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Shangri La

''a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world...''

sunny 28 °C

There were now 7 of us in the gang! 2 US gals - Camden (who was hilarious) & Jennifer, and 1 UK gal - Ellie had joined us. They were lovely girls altogether - they'd been living in Shanghai and 2 of them had just completed the Great Wall of China Marathon - JAYSUS - Ironwomen.

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton. It is supposed to be a mystical happy land, and believed to be in the Yunann province. Today Zhongdian claims the title of Shangri La (renamed for marketing reasons). The countryside is beautiful and it's a great place to hang out and experience Tibetan culture without all the red tape and hullaballoo of actually trying to get into Tibet.

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Anywho the 7 of us checked into a YHA in Shangri La (check out this artwork on the walls)

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Awesome eh??

Anywho we checked in and came upon Frenchy Trumpet girl sitting on the floor in reception, pouring over pages and pages of maps and notes. She was awesome. Mad as a brush and talked about 300 miles an hour, and with SUCH EXCITEMENT! I liked her instantly. Her name was Martah but I called her Frenchy. She got excited by everything - especially plants! Martah had been volunteering and studying in China for 11 months and once she was finished, she decided to travel around China for a few weeks. She carried her trumpet strapped to her back everywhere and everyone she met asked her to play for them. It started conversations for her (although that would have been no problem to her anyway), opened closed doors for her - i.e. got her into places for free, she went busking with it, played in a bar with some Irish and English guys with it and was just generally awesome. So Frenchy joined our crew and we all went out for another hotpot. Well I couldn't take another hotpot so went for some momos and they were (in the words of Joao) DEELISHHSHHEEYUS.. :D

After dinner we went drinking in the square for a while, we saw a baby do a poo on the street, we threw some shoes around in some sort of naf competition, and then realised we had a curfew and had to go back to our hostel. Myself, Frenchy, Stef & Joao stayed up drinkin, laughin and being eejits on the rooftop which was great craic altogether. (Don't we need this filter? Yes we do! - ha!)

Next day we pottered around Shangri La and went up to the big temple.

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I liked Shangri La a lot better than Lijiang. SL was a bit quieter and less obviously pretendy Chinesey. (If that makes sense) The temple was cool and I sat and had a look out over the city, enjoying the silence. I heard some noise coming from the Giant Twirly Prayer yoke and took this to mean people were trying to push it round 3 times (for good luck?,blessing - I forgot to find out. I expect you have noticed my lack of facts in the last few posts - my apologies - i'm too busy having a good time to find out all the answers!)
Anywho we rushed to join in and push the big prayer wheel round. Loads of people started out pushing it, but then half of the buggers jumped out half way through, so while the first push around was easy, the second was harder and the third (with only about 7 of us left) was nigh on impossible. But we JUST about made it. :) YAHOO!!!
I felt pretty lucky and blessed by this achievement (although I have felt that way for most of my trip).

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Lunch was skewers of stuff at the market. It was nom. There were skewers of mushrooms, spring onions, yak, potato, chorizo, courgette and big chilli peppers - all covered in spicy pepper. DROOL. It was amazing, although our mouths were on fire afterwards.

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Back at the hostel we hung around for a bit playing Brain Trivia where myself and Stef got a WHOPPER SCoRE OF 7900!! NEW WORLD (lisa) RECORD.

Posted by squeakylee 05:05 Archived in China Tagged culture la prayer tibetan shangri yokes Comments (0)

Shangri La - The Tibetan Monastery

sunny 28 °C

When the girls and Chen returned back to the hostel, the gang of us trotted off to the bus stop to try and stay overnight in the big Tibetan Monastery nearby.

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The aim was to get in free, so we left at 6pm and were hoping the guards/ticket dudes would be off duty by then. Chen had chatted to some other Chinese young people at the bus stop who told him the way to get in free was to hitchhike in with the locals. So, when we got to the ticket entrance office, we pretended not to hear the ticket dude shouting at us and walked towards the monastery village area in search of a lift.
Another ticket dude came out and collared us though, and asked us for our (pretend) hotel booking details. He told us we couldn't stay AT the monastery itself, there were only expensive hotels near it - yadda yadda yadda.

