Drinking Yak Butter Tea with The Tibetan Nomads of Yunnan. Shangrila. China
Zhongdian, was renamed in 2001 to the fabled lost utopia 'Shangri la' by the Chinese in an effort to boost tourism. It lies on the borders of Tibet, Sichuan and Myanmar amid rolling hills, mountain peaks, plateaus of colorful wildflowers, rare herbs and many wild Animals sitting at an average altitude of 3000 meters. The whole area was once part of Tibet and although the Borders have moved, the Tibetan people and traditions have remained. So if you cannot manage to jump through the hoops involved in getting to Tibet itself, getting here is a good effort.
Getting here usually involves an ass numbing 4ish hour bus ride from Lijiang passing Tiger Leaping Gorge on the way.
The rainy season in is from May to July and September to October, the roads aren't great as it is, so when the rain comes it might be very hard to reach places in the area, and when winter comes around many roads can close.
The old town itself is oozing Tibetan culture, old winding cobbled streets, stupa's lined with prayer flags, and some good old traditional Yak Hot pots. The 300 year old Songzanlin Monastery is well worth exploring, not to mention the giving largest prayer wheel in the world a spin. Each evening the town square comes alive with dancing and music for about an hour or so.
Many people are attracted to the area for its excellent trekking. Treks can go on for as long as you've got time for. A simple not to strenuous day hike, leads from the Shika mountain summit,down through beautiful valleys, forests, colorful meadows, sky blue lakes and past the always watching eyes of a big hairy Yak.
The summit can be reached by the best looking cable car station i have ever seen, all traditionally done up in Tibetan style, complete with prayer wheels!
on our descent we passed some small huts & old log cabins, built by Tibetan nomads who travel with their herds.
Our Tibetan guide met a local nomad and got chatting. The nomad was seeking out his Yaks on his motorbike through the forest. He then invited us back to his cabin for some traditional Yak Butter Tea with some freshly made Yak cheese & Barely bread. Meandering through the long grass, avoiding big Yak bum cakes, we got to a small number of fairly basic and not so element proof, one room shacks.
In the middle of the floor, there was warm burning embers, surrounded by various pots and utensils.
A couple of shelves where home to batches of Yak Cheese, destined for the towns market.
He chatted with our guide, as he brewed our tea and served up lashings of the Yak Cheese.
I peeled it up and opened wide. My face tried to turn itself inside out, like eating the bitterest lemon ever, dipped in sour milk. Although sprinkled with some sugar it went down easier, and i was then offered another plate!
The Yak Butter Tea, was sweet, salty and creamy, and tasted slightly smokey from the fire.
The curious peeking eyes of the nomads little child came around the door, he was trying to figure out who these aliens where. We soon left, thanking the man and made our way back to the cable car station.
A Free Range Cabbage originating in Ireland.