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Songzanlin Monastery

From Lijiang to Zhongdian


We woke up before 6AM, put on our ski jackets, and ready for our breakfast hunt. It was so dark inside the Naxi family house-turned guesthouse that I needed to use a flashlight to find the main entrance, which was still locked. My flashlight woke up the girl who was on duty and opened the door for u s.

In this chilling moring, I finally see the beauty of Lijiang. The stone streets were so smooth and shinning. Both sides of the streets were all accent Naxi houses, a mixed of adobe, wood and stone two-story structures. There were no street lights, and none of the red lanterns hanging out the restaurants last night was lit. We saw a few Naxi ladies in traditional outfits walked by carrying some fruit in baskets at their back. It seems the whole town was still sleeping that we were afraid to wake it up. It was unbelievably quite and peaceful. When the sunlight shin through the mist landed on the well washed stone street, I breathed in the refreshing cold air, and wished Icould seize the moment.

We walked into the only restaurant that seems to be open. It turned out it is a four star hotel’s restaurant, which was serving some great Chinese and Western buffet breakfast. We couldn’t resist the good food.

At 8:45AM, we were in Pan’s Mitsubishi Pejora started our seven day road trip to the greater Shanger-la area in Yunnan and Sichuan. The road from Lijiang to Zhongdian is mostly paved and smooth except Pan’s Pejera’s shocks were shot and we were feeling every bump on the road.

After some yummy noodles in Zhongdian, pan brought us to Songzanlin Monastery, which one of the largest Tibetan monasteries outside of Tibet. Like most other Tibetan monasteries, it was built along the hillside overseeing and protecting the town. A narrow road leads to some serious steps, which bring visitors and pilgrims the three main temples at the middle of the hill. Alongside of the road are eight smaller temples each represents a division inside the monastery. Around all the temples are many white Tibetan houses in all sizes.

It was some serious work for us to walk up to the main temples at the elevation of 3500M. Ken was fascinated by the temple as I was trying my best to explain it to him while trying hard to remember what I learned in my Tibet trip couple years ago.

In one of the temple, a young monk came to say hi and asked where we were from. We told him that we were from San Francisco, he was happy to invite us to his room at the side of the temple for tea. His name is Bianrong. He and another young monk, Texi, are both on duty to guard the temple this year. During the whole year, they live inside the temple. They were obviously quite happy to see visitors, and started to warm up some buns and water on the electric heater/strove. While the water about to boil, Bianrong started to prepare the traditional yak butter tea for us. He first put some tea leaves into the water. He poured the boiling water into a bamboo made tube, and then added some special yak butter and salt. The bamboo tube had a stick in the center with a lip. Bianrong pulled the stick up and then pushed it down mixing the yak butter and tea together. After couple of minutes, the tea was ready. I had have yak butter tea before, and I must say that was not my cup of tea; however, this was the first time I saw it made in a traditional way. It tasted so much better that what I had before. Ken simply loves it. Bianrong and Texi insisted us to try some of the buns. Dipping it in the yak butter tea, it was quite tasty. We chatted a lot about their lives while having yak butter tea, some yak cheese, and the buns. Both of them seem to enjoy the lives in the monastery and both were looking forward to go to India to continue their Buddhism study. On the other hand, we were fascinated to learn that, though they were not allowed to have TV, they could have cell phones. During the hour visit, Bianrong's cell phone was non-stop ringing. Like many youth nowadays, they both like surfing the internet!

We spent over three hours in the monastery, probably the longest among most tourists. Pan was so worry while waiting in the car outside.

I started to feel some high altitude effects in the evening. By dinner time, I was not feeling good, which really caught me in surprise. I normally have this high altitude sickness when I am close to 4000M elevation. Eventually, I threw up once I walked out of the restaurant. After that, I took no chance and took a Diamox right away.

Posted by travelchic 08:38 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites

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