The three girls and Chen went in to the ticket office to see what information the ticket dude had. I'd learnt ages ago to let those who want to handle things, handle them, so I sat outside with Frenchy. We saw 2 Chinese people who were at the bus stop flag down a local's car and hitch a lift into the village. So hitchhiker extraordinaire Stef decides we would do that too. He told the girls our sneaky plans and the four of us, Me, Frenchy, Joao and Stef jumped into a passing car and got a lift up to the monastery. :D Success!! BUT there was another ticket checking office at the entrance to the monastery. DAM! I snuck into the monastery via the toilet, but when all four of us tried to sneak in, we got caught 'rapid'.
However Frenchy and her magic trumpet saved the day! The lads at the ticket office asked her to play a tune for them and she did and they rewarded us with free entry! Meanwhile the girls and Chen were still back at the ticket office trying to hitch hike up.

We had a good 40 minutes wandering around the monastery - it was really cool. There didn't seem to be any place for us to stay the night there though. Frenchy got talking to one monk and he let us into see the Big Buddha and the monks chanting. It was all very cool and spiritual (dunno if that's the right word) and I felt a bit teary eyed and emotional. The monks looked like they were having a great time though, chatting and laughing away during chanting time.
The artwork on the walls was amazing - so detailed and extravagant. There were various incarnations of Gods getting jiggy with it, vultures eating the intestines of deadmen, nudey men and women, and lots of other cool weird stuff. It was pretty epic and the monastery itself had a great view of the surrounding village and lake.

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The girls and Chen finally arrived! They had agreed to stay at some local dude's gaff and have dinner there, in return for a lift up to the monastery. They went in for a look at the monastery and I went for a walk around the lake, which had cool viewing points of the monastery in the middle of it. I met some awesome locals on the way around the lake and had a right good mime/chat to them.

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Later the gang of us went to the local dude's house for a dinner of vegetables, slices of FAT (really!!), rice, Yak butter tea (ew), Yak Cheese (equally ew) and other stuff.

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I wouldn't be a big fan of the Yak dairy products now - they taste like you're just taking a bit chompy bite out of a rather stinky Yak.
The guy's house though was amazing.

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He had lovely wooden features and details everywhere, big copper pots for cooking in and fabulously big bedrooms that would accommodate all 8 of us. The weird thing was the toilet which seemed to be out the door and down the road - it was literally a shit hole. :D All the neighbours used it as well as Joao found out early the next morning.

We got up at stupid o Clock the next day to go and see the sunrise and walked around the lake to a viewing point so we'd have a good view of the sun rising up and shining on the monastery. We sat in the morning darkness and waited. And waited. And waited. There was no sunrise! There was however some duck-lovin' going on nearby that kept us amused for a while before we had to return to the gaff for a breakfast of delicious bread and spicy eggs.

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We returned to the moastery to explore a bit more in the morning sunshine (it appeared eventually) and after another hour or two decided to hit the road back to our hostel in Shangri La and get my backpack. Stef was hitchhiking to Lijiang for the craic and I thought it would be fun to try it out. I'd never hitchhiked before and Stef (who'd hitchhiked around the block a bit) seemed like a good person to go with. He was confident enough, he'd done loads of hitchhiking before, he was good fun and mega tall so could easily take on a few Chinese who might get a bit rowdy! ;)

We had to bid adieu to the US girls (We said we might see them in Lijiang if we were successful with the auld hitchhiking), and we had to say goodbye to Joao and Frenchy who were staying on in Shangri La. I was pretty sad to say goodbye to Joao who was an awesome travelling chum, great fun and a super nice guy - and also of course to Frenchy who was delightfully bonkers. Chen had decided to try and hitchhike to Daqin so we said goodbye to him too. But I had a feeling we'd not seen the last of Chen! :)

Posted by squeakylee 05:26 Archived in China Tagged sunrise la dinner for monastery duck yak tibetan fat shangri lovin Comments (0)

Hitchhiking from Shangri La to Lijiang...

sunny 30 °C

So we set off. I couldn't stop smiling and giggling, which I attributed to nerves and lack of sleep. Stef however was as cool as a cucumber, him being a hitchhiking pro an' all, and he was confident we'd have no problems getting to Lijiang by 4pm. We'd told the US / UK ladies, who were getting the bus to Lijiang, that we'd see them later, and now we reallllly wanted to get to Lijiang before them. :D It was a beautiful sunny day and the view from the side of the dusty highway was quite nice.

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So we walked for maybe 20 minutes or so before a chap in a van, with no seats in the back, stopped for us. Stef did his best (and amusing) hitchhiking routine, involving lots of small questions and big hand gestures!

