On Thursday, we departed for a long IST weekend. Lauren, Rachel, Mary, and I decided to go to a town called Shangri-La, also called Zhongdian. Located in the Northwest corner of the Yunnan province, it’s about as close to Tibet as you can get. We decided to splurge and buy plane tickets to avoid the 12-hour, windy bus ride. The flight was an hour long, so we arrived in Shangri-La around 9 in the morning. I felt like I was flying in for a ski trip, especially when I walked outside and was blasted with cold air. Shangri-La is a small town, nestled into snow-dusted mountains. It felt like we were in a completely different country: the architecture was different, the people seemed nicer, the air was fresher. I felt like I could finally take a deep breath again. Because of its proximity to Tibet, there’s rich Tibetan culture here. The town is named after James Hilton’s book The Lost Horizon. Apparently, many towns used to call themselves Shangri-La, claiming to be the mythical paradise from the book. Eventually, they decided that Zhongdian would be the “real” Shangri-La.
The first thing we did was check into our hotel, the Gyalthang Dzong Hotel, to find we were the only people there! It was really nice, though. Lauren and I shared a comfortable room with a huge king bed, complete with electric blankets. We were so happy to find a little heater as well. It was definitely necessary. It’s so cold here; when I walk outside, I literally wear all of my layers—Underarmor, long sleeves, fleece jacket, raincoat, hat, and gloves. Everything feels so much colder without any indoor heating!