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Putting The Dragon To Rest

CHINA | Sunday, 24 April 2011 | Views [302]

After Lhasa, we flew to a mere 10,000 feet and landed in Shangri-La. This is a city know originally as Zhongdian and used to be rather ordinary until the governing bodies realized that there was tourism bucks in the name made famous from James Hilton's novel.  So they changed the name a few years back, claiming to be the exact location of the FICTIONAL novel.  The town is not the paradise you might have expected.  Maybe we were there at the wrong time of year as it was still very cold and brown, but even at the best time to be there it would not be our pick for capturing our Shangri-La.  We did though find a great "Western Run" cafe where we had the best French Toast this side of the Himalayas!

Since leaving Lhasa we have been slowly working our way through the Southern Yunnan Province one long bus ride at a time. Like Lhasa, the Yunnan is full of tribal people so visually it is very interesting. Walking through the streets of the various towns we have passed through has revealed different tribal dresses and our many hours on the buses have made us privy to their heavy agricultural way of life. Fields being harvested, hand ploughed, hand planted, day in and out. It is something to admire and be in awe of and hope will remain as China quickly moves into the modern age.

We enjoyed a rest from the cities and Chinese tourists by spending a few days hiking through the Tiger Leaping Gorge. After our first afternoon of hiking we came to a beautiful guesthouse with a fantastic view overlooking the gorge and 18,000ft peaks which could be enjoyed from their dining room, decks, or toilet, your pick. Our next day was a full days hike out but as we set off we found ourselves walking on a road. Having thought we were "in the middle of nowhere" getting the "real deal" experience as the Lonely Planet had told us about, we were a bit surprised to find a road. A great deal can change in China in just two years and not always for the better. Perhaps when our 2009 guidebook was researched this was nature at its best but it is now made a bit less natural by the numerous roads leading to the hiking trails that will inevitably shuttle Chinese tourists up and down racking in more money whenever possible. China certainly is a concept and we are glad we got a glimpse into it but it does not leave you warm and fuzzy inside. 

We are now less than two days away from our departure date and are ready to board our plane. We are getting a little "China-ed out" and can almost taste the guacamole on our awaiting Chipotle burritos. Until we return and can crank out our final "By the Numbers," enjoy a few figures from China:

26: Number of days in China

3,000: Number of concubines buried with Emperor Qin who was also responsible for creating the whole Terra Cotta Army (this guy sure knew how to go out with a bang)

50: The percentage of the world's concrete that is in use, is in China

1977: Year the Terra Cotta Warriors were first unearthed after being burried for 2,000 years

$.20: Cost of a half-liter of pineapple beer purchased at Walmart (and we even went for a step above the Great Value brand which was even cheaper)

3,750: Number of miles the Great Wall spans (just for comparison sakes, our drive around the South Island of NZ was only 2,625 miles)

40,000: Number of fingers lost in factory accidents in 2004 in the Pearl River Delta (a Lonely Planet factoid)

6,000: Pounds of gold used to make the burrial stuppa of the fifth Dali Lama resting in the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet

48: Number of hours we spent on trains in China

1,032: Number of pages in our China Lonely Planet (and we have been lugging it around since Laos, 4 months ago)

16: Number of authors who researched, wrote and updated the most recent addition of the China Lonely Planet (our other LP guide books generally had 1-3 authors; China is a beast to tackle)

$1.20: Cost of a good 610mL beer

$7.70: Cost of the least expensive place we stayed in China, and no, it wasn't a dump

$77: Cost of the most expensive place we stayed in China; it was worth every penny and we felt like royalty. Ironically it was the night following our least expensive stay, but that was purely a coincidence.

Over and out from across the world one final time.



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