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In the Land of Shangri-La

Popularity 1Viewed 1013 times 2019-9-3 11:30 |System category:Life| Shangri-La, Lijiang, Dali, Beijing, Lost Horizon

In April, me and my partner spent two glorious weeks in China. My sister lives there, her husband is posted with the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. I’ve had a thing for China ever since I read “Riding the Iron Rooster” by Paul Theroux when I was a teenager, though the country portrayed in that classic travelogue is a far cry from what it is today.

China makes the news in the U.S. a lot nowadays and mainly for the wrong reasons: trade tariffs. But forget that for a moment and let me tell you how it really is and how the people really are. China is just about the most open, joyous place I have ever been. The people are warm, friendly and helpful, although not a lot of them speak English, especially in the countryside, so download a handy-dandy translation app if you go.

Beijing and Beyond

Beijing was our base, and there is plenty of amazing sights to see there. You’re probably going to ask me about the Forbidden City and that was nice, but the real finds are the funky hutong neighborhoods and undiscovered gems like the grounds surrounding the Temple of Heaven. That’s where you will find outdoor yoga classes, exercise parks and middle- and mature-aged men and women aerobic dancing to boom boxes blaring catchy Chinese pop tunes.

Our real destination was Lijiang, a beautifully preserved ancient town in the far western province of Yunnan, close to Myanmar at the foot of the Himalayas. It’s near Shangri-La, another ancient town and the inspiration for James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon”. Speaking of Lost Horizon, that was the name of the hotel we stayed at in Lijiang, and it was remarkable. It featured a real hidden treasure, a painstakingly crafted and marvelously detailed diorama of the ancient route of the tea trade featuring thousands of detailed figurines and building replicas set among exquisite landscapes and hand-painted backdrops. It was worth the stay itself, since only hotel guests are permitted to take in this breathtaking work of art. Hey China Daily, if y’all haven’t discovered this tucked-away masterpiece before, you definitely should take a look and bring your cameras!

Highlights were a day trip to the mighty Tiger Leaping Gorge of the Yangtze River and the jaw-dropping Yak Meadow, halfway up the majestic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and accessible via a two-hour drive up narrow mountain roads followed by a ride in a cable car. We also took advantage of the many great hiking trails.

Great Investment Opportunities…

Since I work for a financial trade and investment education company, I couldn’t help but notice several things I’d jump on and try to bring to the States if I had the gumption and cash:

1.Thin, delicate, sparkly ribbons woven into the long hair of young Chinese women and girls. They really look great and I haven’t seen it over here much, if at all.

2. A food stand dedicated to spiralizing single small potatoes, stretching them along a wooden stick and flash frying to order…for about USD $1. Delicious and filling!

3. Amazing fresh fruit stands consisting of an appealing buffet of chunked and whole fruit, all enveloped in a low, floating cloud of water mist. You start with a big plastic bowl, select the assortment you want and bring it to the chopper at the end of the line, where your fruit will be dramatically peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces. It’s weighed and sold by the pound for again about $1 USD. The Chinese aren’t fond of super-sweet Western-style confections, and the popularity of these stands is probably one reason I hardly saw any overweight locals.

…and one Stinker

One word: durian. This notoriously stinky fruit was sold at stands everywhere in Lijiang and throughout western China. While I thought the smell wasn’t that repulsive (more like a gas leak), the stuff itself has an unpleasant, sweet, oniony, garlicky taste going on. Nope.

Things You’ll Notice

--Cash is not popular throughout the country; everyone pays for everything with the WeChat app. WeChat is like a combination of Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter with banking, payment and translation services thrown in. Everybody—and I mean everybody—uses it.

--If you’re a vegetarian, like I am, there’s going to be trouble, as many places consider “a little pork” to be “meatless”.

--The highways! Most of the roads are brand-spanking new and pristine. True, full of crazy drivers and traffic jams, but when you live in Southern California, it just feels like home.

--Movies in theaters start on-the-dot—no trailers! I wish at least one American chain would pick up on this idea.

I truly, wholeheartedly love China and its people and look forward to returning next year. You won’t find a more welcoming and vibrant place on earth.


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report Mishao 2019-9-6 07:13
Lovely contribution.

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