Monday 16 May Shangri-La – Songzanlin Monastery & National Park

This morning we woke to another overcast and showery day. From our window we could see lots of people milling about in what appeared to be a fresh food street market in the street below us. We could also see a huge group of buildings on the far side of the city that had gold roofs. We later found out that it was the Songzanlin Monastery that we would be visiting this morning. Several members of our group have taken badly to the high altitude (3,000m above sea level) and decided to have an easy day in the hotel. Luckily for us, we have had no ill effects.

After breakfast, we boarded our coach for our visit to the Songzanlin Monastery, which was built by the 5th Dalai Lama between 1679 and 1681. Songzanlin Monastery, which sits on 30 acres on top of a high hill 3,300m above sea level, is the largest Tibetan Monastery in the Yunnan Province. It features spectacular gilded copper roofs on the three main buildings, which can be seen reflecting the sun for miles. Our coach dropped us off at the parking lot in the city and we travelled to the Monastery by public bus. We walked up a long, slow hill that skirted the Monastery buildings and on the way we saw lots of the monk’s accommodation houses. Boys from the age of 5 to 6 years old enter the Monastery and there are approximately 800 monks who live there. The boys study the scriptures and life in a monastery, as well as crafts, astrology and medicine among other things.

There are 8 main areas of the monastery and each has its own chapel. The Monastery was magnificent with its colourful Tibetan features, with wonderful frescoes depicting the Buddhist tales and legends, as well as beautiful sculptures, golden figures of Buddha etc.

The first temple that we went into, there was a High Llama there who gave those of us who wished, a Buddhist blessing of good health, by placing a book of medicine on our head and then giving us a bracelet. We visited the Main temple, which holds 1,600 monks but today we saw a large number of monks in a class with 2 teachers, praying and studying. We visited another temple, which holds 120 monks and from the outside of it we had a great view of the city of Shangri-La. We walked slowly down 146 stone, wet steps – the last 60 or so had no hand-rails, which made it quite tricky and slow going and we then boarded the local bus back to the carpark. We enjoyed our visit to the Monastery – unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photos inside the buildings.

Our driver then took us a short distance to visit a local Tibetan family to experience their daily way of life and we had lunch there. There are 5 generations of the family living in this three-story house – the bottom floor is for the animals, the middle floor is for living and the top floor is for storage. We sat on low benches around tables and the family served us their local Tibetan food for lunch.

From there, a small group of us visited Pudacuo National Park, located in one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. This national park is 1300 square kilometres and is home to 20% of the country’s indigenous plant species and one third of China’s mammal and bird species. The National Park consists of woodland forests, beautiful green meadows and clear lakes.

Our coach took us to the car-park, where we boarded a shuttle bus that took us to the Shudu Lake, where we walked 3.3km around part of the lake on a boardwalk. Along the way, we could hear birds chirping and we saw lots of beautiful rhodendrons and azaleas. We also saw several squirrels, who came out on the boardwalk scavenging for food before darting off again. Despite the inclement weather, we were amazed by the natural beauty of this serene place.

We then boarded a shuttle bus that took us for a drive around part of the forest area of the National Park and we saw Bita Lake. Legend has it that a goddess dropped her mirror carelessly to the earth and it broke into pieces that became lakes on the plateau. Among these pieces, the most beautiful piece with green jade turned into Bita Lake. During our trip through the park, we climbed to an altitude of 3,887m above sea level and saw some leftover snow from this morning’s snowfall in the park. We also saw lots of rhododendrons and azaleas growing wild throughout the park. As we headed back to the car-park, the temperature dropped to approximately 10 and the wind and showery rain made it appear much cooler Our coach dropped us back at the hotel at 6.30pm after a wonderful afternoon spent in the National Park!

After a quick shower and change of clothes, we boarded our coach again to be taken to the Oringinla Density Hotel for another local meal.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Shangri-la.

2 Responses to “Monday 16 May Shangri-La – Songzanlin Monastery & National Park”

  1. Maria Hughes says:

    Loving travelling along with you both getting the daily update and the photos are just beautiful with stunning scenery. Keep having a fantastic time love from us all xoxo

  2. sandy says:

    Glad you are enjoying our blog and photos Sis. Love you. xoxo

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