This was the day we were looking forward to travelling up to Shangrila 3100 m above sea level. We wondered how it would be like to stay at that altitude and the scenery around town up near the top of the world. So with much excitement we got up from bed and prepared to head out for the day.
Our simple breakfast was the pastries we bought from Joy Bakery the night before at Qixing Street in town. Coffee and tea were nice and great with the bakery food. It was still early before 7 am and we had some time to chill out before heading out to the bus station not far from Hilton Garden Inn. Our bus ride would be slightly after 9 am and we were expected to arrive Shangrila around 2 pm.
Around 8.45 am, we checked out and were greeted by the friendly and helpful staff again. The Guest Service Manager was in a meeting so early in the morning. We were told by one of the staff he would be meeting us shortly to give us a ride to the bus station. That was good news indeed.
Not long after, he emerged from the meeting and greeted us heartily and he led us to the carpark and got into a very nice car from the hotel. Soon we were on our way to the bus station and we arrived in about 5 minutes. Having parked his car at the bus station, he helped us contact Bodhi Inn to inform the hotel we were taking a bus to Shangrila shortly and would arrive at 2 pm. He then told us one of the staff from Bodhi Inn would be meeting us at the bus station in Shangrila to bring us to the hotel.
All was well and we thanked this friendly manager from Hilton Garden Inn who made our stay in Lijiang so amazing. All the hotel’s staff were really approachable and their service impeccable. The reason we chose to stay in Hilton Garden Inn was the location along the main road to facilitate our onward journey to Shangrila. The friendliness and helpfulness of the staff here was an added bonus indeed.
So we checked out the surrounding at the bus station after the manager from Hilton Garden Inn left having wished us a great stay in Yunnan. The air was crisp and fresh in Lijiang. At the main road, we could see the unmistakable Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at the distant far end of the road. It was a majestic and lovely sight.
Inside the bus station was a convenience store at the front corner. Passengers were waiting to board buses to head out to various destinations from Lijiang.
We boarded a big bus not long after and were on our way out of Lijiang, this beautiful city in Yunnan. We would return in two days time to continue our visit after spending time up in Shangrila. It was a great day, bright and sunny, as the bus headed north leaving Lijiang behind. We could see Lashi Lake on our right below. It was pretty and pretty peaceful down below, a great day to be out on the lake or horse riding around the lake but we were leaving town.
The bus we were taking was very clean and comfortable. So far, the passengers were pretty well behaved with an occasional passenger answering phone calls loudly. No one smoked on the bus and we were very glad. The ride was rather peaceful and so was the sight outside.
We were travelling on nicely paved highway and passed through some tunnels from time to time. We could see some snow capped mountains in the distance but couldn’t make out what mountains they were. So we passed by farmlands surrounded by mountains as well as rivers. This resembled a little like New Zealand, one of our favourite destinations for a self-drive holiday.
Road traffics were light and the ride was very enjoyable going up the highlands towards Shangrila. About two hours into the journey, we soon crossed the river on our left and we saw the red lettered welcome sign as we entered Shangrila territory. This wasn’t Shangrila City yet and still quite a long way up the mountain road. The turquoise river we crossed over was splendid.
Having made a right turn after crossing the beautiful river, we arrived at a small little town also functioned as a rest stop. All passengers disembarked for a toilet and smoke break. There were small shops at this rest area selling fruits and hot food. We bought some sweet potatoes and peanuts to munch. These hot food was great on a cold day even though the sun was up providing some creature comfort to travellers like us living in the tropics.
Behind the rest area was the flowing river we had just crossed over not long ago. It provided joy for tired passengers looking out at the surrounding mountains relieving aching bones as we stretched out during this break. It was quite inspiring too looking at the distant mountains knowing full well we would be heading up there in about another two hours journey.
We moved off after about 15 minutes. Everyone seemed happy on board especially those who needed to smoke. Smoking has been banned by the Chinese Government not long ago and folks here were trying to get used to this new measure, which is a positive one. The passengers on the bus were not noisy unlike our first bus ride on the medium bus from Kunming to Dali.
