May 19th, 2009

Leaving the Gorge

Before heading to Shangri-La this morning, David and I decided to go for a morining adventure to find the elementary school that served the 60 families living in the section of the valley we were staying.  After multiple zigs and zags through what were a number of “backyards” we gave up and went for a short run down the valley road.  Of course running down the road also meant running back up!  While we were away, Susan captured this image of a local herder heading off to work.  If only we could post a video, the sounds of the bells ringing from around the goats’ necks was amazing.

When David and I returned from the run, we decided to get some local opinions on the proposed future damming of the gorge valley.  We had already talked with our guide who expressed his sorrow for losing the beauty of the gorge, so we headed up the road to another guesthouse run by westerners.  Our inquires were met with icy stares and a curt response, “Why don’t you ask the owner of Woodys (our guesthouse) what he thinks of the dam.  He wants it!”  Conversation over.  We never had a chance to talk with Woody about the dam, but as Shila noted in her reply, many villager see these ideas as unpleasant, but at the same time, progress – a way to better their situation.  The Western owner of the guesthouse seemed to have a very different stake in the valley.  He had already “made it” and was concerned about protecting his own investment, while at the same time protecting a majestic place.


Potatso National Park

Who knew?  Once again our assumptions about China have been turned upside down, this time by a visit to a national park in the Tibetan Autonomous Region that rivals Yosemite and Glacier for its breathtaking beauty. It was especially interesting to see firsthand how the visitor experience was choreographed.  There was no such thing as setting off on your own to explore the park! Instead, we boarded one of the dozens of tour buses that regularly plied a loop through the park.  On each bus, a Tibetan tour guide in full ethnic dress gave a carefully rehearsed speech about the historical and ecological significance of the park, all this as we passed Tibetan men tending herds of yaks and horses in lush green valleys.  Our first stop was a 3 km hike along a boardwalk that sported a solar-powered restroom facility and skirted the field where Tibetans hold an annual horse-riding competition.

Then a 4 km hike alongside a crystal clear lake with a perfectly circular, spruce-covered island in the middle that holds special religious significance for the Tibetans–all this at an elevation of about 12,000 feet with snow-capped peaks in the distance.

Most of the signs along the paths were bilingual (Tibetan and Chinese), further evidence that plans to preserve natural spaces in China are simultaneously local development projects that provide coveted employment opportunities for minority groups.

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Shangri-La Valley

One Response to “Shangri-La”

  1. Mark Wilsonon 19 May 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Stunning images and descriptions. We don’t need videos now! Wish I could help identify the food, but I’ve never had that particular skill.

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