Zhongdian (Shangri-La hahaha)

26th - 28th Mar, and 1st & 9th Apr 2004.

We were here so long due to bad weather and not because the place really is Shangri-La La (as the Chinese government is trying to market it.) Maybe "poor, frozen, shite-hole" would be more appropriate. It is not quite that bad but there are better places to be snowed in!

Leaving our hostel every morning we saw cows living on cardboard and rubbish.

Walking down the main high street, you cannot miss the family of pigs.

We decided to visit the monastery which our guide book said was worth coming to Zhongdian for. It was very pretty, however we are not convinced that it is a running operation since the government made it a tourist trap and started to charge for entry.

There is a significant lack of monk action!... and in a country where religion is illegal, who can blame them.

Some of the candles inside the monastery. Jason got told off by a monk on a mobile phone for taking pictures of the shrines!

Mud walls and workmen surround the monastery. If you get off the beaten path you find posher wooden huts for the richer monks and more than the odd satellite dish for researching devilish Western pursuits such as ESPN and the Playboy channel.

Here we are visiting a local lake which is actually a bog and one you need to ride a horse to see.  We opted to climb a hill to see the bog in more detail and were glad we couldn't ride horses as ..... it was crap!

The next morning our drive to Tiger Leaping Gorge (second option to Dequin as the road is still snowbound and closed) was also covered in snow. It was a magical start to our day, it was so beautiful.

This was our friendly bus driver who couldn't drive without a fag in his mouth.

Driving in China is a careful blend of multi-tasking as you need to be able to; drive, chain-smoke, talk on a mobile, yell at the trolley dolly ,and spit as loud as possible all at the same time.

As a mark of their supreme driving skills some of them even wear M Jackson Gloves.

Did we mention we've seen a truck roll, a head-on crash, and our own muppet driver put our bus into a snowbound ditch?

The blow of the return to Zhongdian via Mr Suicide-I-will-Make-Jason-Green-Jeep-Driver was only softened by the great company of Chris and Kimberly (don't judge them by their taste in hats... they are heading for Mongolia).

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