We continued this countryside journey under the clear blue sky, a great day for sight-seeing. About 15 minutes into the journey, we arrived at a small town. The river we saw earlier ran through the town. This is where those who wished to visit the Tiger Leaping Gorge might stay for the night. Small hotels and restaurants are available here. The town was very small and soon our bus had passed through and the ride became more scenic.
On our right was the flowing river. The water came down through the gorge and at certain part, the river flow was a rapid. We were still travelling on good paved road uphill now and more winding but still very little road traffic. It was a really nice ride watching the meandering river on our right below and some small waterfalls on occasion.
Now we had left human habitation far behind travelling up the country road. We passed through power stations next to the river on higher ground as well as tunnels. The river was so far below us now it looked so tiny. Mountains were on both sides of us and snow capped mountains were in the distance. We were getting to the top of the mountain plains and the view of the surrounding outside the bus was amazing.
It was passed noon as we approached the city of Shangrila. We could see villages below us while travelling on the higher plains of the grassland. There were animals grazing near rivers below. These animals were yaks of the highland. It was so beautiful and serene up here as we entered Tibetan style land.
We entered the city of Shangrila around 1.30 pm under the bright autumn sun on a cloudless day. The architecture here is the unmistakable Tibetan style. The roads here were wide and traffic was scarce though there were cars around town. Not long after, the bus drove into the bus station in town. So we arrived to the land from the movie of The Lost Horizon.
We took the opportunity to purchase bus tickets in advance for our ride back to Lijiang in two days time. The bus station wasn’t crowded. This was an interesting place, a little backward looking but clean. After purchasing our bus tickets to Lijiang, we went out of the bus station and located the staff from Bodhi Inn.
He was a young man whose face was all radiant with rosy cheeks, not sure whether it was due the climate up here in Shangrila. He was rather tan too. Later, we found out that his name is Xiao Long, the hotel’s manager. The hotel provides free transfer to and from the airport and bus station. His contact number is 13187481010 should anyone needs to reach him if you have booked Bodhi Inn for your accommodation in Shangrila.
He helped us with our bags and led us to his vehicle parked nearby behind the bus station. So we were on our way to Bodhi Inn. The sun was strong and we were sure the ultra violet rays would be punishing us but without the sun, it would be very cold up here with an elevation of over 3000 m. He drove through the city and headed towards the Old Town in Shangrila. We purposely chose our accommodation in the Old Town to explore the place. This Old Town is a famous UNESCO site but part of it was burnt down a year ago. We hope it had been restored sufficiently for some sight-seeing.
After driving about 10 minutes, we arrived at the outskirt of the Old Town and Xiao Long parked the car along the road. He then helped us with our bags and we walked into the Old Town which looked like a warzone. The area here was dug out with pits and drains. It was quite muddy and dusty as well. We had to walk on planks at times balancing ourselves while Xiao Long walked in front of us into one of the streets. In under 3 minutes, we arrived at Bodhi Inn.
Inside Bodhi Inn was a pleasant surprise. It was a totally different world altogether. It was a nice Tibetan style hotel with a very pleasant lady checking us into the hotel. The lobby though small was very warm and cozy with a fireplace nearby. This boutique hotel was beautifully decorated, more like an art gallery. Checking in was smooth and another lady brought us upstairs on the second floor to check out the rooms. We decided to take one of the rooms with two single beds that came with electric blankets and of course electric heater in the room.
The beds looked comfy and clean with typical Chinese style blankets. The room wasn’t big but it was good because the room would be warmer otherwise the heater might be insufficient to keep the room warm for creature comfort. The wall in front of the beds was a table and chair with a small wall mounted TV. Wifi in the room was excellent too. The bathroom was basic but modern with a shower stall plus toiletries as well. Having settled down with our bags, we went back to the small restaurant at the lobby for lunch as it was already nearly 3 pm.
