Discovering Yunnan’s Tibetan Plateau - A personal Shangri-La

By Bruce Connolly | | Updated: 2017-12-12 07:09
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Walking initially was my preferred way of discovering Zhongdian. With very few cars on the streets most people got around by bicycle, small three-wheel farm pick-up trucks or by rather dated minibuses. Larger buses occasionally headed north out of town toward centers such as Benzilan, bordering Sichuan, but in 1995 unfortunately off-limit to foreign travelers. Indeed Zhongdain had only recently been opened-up. Being relatively compact a short walk would soon lead into the surrounding countryside. A hill rising a short distance to the north was my initial destination. However I had forgotten something - altitude! With the town itself mostly flat, walking proved no problem, but going up a small hill was unexpectedly challenging. However, reaching the summit covered with prayer flags the view was of the urban core: of countless whitewashed villages set amidst an expanse of green; of a distant lake and the nearby monastery. It was obvious there lay much more to discover about my personal "Shangri-la" with Tibet oh so close but still so far from me.
It was time to hire a bicycle!

Wearing a traditional wide-brimmed hat 1995. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/]
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