Shangri-La

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Shangrila is in Yunnan Province.

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Points of Interest in Shangri-La

  • Old Town. The old town is rapidly being turned into a mini-Lijiang, complete with endless shophouses selling tourist trinkets (including fake tiger skins and counterfeit North Face jackets), minority costumed dancers and too-clean streets. However, there are still plenty of small charming streets to explore. The temple at the top of the hill gives a free taste of what can be seen in Songzanlin Monastery. The nightly dancing in the square beginning at 20:00 is popular for locals of all ages, and anyone is welcome to join in. The whole thing lasts for an hour and each song has its own set of moves choreographed by Raihan Zhang. As of April 2012, the nightly dancing seemed to start earlier, at 19:00, and last for much longer than one hour (lasting from two to four hours). The old town seems to have been entirely destroyed by a giant fire the night of 10th-11th January 2014.
  • Songzanlin Monastery (松赞林寺; Sōng​zàn​lín​sì​; Tibetan: Ganden Sumtseling Monastery) (On a hill a few kilometers north of town, take bus 3 (the green buses) heading north for ¥1, or a taxi for ¥20, it is the last stop). Impressive structure becoming less of a monastic institution, more of a tourist destination. The temple was restored by an architect named Xu Wei Han in 2005 to reflect its past glories. New restoration are done (still pending in nov 2011) which could limit access to some parts of the monastery.

The third floor of the Tsongkapa Temple has a small room with a resident Lama giving blessings to worshippers.

Away from the large Tsongkapa and Sakyamuni Temples are two smaller ones which are worth visiting. If you are facing the main temples, they are just to your left down the hill towards the large white chorten.

The one closet to the chorten is a Bon temple, the religion which predates Buddhism's initial acceptance in Tibet during the 9th Century A.D.. Bon emphasizes the protective forces of nature, especially of mountains, and includes Shamanism and elements of black magic.

The second has some of the best artwork in the Monastery. From the second floor, you can access the roof for a commanding view of the area. There is a Bon temple on this floor as well with some fairly dark demonic images. In the courtyard lies a very old Tibeten Mastiff who has lived there since he was born in 1994!

The chorten itself is worth a walk to and is arguably one of the more important places for local people to worship on the Monastery grounds. It was built in 1981 in honor of the 10th Panchen Lama's visit to Shangri-la for the opening of the newly restored Monastery which had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. For local Tibetans the 10th Panchen Lama is considered one of the most important religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism. You can see his portrait throughout the Monastery. Take a walk around it clockwise, spin its prayer wheels, and have a fabulous view of Shika Snow Mountain from its west side.

On the way down the long stairs leading to the main entrance/ exit of the Monastery are several smaller temples. They are quite interesting and few tourists visit them, especially the one to the right as you descend the stairs towards the entrance. Look for its beautiful rose garden.

Bus 3 goes direct to the Monastery, filled with pilgrims. For foreign passengers the bus driver will stop at the ticket office and gesture wildly for you to buy a ticket and may not let you continue onwards unless you do. Monks claim the ticket revenue goes to tourist company and not the Monastery. ¥85 (¥55 for students aged under 25).

  • Pudacuo (or Putacuo) National Park. It's advised to take at least half if not full day to visit the park. 190¥ admission fee + transport or tour.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery

Tiger Leaping Gorge

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About Shangri-La

Background

The town is split between Tibetan and ethnic Han 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.

Local Khampa Tibetans claim that the name Shangri-la was most likely derived from their word for paradise "Shambala," by Hilton through exposure to Rock's writings on the region.

