It took us around 6hrs to drive from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Deqin (+/- 1 hour stop for dinner in Shangrila on the way) . And all for this:
::: Sunrise over the Meili Snow Mountain :::
Sunrise over the Meili Mountain is quite famous and now we know why. To wake up before dawn and watch as the dark sky slowly turns light purple and then glorious orange sun rays illuminate the peaks for few short minutes was simply spectacular!
And all that in a cosy warm room with a cup of instant coffee in hand ( the alternative is to go to down to the Fei Lai Temple Viewing Platform, just below our hotel, but that was way too cold and way to early for us- especially that this was our first heated room from the start of the trip).
Why I was so excited to come here? Meili Snow Mountains is considered to be one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. It is this range that got the small Chinese city Gyaitang its new name and touristic appeal*.
*Gyaitang was renamed on 17 December 2001 after the fictional land of Shangri-La in the 1933 James Hilton novel Lost Horizon. In Lost Horizon, “Shangri-La” is described as a mysterious valley in the Himalayan region where the main character, Hugh Conway, a British diplomat, hopes to find peace from the conflicts of the world.
The Meili (or Kawa Karpo as the Tibetans refer to it) is one of the Tibetan Buddhism’s most holy mountains. Every year, dozens of devout pilgrims come here at the beginning of winter to worship and circumambulate the holy mountain. The highest peak- Kawagebo, rises to 6,740 metres (22,110 ft). Because of restrictions and dangerous conditions, none of the major peaks in the range have ever been summited. In January 1991, six Chinese and eleven Japanese mountaineers lost their lives to an avalanche, one of the worst climbing accidents in China.
::: Fei Lai Temple Viewing Platform :::
Our Tibetan driver was very eager to tell us about the accident’s strange circumstances. Apparently the locals were never happy that people try to conquer their holy mountain, and when the message spread that the weather conditions are perfect and the Sino-Japanese team will attempt the final summit push on the next day, they got very angry. The whole village gathered and prayed all night to the mountain, threatening that if the human will set foot on its holy peak, they will stop worshiping it. In the morning- out of nowhere the clouds covered the peak and the weather changed abruptly. An avalanche struck, and 17 climbers lost their lives.
James HIlton wrote : “There, soaring into the gap, and magnificent in the full shimmer of moonlight, appeared what he took to be the loveliest mountain on earth. It was an almost perfect cone of snow, simple in outline as if a child had drawn it. It was so radiant, so serenely poised, that he wondered for a moment if it were real at all.”
The trip to Deqin was not only about the highest mountains I’ve ever seen. It was also about getting as deep into the region as possible in our time limit, peaking into remote Tibetan temples and its culture, exploring how the local people live in this part of the world.
::: Tiny and charming village :::
::: Breakfast at the small, cheap local eatery with a stunning view:::
::: The team returns to the hotel to pack and I’m doing a quick photo-round around the village :::
I didn’t mention that we arrived to the village late in the evening and planned to go back to Shangri-La as early as 10am… So yes, we came here mostly for the sunrise experience but unexpectedly got a chance to explore a little bit more . Our nice driver from Tiger Leaping Gorge proposed to get us back to Shangrila after breakfast for the same price that we would pay for the direct bus, adding a bonus of a few stops on the way! Here’s few gems that we got to see :
::: Feilai Temple, the place for Tibetans to pay homage to the sacred mountain, built in 1614 during Ming Dynasty :::
::: Only from the distance we could realize how massive are those mountains! :::
::: A nice and empty viewing platform on the way with a most beautiful view on the mountains amid the Tibetan prayer flags :::
::: A spot marking 4292nd meter above the sea level ( the highest I’ve ever been) – where the freezing cold thin air will make you feel breathless only after a brisk walk to get back to the car… :::
::: Our driver made a detour just for our Indian friends so they can see and touch the snow for the first time in their lives! 🙂 :::
:::: Dongzhulin Temple – large monastery established in 1679 by the Fifth Dalai Lama. :::
::: The main hall :::
::: A higher-rank monk cosy room :::
::: View from the top floor window of the Temple :::
::: Very smelly butter prepared for.. :::
::: …making very smelly butter candles ::::
:::The monastery containe accommodation for 2,000 monks at its peak and currently 700 monks in 200 associated house like this one: :::
::: Next stop : Shangri-La! 😀 :::