Thursday, January 16, 2014

Yunnan Part 2: Getting to Meili XueShan National Park

 Street Seamstress

Upon our arrival in the Shangrila airport in Yunnan Province, China, we wasted no time in finding a cab to the bus terminal and buying tickets for the next bus to Deqen (pronounced Duh-chin), the nearest city to Meili Xueshan National Park.

While we waited for our bus to depart, we wondered around the area. The husband got a pair of pants hemmed by a seamstress on the side of the road. The woman stated the price was 10 Yuen ($1.50), but then doubled it when we went to pay, stating that 10 yuen was the price of one pant leg. Welcome to China! So, basically we paid the same price as we would have in Korea ^^.

 Breakfast on the street

We found some street food for breakfast. Bread with soy milk. Not bad for less than a dollar! 

View from the bus window

Finally, it was time to hit the road. We piled into the bus, full mostly of locals plus a few other Chinese tourists also heading for the same area we were. Because of the early wake up time and stress of the day up until this point, I fell asleep quite easily in the bus for the first hour or two of the ride, passing out before we even left town.

I must certainly say I was shocked to wake up and look out the window to see these sights. Let's just say from the height of the bus, it was hard to see the side of the road, all you could see was the sharp drop into the ravine below. I was fairly sure I would not make it home alive. 

Perhaps the most frightening part of the ride was the landslides that were to be found all over. While I'm not sure if they're natural, or a result of all the roadwork going on as the road in to Deqen was clearly under a constant state of construction. However seeing how the landslides have clearly tumbled down on roads in the past, and in some places we even had to travel in the opposite lane to avoid them, I really thought that our bus would be the next to have a giant rock through the roof. 

I certainly had some flashbacks to my time in Georgia. Part of it was the scenery: the tall mountains, switchbacks on the roads and the sharp drops on the side of the roads; however it was also the people and animals. Cows and goats being herded along the roads, even on this major highway.  

Finally we reached the end of our bus ride, the tiny city of Deqen. However, our journey was not quite done. Generally travelers continue another 10 minute drive out of town to Felaisi (飞来寺). If you recognize that character 寺 as temple, you are correct. While the temple is beautiful, the area around the temple overlooks the Meili Xueshan National Park making it the perfect resting point before starting one's journey into the park.

House near Feilaisi

Here was our first introduction to Tibetan architecture. I really loved the colors of the houses in this area!

Tibetan Woman

Circumambulating and spinning prayer wheels at Feilaisi

We also journeyed into the temple, which was, of course, a very rewarding experience. Here you can see the prayer wheels around the temple, as typical of Tibetan Buddhism. Each while contains one mantra, and by spinning each wheel the prayer is automatically said. Typically, when one visits a Tibetan temple, one should circumambulate around the temple clockwise, turning these prayer wheels, if present.

Large prayer wheel

Bigger prayer wheels are also common in Tibetan temples. Feilaisi also had one as well, the painting on it looks quite ancient.

Inside the temple

For those daring to enter the main worship area, it was pretty exciting. The monk there was very welcoming. We bought some incense and bowed (Korean style) and then walked about and gave a few yuen here and there as the locals were doing.

 Money and Buddha

But, here, the main attraction is not the temple, it's the mountains. For just a moment they came out from their shroud of clouds to say hello.... 

 View from afar of Meili Xueshan National Park 

Actually, these peaks have never been climbed. Some foreigners died while trying to climb here a number of years ago and have since been off limits to climbing. While there are a number of hiking/trekking trails here, none go past the snow line.

And it was here we spent the night, overlooking this enormous mountain range and trying our best to get acclimated to the altitude (about 3,500m above sea level). I had no problems, however, the husband looked absolutely terrible until the next morning. Fortunately, he recovered in time to start our trek. And speaking of the trek, that will come soon enough...

ps. sorry for switching between India posts (which are basically current) and China posts (which date back to Sept. and October). I'm extremely backlogged and finally have some time to get caught up!  To follow only stories about China, click the China link, and to follow only stories about India, click the India link.

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