Huang had told us that Zhongdian's old town, now completely surrounded by the wide, straight streets of the new city, was under active renovation - again, mainly by outsider Chinese - to capitalize on the influx of tourists seeking Shangri-la. Like the Dali town officials, it seems like Zhongdian's civic leaders have realized the draw of charming cobblestone streets and ancient architecture, and instead of razing it, they're encouraging development here.
Huang was shocked at the pace of change, noting that that the last time had visited the old town, a few months before, many buildings, apart from a few backpacker bars here and there, had been boarded up or were falling down.
Now, more flag-decked bars, hostels, and even a super-fancy store stuffed with imported camping gear had opened for business and clearly targeting the backpacker seeking to "get away from it all" - in comfort.
While it was still too early in the year for lots of young tourists, the old town was abuzz with construction to get ready for the season.
We ducked into one site and learned that by August it would be open for business as a hotel. Between now and then, a whole village of carvers from Guizhou province was in residence, creating hundreds of square meters of intricate screens, tabletops, doors and windows.
They said that when they finished this job, which would employ them for at least six months total, they'd move on to another town to ply their skills with hammer and chisel.
By the time we next return to Zhongdian, it's likely to look a lot like Lijiang, stuffed with tourists, souvenir shops and restaurants. You'll never be more than 10 meters away from a cappucino or an Internet connection.
Which is, I suppose, what most people nowadays would called real paradise...