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Shangri-La stories: between modernity and spirituality in the heart of Yunnan

Yunnan, China - May 2024


China is a state that has always fascinated us. It is a difficult country, with strong contrasts between its thousand-year-old culture and a growing modernity. 


As we crossed the border into Hong Kong, we were confronted with this reality in the form of immense skyscrapers, electric cars and lots and lots of grey. As we proceeded into the interior of the country the hills took their place and we breathed a sigh of relief. 

It was only when we arrived in Shangri-La that we finally relaxed. 

The town greeted us with cold, rain and a slight lack of oxygen that only the 3160 metres of altitude can give you. 

Our destination is a few kilometres from the town and, once we take the bus in the company of the noisy locals, we are transported to another world. Cows graze in the meadows, huge dogs - if you have never seen them, look for Tibetan mastiffs! - lie in the sun and from afar we see a huge complex overlooking a bluish lake. 


The Songzanlin Monastery is a spiritual place where 600 monks still live; we see them walking in their orange robes towards one of the buildings, ready to perform their prayers. 

As we climb the slopes of the hill, the hubbub of other tourists diminishes and we enter the village streets and temples that attract us with their colours: yellow, red, green, blue and white each representing a natural element.  The monastery is not only a place of worship, but also a representation of everyday life: 

We go down the opposite side of our climb, deciding to walk around the lake to another hill.

From here the monastery is entirely reflected in the lake, the flags move to the rhythm of the wind and we understand why we love this country so much.


Shangri-La is part of an autonomous Tibetan prefecture, its name has been changed -probably- for a marketing move, and its old town, as well as the monastery and all around it, is visited by so many tourists every year. Yet it still retains a special charm in which modern and old blend harmoniously. 

And this is how we end our day, observing the most important spiritual place in Yunnan framed by the colours of the flags and the two white mountains.


Daniela & Dario @scimmieontheroad


Shangri-La, Yunnan, China
Shangri-La

Shangri-LA, Yunnan, China
The city of Shangri-La
Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-La, Yunnan, China
Songzanlin Monastery
Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-LA
Songzanlin Monastery
Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-LA
Songzanlin Monastery
Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-LA
Songzanlin Monastery
Napahai, Shangri-La-China
Napahai

Pictures by @scimmieontheroad




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