We sat near the fireplace and we ordered a local dish and a western plate of burger with yak meat. We also ordered two bowls of soup, one mushroom and the other a vegetable soup. Ginger tea was free throughout our stay. Our food soon arrived.
The soup was really soup we were unaccustomed to, healthy choice. The vegetable soup was more like chlorophyll drinks, quite raw, not our usual soup we were used to at commercial restaurants. The yak burger was really tough. I was fighting hard with the fork and knife to murder the beast further until I was able to chew properly before swallowing. So our lunch was rather unusual and we were not so used to this taste.
By the time we ended our late lunch, it was already 4 pm. Outside the hotel was so rundown, muddy and dusty while reconstruction works were being done. It was also very noisy with all the equipment working nonstop nearby. So we decided not to venture out to explore the Old Town. Besides, it was a little late and getting cold. Thus we stayed at the hotel lobby to enjoy the ambiance and chatted with the hotel staff.
After that, we returned to our room to rest to watch TV and catch up with the children back home. We didn’t really feel well after lunch and we felt nauseous. We believed altitude sickness might be setting in and getting to our nerves. We tucked ourselves comfortably under the electric blankets and rested till evening time. The meal we had earlier didn’t inspire us or rather our taste might be perverse and unable to appreciate and enjoy the healthy food prepared up on the highlands above 3000 m.
We returned to the lobby restaurant around 8.30 pm. We thought we should try something safer to our taste buds and we ordered pizza. Our pizza came shortly, freshly baked. It looked promising and delicious. However, the taste of the ham was a little different to what we were used to and my wife ate a little and I had to eat whatever I could. So we were unable to finish the pizza. Nevertheless, the free hot ginger tea was very good. We sat by the fireplace again to relax and we watched the hotel staff having a good time over a game of cards. These hotel staff were like a family.
The hotel was rather quiet with very few guests. It was the low season entering winter season where most hotels were closed. We stepped out of the hotel for a quick look around. It was cold and quiet outdoor. The workers had already stopped work. The heavily damaged ground was a sorry sight.
Bodhi Inn was one of the very few businesses that stayed open around the area and it was a lonely sight. The stars up in the heaven were lovely up here so high above other parts of the world. Solitude in the night over here did have its benefits and the stars shinning brightly above us was our comfort for the night in some ways compensating our lost of appetite for food over here. We guessed altitude sickness did cause us some discomfort and changed our senses over smell and taste. It wasn’t the hotel’s fault. The staff were amazing people working happily in this happy land of theirs.
We didn’t venture further and we returned to Bodhi Inn to call it a night. The hotel was so kind to lend us a can of oxygen to leave in our room just in case we needed it. So back in our room, we slipped under the electric blankets again and watched a little more TV. Keeping up to date with the children back home was essential before we concluded the day.
So we had a long day travelling up to Shangrila highland from Lijiang. Along the way, we saw the meandering river from the Tiger Leaping Gorge. It was a great bus ride which was very comfortable with scenic beauty of the scenery along the way, truly a feast for our eyes. Transfer prearranged with the help from Hilton Garden Inn was perfect and trouble free.
Staying at Bodhi Inn was excellent despite the reconstruction work outside and surrounding the edge of the Old Town. The people here were friendly and helpful. Other than the less than satisfactory meals probably due to altitude sickness, we had a great day getting to the land of The Lost Horizon.
We had been to the Swiss Alps on Mount Titlis above 3200 m and were not affected by altitude trouble but over here was a little different at 3100 m. My wife was more badly affected but I was just fine other than some appetite lost. We thought we were acclimatizing well coming up from Kunming to Dali then Lijiang finally up to Shangrila. Apparently, we weren’t sufficiently prepared.
The next day would be a great day for us to explore other parts of Shangrila going up to one of the snow capped mountains above 4500 m above sea level. So we went to bed early to prepare for the challenges and the excitement for the next day. So Shangrila, here we were after such a long time hoping to come.
Continue to Day 6 …