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Zhongdian: The official Shangri-La

After a two-hour drive from Tiger Leaping Gorge, wending steadily upward through an ever-cooler clime, we passed into Zhongdian County, which won the contest among several sites in China for the official designation of "Shangri-la." Apparently simply by being the first to formally appropriate the name for itself!

It may not look like Lost Horizon, but our hotel definitely qualified as an oasis in the fairly stark (though beautiful) landscape.


Run by a Tibetan proprietor who has spent time abroad, the Songstam is a pretty and well-apppointed boutique hotel about half a kilometer away from Zhongdian's famous monastery. We were quickly captivated by the carvings, colors, and pleasant, English-speaking staff.

We shared a large, cozy room with a gauzy divider between parents and kids. It was cold, especially at night - Zhongdian, in Yunnan's far northwest corner, is on the border of Tibet and the same altitude as Lhasa itself - and we were happy that our room had several high-wattage space heaters to take the chill away.

After a pleasant meal in the hotel's dining room that included a local version of Miranda's beloved hot pot, we snuggled into our downy beds.

The next morning, Huang got us off to an early start to meet the monks.

Zhongdian chapters: Intro Monks Dressup Market Old City Pottery 1 Pottery 2 Pottery 3
Yunnan chapter shortcuts: Intro Dali Lijiang Tiger Leaping Gorge Zhongdian

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