Finally, I am ready to wrap up talking about this trip!! Only took me a month :). It’s taken me a long time to get through, I know, but I’m glad I got to jot down all the little details of our vacation. It really was an awesome trip, and one that we’re so glad we took. I tried to be honest about some of the drawbacks we faced in addition to the great stuff to give a more honest description of our impressions of northwestern Yunnan province. In doing so I hope I didn’t make our trip sound anything short of amazing. I got some rather sympathetic comments (which I appreciated!) so I just want to clarify that even when we were stranded, sick, or freezing cold, we were glad to be there! Especially since the next couple of years are so up in the air. With our visas expiring pretty much the day our contracts end, we face the possibility of not getting a lot of time to travel around China unless we want to fly out, get new $120/each visas and start all over. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t, but it makes it all the more important that we use our time off to explore all kinds of different places in China. We don’t know if we’ll get another chance! I’m glad we were able to get a glimpse of this area.
So, to finish up I wanted to talk about the hostel and restaurant situation in Shangri La, neither of which we found to be particularly cheap. I think Shangri La is quickly becoming like Lijiang, and with it comes tourist prices. The restaurants were very similar to those in Lijiang, except instead of having Naxi/Western options they were a Tibetan/Western mix. Another situation where you have many of seemingly the exact same place. For being so close to Tibet, many places lack authenticity. They all get high marks in ambiance and decor (which is nice if you’re coming from other areas in China where many restaurants lack any kind of atmosphere or style), but you definitely pay for it.
Even with it being off-season things were still costly. It was a holiday week though, so maybe prices spiked back up for that. If ya get away from Old Town Shangri La becomes a much more affordable, although much more ordinary, Chinese town.
The best meal we had by far was at Bhaskar Resto, an Indian/Nepali restaurant. The chef was super friendly, helpful, and talented. We talked for a long time about our experiences traveling around the subcontinent. Can’t say this place was completely budget friendly, but it was actually authentic and tasty. Plus, they had a local wine which we had been wanting to try in Shangri La!
We also enjoyed Rose’s Cafe. We ended up there several times because they had the closest to reasonable prices we could find. The food was just okay, but the staff was really friendly and accommodating. The ambiance was nice, with comfy couches, good music, and sometimes a bit too much incense. I also ate 2, count ’em, TWO dumplings with coins in them.. which apparently means I’m going to be rich this year! What a relief- totally makes up for the questionable sanitary issue of putting money in your customers food. The waitress seemed genuinely excited about this good fortune, so I’m feeling pretty optimistic!
We went to many places to check prices for accommodation and the results were pretty grim. Pretty much everything our guidebook recommended was closed for the winter. Places that were open were charging more than we wanted to pay. We ended up settling with N’s Lodge, which we were pretty satisfied with. Dorms (¥40/person) were nice and clean and each bed had a heating pad (which I loved). The showers were amazing which was also a huge plus given the temperatures. The common area/restaurant was cozy. We were able to pretty much stake out at the computer for free which was nice because I was trying to write an article that was unfortunately due during our vacation. The guy who owns the place is really friendly and made us a couple of delicious, although kind of expensive, hot chocolates each morning. The food over all was a bit pricey but very tasty- better than food we had at other places. The yak burger was scrumptious, as it should have been for ¥90.
The other nice thing about the hostel was that we were the only non-Chinese guests. One of the biggest regrets we have about our time in China is that we don’t have the language skills to have real, meaningful conversations with many Chinese people. It is a huge hindrance to really getting to know the culture. Thus, we’re totally stoked when we do meet people who speak English well enough that we can really converse. Kevin made a friend, with a bit of help from the iPhone translator, and we talked for hours about traveling, hiking gear, the differences between prices in America and China, and the standards of living relatively of each country. It was a nice night and a welcome change from the loud, drunk foreigners at Mama Naxi’s. (Not to turn my nose up, though. I could definitely be one of those on a different night!)
Anywho, thanks to everyone who read all about our adventures in Panzhihua, Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge, and Shangri La. Now we can finally start talking about all the stuff we’ve been doing around Chengdu! We have been so incredibly busy! And don’t even get me started on Hong Kong… Ah, so much to catch up on. ‘Til next time! Xo.