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May 22, 2006 – A journey to Zhongdian, China in Asia


Enjoyed the scenic ride to Zhongdian, also known as Shangri-la (the town was renamed). Passed by quite a few minority villages, gorgeous nature scenery, and even the entrance to Tiger Leaping Gorge (at Qiaotou). We even got to witness along the way a gorgeous, colorful Tibetan wedding ceremony in the fields!

passing by Naxi territory

similar scenery to Colca Canyon, Peru

crossing the bridge over the Yangzi River

I actually wasn’t expecting too much when I stepped into the small town of Zhongdian. Once I entered the much-Tibetan-influenced old town away from the modernized area, I got a sense of how quite untouched Zhongdian still is. Yes, souvenir shops and overpriced restaurants line the cobblestone streets. But a major difference is that not as many tourist groups come to visit, in comparison to Lijiang and even Dali. I think it’s because the old town is quite small, consisting only of a few streets and a main square. Plus, the town is pretty much on the outskirts of Yunnan province. Zhongdian is the last major town before heading into Tibet on a treacherous highway that winds through many dangerous, high altitude passes.

What I like about this town is that you can see many local people of many different provinces and minority groups (Tibetans, Naxi, Muslim, Lisu, Shangdong, Sichuan, and a countless few others along with Han) still living in a traditional way of life. It feels much like a step back in time.

locals walking around the entrance of the old town

locals of different ethnic groups gather together each night in the main square and dance clockwise in a circle

In the afternoon of the second day there, took the No. 3 bus to see a Tibetan monastery, Ganden Sumtseling Gompa. Again, wasn’t expecting too much because we’re on our way to Tibet. And again, the view of the glistening gompa perched on top of a hill surrounded by local homes was breathtaking and surreal.

glistening Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, very beautiful and very peaceful

two monks walking on the dirt road by the gompa – one of them is holding a big horn instrument

closeup view of Tibetan-influenced local houses surrounding the gompa

Hope Zhongdian stays the way it is. A Shangri-La.

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