said...

Do you know the monks are supported by their family, especially the young ones. The entrance was finally finished.


Post a Comment