The city of Shangri-La is officially called Deqen, meaning “A place of blessings”. The city is a small but very beautiful place in the lap of lush green mountains and lined with sparkling streams. The town has a very warm feeling to it and the people (mostly Tibetan origin) were very warm as well. They are Buddhist by religion and they really believe in all the good things that the religion preaches. Our guide was a Tibetan Buddhist as well, and he taught us many good things what the religion stands for. We loved the conversations thoroughly.
Do see the post about the journey from Lijiang to Shangri-La. It is simply breathtaking and one that should tried not to be missed especially if coming with an extra day of travel.
Click here to go back for Enroute to Shangri-La experience(opens in new window).
Monasteries in Shangri-La
First things first, the city of Shangri-La is actually and officially called Deqen and even the city airport, though now called Shangri-La airport, is still listed as Deqen when you try to book your tickets. Shangri-La was a famous name of an ultra beautiful but mysterious city visited and highly spoken about by one English traveller to the region who wrote about it but could not exactly remember the location. Well, Shangri-La did somewhat resembled the description mentioned in the book and hence was found the famous city of Shangri-La. Disclaimer: this was as told by our guide.
Shangri-La has three prime things to interest – monasteries, national park and the Baishui Terrace, although the last one was a bit of a disappointment for the time and additional price you pay.
Staying in the Shangri-La town, there are many things to do. Roam around and see the city and its temples, shop around for tea, leather and other animal parts’ made stuff, restaurants of course and saffron!
Song Zhangling Monastery
This monastary is about an half hour drive from the town and one of the most famous and revered one in the town. The place can be a bit busy in the peak season (which is when we went as well) but the serenity and tranquility inside the monastery was very soothing and relaxing.
One piece of advice – when visiting such places which are either religious or have historic importance, either read up before travel or have someone who can put things in context well. For us, our guide did the latter, for which we are really grateful to him.
Pudacuo National Park
One of the most beautiful national parks we have seen, the park is a half day trip easily, walking the entire 4km boardwalk stretch. The national park has the beautiful Bita lake, with the mountains at the backdrop to complete the scenic view.
We were told highly about this spot by fellow travelers in tripadvisor and so we thought we had to do this, although this is a good three hour drive from Shangri-La (one way) so practically, we need one full day to do this.
Well, personal thoughts, but to us, the place was not that worth it for the efforts after all, especially after we were told by the guide that not in entirety, the steps are natural and during maintenance, there is some “clean up work” done to the terrace which helps make the shape look more than real. We thought the perfection of the spot made it look bit un-natural. It should be left on its own, if this is truly the case as was guided by the, well, guide.
The Yak is a very special animal for the people of Tibet and Yunnan. The Yak plays a role in almost every aspect of a native there. From ploughing fields, to milk and its products, to meat, skin for warmth and so on. There is a Yak, which is a pure breed and is hairy animal, a Yak-Cow, which can be recognised by its very hairy tail but not so hairy body and of course, the cow itself, with little hair all over.
About the food in Shangri-La
Tibetan food, is quite common there along with Chinese. In the town, there are many shops serving Indian and Western food as well. The preparation is quite nice except that cocktails, at least where we went to, were just not up to mark. Maybe that was a one off thing but no harm mentioning. The Yak milk curd and its meat is quite nice though, and so is Western food such as pizza, which we had multiple times. It seems it is hard to go that wrong on italian food 🙂
A few words on our hotel – Lefu Hotel in Shangri-La
We stayed at the Lefu hotel, which was quite nice. The hotel served decent breakfast and had Wifi in room (as all other hotels and at no extra charge). The staff was polite and helpful as were almost all Yunnan native people we met in our journey. And yes, the wifi internet speed was quite decent. And coming from HK, our expectations are not that low as well.
Lefu hotel room in Shangri-La. Quite spacious, clean and sufficiently equipped
Shangri-La (Deqen) Airport
The Deqen airport has a sparkling new shine to it, since it is only recently built and has been very well maintained. As always, the staff was helpful, the service was quite prompt and quick. Overall, a good airport experience at the departure terminal.
Shangri-La airport, again, China infrastructure really impressed us
Inside the Shangri-La airport. Despite being a small airport at a tier 3 city, the airport was sparkling clean, spacious and clean. Funnily though, people didn’t believe in following rules of a queue, despite being in one… well, they follow the rules only till the gates are not open
With that, our lovely Yunnan trip comes to an end. Happy to see your comments below. Also, FYI, we used the excellent services of Grace China Tours for organizing this trip for us. Well organized, I would say.