Stef: ''Lijiang?? You go to Lijiang?? We come with you?? little bit? small bit? We come? Ok? We get in? ''

It worked anyways, yer man let us in to the back of his van but said he could only take us to the intersection as he worked in the hospital nearby. ''Grand job'', we said.
Yer man didn't say much, but he did offer Stef a smoke. Not me though. Apparently women don't smoke, or maybe aren't supposed to in China. So he brought us maybe 10 minutes or so down the road to the big roundabout/intersection, where we got out and perched ourselves on the corner, munched on some nuts and stuck our thumbs out every now and then when cars went by.
(I thought of that Felix the Housecat track - ''(Standing on the corner) Watching cars go by'', numerous times. :)

Finally some cool dude wearing a cap and sunglasses, smoking a cigarrette and carrying a tray of red bull in the back seat gave us a lift. (I paid special attention to what was in the back seat of everyone's car - juuuussst in case. ;) ) This guy wasn't going far either but he was pretty chatty and offered us a smoke and we attempted to chat to him using various apps and bad pronunciation. We told him we were on our honeymoon for a bit of a laugh. HA! :D He brought us another 15 minutes or so down the road before he had to go to turn up another road towards some big pipes to go to work.

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We were only just ouf of that car when another dude in a white van pulled over and after Stef's routine, offered to take us another bit of the way. ''This is great'' I thought.... ''and so easy''!
This dude had fake grass on his dashboard, Chinese cowboy music playing loudly and a SAWEEEET pair of blue shoes on him. We didn't understand him at all really, but he stopped to do his shopping in this tiny village for a while and left us alone in the van. LOL. We gave him a hand getting his shopping into the boot. I really thought this guy must have been going to take us a long way, seeing as how he stopped to do his shopping and all!

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He dropped us off at the DEATHZONE - aka an odd mall full of animal furs, bones, horns, gizzards and all sorts of other weird shit. Grim. Anyway too many buses were pulling in in where we were standing so we mosied on down the road til Stef spotted a ''great hitching spot'' down the road. I lolled.

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We waited here for about 15 minutes before 2 young lads in a car picked us up and gave us a lift all the way past Qiataou! ''BACK IN THE GAME'', I thought. We were in the backseat yapping away to ourselves and probably should have made more of an effort to talk to our drivers but were having a good laugh so didn't really think of it. We were mega lucky too as it pissed rain most of the time that we were in their car, and then just stopped before we got out. :D

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Once again, the minute we got out of their car, we got picked up by an old dude in a truck. This was a mixed blessing as the truck was very slow and lost us a lot of time in our effort to get to Lijiang by 4pm. It didn't help that he got stopped by the Police and fined for not wearing a seat belt. :D He dumped us off at the outskirts of Lijiang and Stef did his routine on this little dude who was driving a tiny trailer. It was so funny. This guy did not want to take us at all but Stefan kept going with his ''little bit pleaseeeee'' routine. Who could resist his handsome face, big cheesy grin and boundless enthusiasm? Well not this guy! ;) Yer man caved in and let us in to his trailer and dropped us about 100 metres up the road before dumping us out again. BWAHAHAHAHAHA
We thanked him profusedly and he drove off. Then we saw him at the traffic lights!! GOING IN OUR DIRECTION!! So Stef points at him as if to say ''you ARE going our way? Why did you dump us off??''
SOooooo yer man let us back into his trailer again for another 5 minutes! He ditched us again just outside the old town and Stef unwittingly took the guys water bottle from the trailer, thinking it was his own. ahahahhaahhaha. I'd say yer man was thinking..''Robbing my feckin water now as well??? WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT FROM ME YOU FOREIGNERS??!!''..

We wandered on and stopped for some momos and who should walk by? Only the 3 girls! They were pretty shocked to see us and I think mega impressed. ;) We agreed to meet up later but I got the impression they were getting into nighttrain mode and we mightn't see them that night. We trundled back to Soh's place for the night and I checked in. We had a wash and went for some food and then met the rest of the gang at Panba hostel before another night of singing and bongoing in Soh's Private lounge. It was great fun. I'd say that was probably the best travelling day I've had on this trip. It was brilliant craic. I was pretty sad to have to say goodbye to my awesome Dutch friend and would have liked to have gone hitchhiking again the next day with him to Lugu lake. However we all have different paths to take and mine involved sorting out my feckin visa extension before I got kicked out of China. : )

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Posted by squeakylee 05:44 Archived in China Tagged la highway sunshine lijiang shangri hitchhiking dusty routine stef's hilarious Comments (0)

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