Activities

  • Old town. Wander the old town at the south end of town.
  • Horses. Tibetan horses are available for hire outside of town. Taxi drivers should know how to get there.
  • Biking around Napa Lake (5 km. west of the Old Town, just over the hill on Dawa Lu.). Rent a mountain bike and ride out into the grasslands west of the Old Town near Napa Lake. There are checkpoints on the road that stop bikers and ask them to buy a ¥60 Napa Lake Ticket. It is possible to avoid this depending upon where you ride, however villagers can get aggressive if they stop you and you refuse to pay. Do not attempt to ride the full 30 km. around the lake because the road on the far side near Napa Village is heavily under construction.
  • Nixi Tibetan Village (30 km. north of Shangri-la.). Archaeological evidence shows that the Tibetan tradition of crafting pottery in Nixi Village dates back at least 2,000 years. Visit the master potters and learn to make the pottery; have lunch in a traditional Tibetan home; take a walk or hike around this scenic village.
  • Private homes. Visit the homes of local people. Many of the locals open up their homes to tourists. They ask for a small fee to compensate for the food. You can hang out with the family, and the younger adults will lead you to ride horses in the open field. Mind you the Tibetan horses are trained, but they can be very unfriendly towards strangers.
  • Skiing (About 15 minutes west of town on Shika mountain). Closed Apr-Sep. A new ski resort has opened. T-bars and chair lifts available. Price starts at ¥160 (including all equipment, fees) for 2 hours.
  • Countryside. Hire a vehicle for a few hours to just explore the countryside, or rent bikes and go see the surrounding villages.
  • Shika Mountain (石卡山; Shí​kǎ​shān; also known as Blue Moon Valley (蓝月谷; Lán​yuè​gǔ​)​). Climb the mountain or take cable car (¥220, 45-minute ride to the top).
  •    Thin Air Adventures, Old Town, Shangri-la,  18687645054. Thin Air Adventures provides horseback riding and guided mountain biking tours in the area's surrounding Shangri-la (Zhongdian). Office is located in the old town above The Compass Cafe. Open April to the end of November.
  • Golden Dragon Street Gallery (Next door to Raven Hot Pot).
  • Tianshenqiao Hot springs (天生桥). Natural outdoor amphitheatre. Public bath mostly chinese, women may feel uncomfortable. A bit expensive. ¥20 per person park entry fee plus ¥80-¥200 per person for public/private hotsprings.
  • Xiagei Hot Springs (下给). Private rooms ¥30-¥40.


Food

  • Arro Khampa ! (阿若康巴), Pijiang po, Old Town,  +86 133 8887 3878, e-mail: damienmcr@yahoo.fr. 7/7, 09:30-22:30. Tibetan cuisine. Run by a Franco-Chinese couple, Damien and Ting, Arro Khampa is a local restaurant housed in an authentic two-storey Tibetan house situated right in the middle of the Old Town. The restaurant offers a wide range of classic Tibetan dishes and nice French wines. Its Tibetan-French raclette is unique in Yunnan.

-Directions: Exit the Dancing Square towards the south-east. Directly on your left you should see the Compass "In & Out" Bakery. Opposite Bakery, take the street sloping uphill (Pijiang Po). After 100 yards along Pijiang Po, where the road starts sloping downhill, Arro Khampa is on your right.


