Without the sun, everything becomes a haze. It’s like one’s consciousness, when the light shines everything becomes clear. Shangri-la is thought to be a mystic place, perhaps one that doesn’t even exist! Known in Chinese as Xianggelila (香格里拉), it is a faraway place in the northern tip of Yunnan Province, very much near to Tibet. Hence, no, it is not a myth but a mystery to most.
As widely as I’ve traveled, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I set foot in Shangri-la & I promised myself that I’ll be back next Spring or Summer. Shangri-la is best experienced in warmer weather; when the sun is bright & the land is dry. This is a place where one is in touch with nature. Nature transforms not only the land but one’s experience with Shangri-la. Blue sky, clouds & dry weather will guarantee one an awesome experience. Nature also plays a big part in the lives of people in Shangri-la. Not only do they gain spiritual peace by offering prayers to nature, they also trust their after-lives to nature.
Xianggelila (aka Shangri-la) is a mountainous region in Yunnan province, China. To get to Shangri-la, take a direct flight from international cities like Hong Kong, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to Kunming. There are also countless flights domestically from major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou or Shenzhen. Then connects to Shangri-la from there. Another alternative is flying from Lhasa direct.
The flight to Kunming is less than 2 hours from Hong Kong, Guangzhou & Shenzhen. About the same amount of time from Shanghai. Then another 1 hour flight from Kunming to Xianggelila.
The slightly cheaper as well as interesting way to go is to fly to Lijiang (another world heritage city) and then take a 4 hour bus from Lijiang to Shangri-la. Along the way, stop at Hutiaoxia (虎跳峡, Tiger Leaping Gorge), an awesome gorge midway between Lijiang & Shangri-la.
From Lijiang, one can venture into many scenic locations. One of them being Luguhu (泸沽湖). It is reported to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Luguhu is northeast of Lijiang and the locals who live there are known as the Muosuo clan. In Muosuo custom and tradition, women are the “men” in the house. They are the heads of the families and they hold a high rank in the society. I haven't been yet but I've heard Luguhu (aka Lake Lugu) is amazingly serene and beautiful. I've always had the impression that it's like Lake Titicaca.
Yes, indeed the sights are out of this world. The thing to keep in mind in traveling to this part of the world is that time is the essence. One needs a lot of flexibility as well as a relaxing mindset. Discover whatever that comes your path and you'll enjoy this journey more than trying to have a fixed idea of what to see and whom to meet!
Shangri-La is certainly not for the ordinary nor is it for those who only want the convenience of a city. It is however a place for those who want out of the ordinary and those who have a sense of adventure! A paradise you didn't know existed!
My visit was affected by the rain which the local claimed was unusual in October. Rains have poured more than usual in China this year, even in the highlands of Yunnan and Tibet. Otherwise, during the two days when the sun decided to grace us with its presence, this is a beautiful area with lots of sightseeing to do. So, the trick is to go when it's warmer, ie. May to Sep. I was told during these months, the land is filled with lots of flowers and pastures, a sight to behold. Hence, the idea is … more
The town is split between Tibetan and Han Chinese residents, as well as a fair smattering of Naxi, Bai, Yi and Lisu, with the surrounding countryside entirely Tibetan. While the crass name change in 2001 was a sign of the desire for increasing mass tourism a la Lijiang, the town has got nowhere near Lijiang's crowds, and it's still possible to experience the area's Tibetan heritage and see gorgeous countryside in near isolation.
Zhongdian was renamed Shangrila for marketing reasons. Signs in bus stations still use Zhongdian. There is also a third name in Tibetan, Gyelthang. The original Shangrila, from James Hilton's novel The Lost Horizon, was a (fictional) hidden paradise whose inhabitants lived for centuries. Hilton (who never went to China) located his Shangri-La in the Kunlun mountains. However, elements of his story were apparently inspired by National Geographic articles about various places in eastern Tibet (including Zhongdian); hence China's rationale for claiming the name.