Even though books are a great way to travel, nothing can replace an experience of a lifetime : an actual journey to find Shangri-la.
Few years ago, I spent some time in China, an amazing country, full of history, of people, of culture. However, one of the main issues you can face in China is noise. Cities are full of life but are therefore very noisy. There is nothing surprising in having a jackhammer working at 3am while you try to sleep. During the day, the people in the cities are shouting in their phone, at taxis, etc. You really get use to all that noise actually. Because this is life. This is life.
What I did not realized is how noise became a natural part of my life.
But one day, I decided to visit Yunnan, West China, in the Himalayan mountains. After spending some quality time in Lijiang, seeing the Jade mountain and thousands of tourists, I headed north: I was on my way to Shangri-la ! I was literally living the dream : I was one of the characters from those adventure books that I used to read when I was younger.
My first stop led me to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Local customs states that those gorges were named after a tiger that had no choice but jumping above the gorge to escape from a certain death as a hunter was chasing it. The noise of the water running through the gorges is loud but quite relaxing. Tourists run to take picture of the lowest gorge but most of them don't walk along the trails that follow the river. Few hours to walk in the forests and to hear the loud noise of the rapid : a disconnection from the connected world for a city inhabitant. If you are adventurous enough, you can climb a 30m-high ladder. A first way to remind you that even if large cities are very nice to live in, they made you completely forgot on how to do things by yourself.
After enjoying the sound of the gorge, quite similar to the noise from Niagara falls, you can leave the Tiger Leaping Gorge to head North. A bus can take you there. The driver will put your bags on the roof, making you believe that you are an adventurer while you are only taking a bus in a foreign country. Another way to live the dream ! You feel like Indiana Jones even though your courage flickers when you see that the driver thinks he his a F1 driver and almost miss the bends of the mountain roads.
After four or five hours of road in a very crowded bus, you will meet Shangri-la, the mysterious city. Many people wrote on Shangri-la, luxurious hotels have its name but no one really helped you to apprehend the feeling that you would feel when you arrive in the city at sunset.
Shangri-la is located in the Himalayan plateaus. There is no much trees, only grass as the altitude is pretty high : more than 3000 meters above sea-level. The sunset paints the landscape in red and orange colours. Yacks are everywhere: near the roads, in the country... When you never saw a real yack before, you are pretty happy. It's inspiring : what's better than seeing animals in their actual environment? It's like being in a Clive Cussler book, but far away from the ocean ! Suddenly, you feel like the adventurous Dirk Pitt, but in the mountain.
Shangri-la itself, was actually not so amazing. The city is a typical traditional Chinese town. Don't be surprised, it is very beautiful with buildings made of woods, with traditional paintings. It is a great city to visit, but I prefered Lijiang or Suzhou. Finally, when you arrive in Shangri-la, you realize that it is just another city. But at the same time, it is way much more than that. It is the destination of your journey, and what is the most interesting in a journey is not where you arrive but how you arrive there.
Being in Shangri-la was really relaxing. You can visit a brand new Potala-like temple. The city is built around it. And one of the most surprising thing of all is the silence. In a country full of noise, this is a contrasting moment. And inspiring : you can grab that one day that you spend in Shangri-la to escape from the busy and connected life you have. Even though your mobile phone does work perfectly in Shangri-la, the quiet ambiance helps you to disconnect. And that moment away from new technology is the key to a balanced life.
You will enjoy an epiphany: you really enjoy your life but from time to time you need to feel like Indiana Jones. Where will be your next holidays? Australia? Scotland? Mexico? Machu Pichu? Antartica? The World is full of possibilities and there are so many inspiring places to visit !