  • Bhaskar's Kitchen, Dawa Road, across from old town entrance and car park, Old Town (Between old town and new town, is Dawa Road, and Bhuskar's Kitchen is just around the corner from the supermarket and Noah's cafe),  +86 15184990110, e-mail: dkelden@hotmail.com. 7/7, 08:00-24:00. Himalayan cuisine. Rated the top eatery in Shangri-la, Bhaskar's Kitchen has a reputation throughout Yunnan for the quality of its food, due largely to its chef: Nepalise chef Bhaskar, who prepared fresh a variety of Nepalise, Indian and Tibetan dishes. Authentic cuisine, cosy atmosphere and friendly staff make it place for travellers, foreigners living in town, monks, musicians and locals. Best dishes are the curries. The Indian chai tea is also sought after.
  • Compass Cafe (In the old town, just next to the old town square). Serves excellent authentic Western food (homemade spaghetti sauce!) and delicious cakes. Equiped with an Espresso machine. Cozy atmosphere, it has several heaters and is great for family. Free wireless available. Recently opened a bakery "In & Out" next door selling breads, muffins and other savouries.
  • Karma Cafe (In the old town). Good food and hospitable staff. Owner Afang speaks perfect English. Not located in busy old town but off the beaten path. Tibetan house and meals, though western meals are also served. Rooms available, though only two rooms.
  • Hiker's Coffee (徒步者之家咖啡), Room 409, Building 8B, Huajun Square, Changzheng Road, Shangri-La, Diqing, Yunnan, China (Walk to Old Town for only 2 minutes),  +86-13378876480 +86-0887-8228900. 06:30-23:00. Established by an after 80s boy of Shanghai, Charles Tang. He loves hiking very much. You can take bus No. 1 or No. 3 to "Huajun Square". "Huajun Square" is just across from "Sto Express". If you raise your head, you can just see four Chinese words "华骏广场". Then follow the arrow on the map and find "Building 8B". After reaching the 4th floor, you will turn right in the hallway and get to "Hiker's Coffee" immediately. Business Scope: Western Food, Coffee, Drink, Shanghai Food. Shanghai Pan-fried Steamed Bun(生煎馒头) and Pork Dumping(小笼包子) are very good.(¥20 for big ones) ¥30.
  • Hongxin Restaurant (红心餐厅; Hóng​xīn​cān​tīng​), Heping Road (Across from the big Longfengxiang Hotel). Decent restaurant, serves some Tibetan dishes (baba, pipa meat).
  • Korean Restaurant (also known as Yak Bar). Tasty Korean fare including seafood pancakes, sushi, zucchini rolls, table-top bbq, bibimbap. They rent bikes from the front of restaurant (¥20-30), and the boss even has a private stash of higher quality mountain bikes in storage for a slightly higher rental price. He will give you his cell number and come out to help you if you have any trouble with the bikes.
  • Momos (Enter the Old Town from the lower entrance 50m on the left). Serves Nomadic style momos (Tibetan Dumplings) and great Sichuan Food. Comfortable and friendly.
  • The Olive (previously Noah Cafe and Inn) (挪亚). Best western food in town. Also Middle Eastern food. Free Wireless available. Their guest house is just across the street.100m west of the old town square.
  • Puppet Restaurant, Old Town Street,  +86 887 8225485, 13988782100. Great Tibetan food in a warm and friendly atmosphere, although there is only one page of the Tibetan food in their menu. They also serve Indian and Korean cuisine. Full of locals rather than tourists. If you have a sweet tooth, 奶渣炒面团 is worthwhile trying.
  • Qionglai Restaurant (邛崃餐厅), Wujin Road (Not far from Paradise Hotel). Great Sichuan dishes.
  • Sean's Cafe No 2, North Gate Street, Old Town (40 metres from the car park, up a flight of stairs, look for the English sign). Opens 06:30. Authentic Tibetan food, great for breakfast. The Tibetan porridge and yak cheese dumplings are recommended. Daisy, daughter of the Tiger Leaping Gorge's Sean, speaks great English and can give good local travel advice.
  • The Shangri-La Yak Cheese Shop, No. 3 Chi Lang Shuo, Old Town (Next to So Ya La and across from Fragrant Valley Coffee),  15987595185. 10:00-22:00. A specialty cheese shop that produces locally sourced yak cheese with Western methods. Great selection of local wines to pair with the cheese, as well as a wide selection of cheese-inspired local and Western dishes.
  • Soyala Tibetan Diner & Bar, Cangfang St 1 (in old town, next to the white stupa). Burgers, patties and dumplings are made with free range 100% organic Yak meat and burger buns are prepared daily. The restaurant staff are former residents from the Children Charity Tendol Gyalzur in both Shangrila/Gyalthang and Duilong/Lhasa. The owner is a Swiss-born and educated ethnic Tibetan married to a local Tibetan. Good pizza, great Lentil soup, and tasty Shangrila brand beer (go unfiltered).
  • N's kitchen, old town,5 meters to main squre. Bread served by french bakeer,Good quality western food,nice breakfast menu,cozy place with sunshine design.Best yak burger in town. ¥18-60.
  • Yunnan Mountain Heritage Center, Old Town (Behind Old Town Temple Hill),  0086 887 822 7742. 10-6. A locally-run non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Yunnan heritage, the YMHC features a shop selling local traditional handicrafts from the Tibetan, Yi, and Naxi peoples and a Small Library with books in Chinese, Tibetan, and English. Volunteers from across China and abroad contribute to a diverse and lively environment, teaching free English and Chinese classes to local Tibetans, hosts community events, and supporting local environmental initiatives.

