A three-hour flight to Kunming from Beijing, followed by a 20-hour bus trip (134 yuan) from Kunming to Zhongdian, the transfer station (buses depart Kunming Panjiawan, and Nanyao Bus Station, from 1pm to 6pm every day), and finally a 9-hour bus journey from Zhongdian to Deqin (23 yuan, 2 buses depart Zhongdian Bus Station from 7: 30am to 8: 30am). To Meili Snow Mountain and Cizhong church, renting cars is the only choice.
In Shangri-La and around :
In Shangri-La’s old town, make a stop for lunch at the Flying Tiger Café ! Frank, the chef, crazy about chinese and Yunnan flavors, propose a menu that mix french gastronomy and local delicacies. And it’s all like if you where at home !
0887 – 8286661
91 Jin Long Jie Shangri-La Old Town 674400
In Benzilan, north of Shangri-La, we recommand you to stop for a few days in Tulu Lodge, a wonderful eco-lodge. Estelle, the owner visit Yunnan since 25 years and leave here full time since a several years now. Guide in all the province, she’s also an amazing cook and specialist of the local flavors.
Traveling along Mékong :
The road has been opened only a few month ago. So traveling in this valley is quite easy. A lot of villages are along the road, so you can easly buy food and drinks. No need to carry several days of food. Though, during summer the area is really hot and dry. Take a lot of water and sun protection.
Hitchhiking here is harder than it was in Qinghai or north Sichuan. We don’t know why, but if you want to do it, be aware of it.
Camping in this valley is not easy because of the landscape. High gorges, sharp rocks… Allow you some time to find the right spot before the sun come down.
Most local families can offer accommodation. Here we recommend Cizhong Inn（茨中客栈） and Liu Wenzeng's Inn （刘文增家客栈）. Local chicken soup, rice noodles and wine shouldn't be missed. Don't forget to bring a barrel of wine as a souvenir.
Apart from its natural beauty, Cizhong has an added bonus. Wine. And plenty of it. The missionaries originally planted the vines in order to have wine for Mass. The locals have kept up the tradition and many house in the village openly sell it. The actual wine produced and sold in Cizhong is certainly not your classic Burgundy or Bordeaux; the taste is somewhat sour, a bit like grape juice with alcohol, but definitely pleasant.
However, the areas wine potential hasn’t gone unnoticed by experts either. Recently one of Beijing’s largest wine companies, Jinliufu Wine C. Ltd., took over the Yunnan Shanglila Winery and invested large sums of money in developing what is now being marketed as Tibetan Dry Red Wine. According to the company, the wine making process both incorporates the brewing techniques brought in by the French missionaries and the traditional methods of the Tibetans. The result is quite a decent red wine. It is much more refined than the cruder version sold in the houses in Cizhong, and for body, aroma and taste it can compete with many cheap Spanish and French reds. If you are in Zhongdian, don’t miss the opportunity to try it with the locally produced yak cheese at the Shangri-la Cheese Shop.
Cizhong belongs to a region undergoing a huge transformation. The isolated valleys of the Langcang and Nujiang rivers are becoming ever more accessible and inevitable changes are on the way. The label of Shangrila, imposed on the whole Zhongdian area by the Chinese Tourist Board, is already drawing increasing numbers of tourists to this environmentally and culturally delicate region. While undoubtedly a haven for hikers, trekkers and anybody genuinely interested in exploring nature, a destination for busloads of camera toting tourists it is not!
On a different, but equally worrying note, it appears that some fundamentalist American Christian groups are looking to open up this area and use it in their – religious - battle against the Chinese Government. While Cizhong and the surrounding areas cannot stop the world from intruding on their isolation, they deserve better than to be used as a proxy in a crazy religious war. For more on Cizhong and Religion, go to the excellent blog: In the footsteps of Joseph Rock: Cizhong - A Christian Shangri La in Tibet - or the forefront of the next Cold War?
How to get there :
from Lijiang, take a bus to Weixi (3 hours) and change to a Deqin-bound bus (6 hours). The driver will drop you off at the Cizhong Bridge, a couple of kilometers from the village. - See more at: http://www.mekongtourism.org/10-villages-to-explore-in-yunnan/#sthash.1UnzLOjs.dpuf
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