Shangri-tra-la-la

Trip Start Oct 08, 2007
1
84
110
Trip End Dec 16, 2008


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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Thursday, June 12, 2008

So is there, or is there not Shangri-la. Who cares. Even if there is, it ain't here.

Shangri-la is a huge disappointment and a stark contrast to Lijiang's uplifted Olympic atmosphere. The old town is much smaller, while Shangri-la is quite a large and very average looking city. It is drizzling and gray. Olympic torch is passing through today, but no one seems to take a notice. I rent a lovely little room in an old wooden house. It has a TV and an internet, but no heating. I'm freezing. I watch for a while the glorious torch relay on TV. It goes through the streets of Shangri-la, cordoned by number of minority looking people. There is a large group of cheerleaders that follow the torch (and the camera), yelling repeatedly a slogan, but not sounding very convincing at all.

I'm too cold. I decide to go out to a coffee shop or something. I turn round the corner and the most amazing sight revels. The square is moving round and round in a circle, clockwise. Up and down in one fluid motion to the tune of Tibetan sounding pop music. It's probably 100 people or more - young and old, man and women, babies, children, dogs and even few western tourists. There are minority outfits and tight jeans. There are cargo pants and leather jackets. There are cowboy hats and more traditional, pink head wear. I watch mesmerized. The mass of people moves without stop or delay. They must be doing this every day... for their own fun. The clouds clear out and I start liking Shangri-la. I'm easy to please (hopefully no ex-boyfriends read this). 

The horse racing festival is a true spectacle. The guys are galloping on horses without saddles, but lavishly adjourned with ribbons and scarf. The crowd is truly out of this world. Those faces, those ethnic outfits - it is all for real, non of the "for the tourist" stuff. When the girls line up on the track the crowd gets really excited and stands up. The girls all move in pack and race till the very last second. Very competitive and quite spectacular. I feel like I've gotten more than my money worth for coming to Shangri-la. Who cares if it's not THAT Shangri-la.

***

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