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Southwestern China & Tibet, May 2006


Shangri-La

As we left the Dali Inn Restaurant, we saw the huge golden prayer wheel of a local temple. The almost 3-storey high golden prayer wheel is lit up at night & is always turning. It shines beautifully golden in the dusk like a magic torch. From here, we made our way to the central square of the ancient town.

The central square of the ancient town is packed with local people who come to the square every evening to dance & exercise together. There is no age limit, young and old, men and women, all dance together. The local people are so keen that many will be around in the square before seven o'clock, when it is all supposed to start. Once the musinc begins, the people will begin to hold hands together to form a little circles. Within minutes the circle will grow as more arrivals join in. There will be circles built within circles. Every type of person is here, women and girls in traditional Tibetan dress next to young women in jeans, young lads and old men, I even saw a a group of soldiers in uniform also joining in the dance. Everybody joins in. They enjoy it every night & they look so happy, and I felt so happy watching it. I wished I had joined in the dance. It was the most happy memory that remains with me for the whole 2 week trip to China and I will forever treasure the lovely, happy people that I saw that night dancing together in the square of the ancient town.

Next morning we drove out of town to visit Bita Hai (Emerald Pagoda Lake). This is a very pleasant outing with a boat cruise around the lake. The best month to visit is June or Oct where the Azelea flowers cover the hillsides in pink, white or purple.

On the way back to town we stopped in a Tibetan village & visited a Tibetan family house. Tibetans are very hospitable & they are always have a warm welcome for visitors into their home. This was just a house that we stopped at random, there was no arrangement. Tony, asked the owner if we could visit their house. We were welcomed in through the white outer wall with an impressive yellow temple roof gate into the courtyard, where a mother and two young boys were woking or playing. One of the young boys led us up the stairs into their house while his little brother carried on playing with his little wooden bench. Tony gave the little boy who led us into his family home a few Yuan. The Tibetan house is built with one door into a massive living room area, dining area & kitchen with sleeping rooms divided by the traditional door curtain. As we were leaving the house the little boy who had been busy with his wooden bench earlier was now crying on his motherís arm, because he had not got his Yuan like his brother. We gave him his Yuan & he stopped crying. As our car drove out of their front drive we saw the little boy running to the shop next door to buy sweets with his money.

After lunch we drove two hours through lovely mountain scenery, water meadows & the upper reaches of the Yangtze River to the mountain monastery, Dong Zhu Lin. The beautiful landscape was constantly changing from rugged mountains to the soft, gentle valleys like a beautiful Chinese silk painting. The narrow, rapid Yangtze River running down through the mountains is earth yellow colour like a dragons tail. The journey itself to the mountain monastery is well worth the trip.

  

Our car was going up & up the mountain to the top where we could see the mountain village houses resting on the mountainside. This whole village is the Dong Zhu Lin Monastery. This isolated monastery is lived in entirely by monks of all ages with no females allowed in the whole monastery except visitors. The mountain village is peaceful, centered on the main temple for worship. All the other houses surrounding the hilltop are lived by monks. Although this monastery is not grand, the simplicity & purity of the beautiful surrounding is unique.

  

That night we went back to the square to watch the local people enjoying their song & dance again. We also went back to the same beautiful courtyard restaurant to try the famous Tibetan dish, the Yak Hotpot. It was our best tour day today.

Next morning we left Zhongdian & drove to Lijiang.

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Golden Prayer Wheel at Shangri-La
Dancing in Shangri-La Old Town
Bita Hai Lake
Tibetan Boy
Dong Zhu Lin Monastery.