Drinks

  • Black Pottery Coffee (黑陶咖啡), Old Town, Cang Fang Street, #5 Chi Lang Gang (Just below the giant prayer wheel in the east end of the Old Town, and up the street from the large white stupa / 白塔 / chorten),  (0887) 823-0447. The owners of Black Pottery Coffee, Russ & Kesang, know the region well, so you can get up to date travel information and arrange local excursions with them. They specialize in day trips to Kesang's village, and trekking at Meili Snow Mountain 梅里雪山 (Kawa Karpo). Kesang, Russ, and their daughter Fei Fei, will make you feel welcome in Shangri-la, and help you plan your adventures there. The Cafe offers coffee and cake, wine by the glass, creamy hot chocolate, and ginger tea, as well as Tibetan, Chinese and Western food specialties. Try their Tibetan Hot Chocolate 藏热巧克力 (with rum; espresso optional). Free Wireless Internet.
  • Traveller's Club (旅行者俱乐部). Recently renovated. Friendly boss Wandou. Located just north of the old town.
  • Raven Cafe/Bar (乌鸦酒吧) (Walk into the old town from the main entrance, when your reach the main square cross it diagonally and take the path up the hill, 50 m on your right). Opened in 2002 by a Brit and an American and two locals. The first bar (or business of any kind) still running in the Old town (the "Cow Bar", now closed, was the first), this place is a nice surprise. Good coffee (roasted on the premises), heart threatening hot chocolate, homemade cakes, quesadillas, imported beers and all manner of cocktails. A hub for local Tibetans and resident foreigners. They've got wireless. Pool table upstairs. Hours 11:00 till last man standing
  • Tashiis Lodge/Guesthouse. Where European cuisine malanges with a quiet gentle breeze of Tibetan infuence. It is pretty good, bur who's goes the food though??
  • Helen's Pizza Ristorante, Dawa Road Zhong Dian (On the left just past the main junction at the bottom of the hill as you enter town from the south. Opposite the square on the edge of the old town.),  0887-8224456, e-mail: Aqiu666@yahoo.cn. When you feel like a respite from local food the friendly and helpful English speaking Italian owner serves authentic pizzas and pastas.The homemade tagliatelle is particularly good. And best pizza in Yunnan. Serves also Chinese and Korean food and excellent curries and Indian tee. The stove at the window table is very comforting on a cold night and the owner is very willing to give advice and help with onward travel etc.
  • Marco Polo, Opposite the Raven Pub (Take top left turning out of square and first right - about 50 metres). Excellent Western Food at reasonable prices. Good pizza. Opened in July 2010 and run by Dawan who set up N's Kitchen and restaurant and established the western menu there.

Shopping

The city is famous for Tibetan jewelry, yak tails, Nixi pottery, Yi lacquerware, Dried matsutake mushroom and Tibetan medicinal herbs. Very good Tibetan incense. For shopping the new town is better than the old, cheaper prices. There is no problem to find an ATM (one near the "entrance" of the old district).

  • Dropenling Tibetan Handicraft Center, Old Town (Next to Long March Museum),  136 589 133 23. 10 - 8. A non-profit Social Enterprise handicraft project selling high-quality, authentic Tibetan handicrafts from over 500 artisans, both local in DiQing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and from the Tibet Autonomous Region. All profits are reinvested into the sustainability of the enterprise and the Tibetan artisan community in the form of technical and business training, business loans, and product design and development consultation. Premium.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Shangrila on Wikivoyage.

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