Tuesday 27th October - PRAYING ON THE BUS FOR 30MINS AT 5AM
Even though it was a 5am start, we were both really pleased to be leaving here and moving on. Followed some others to the bus station, all had our torches on full beam to light the way, still so dark and extremely cold. Was a little nervous about putting my bag on the roof of the bus, not sure how safe it'll be, but I guess that's how things are done here.
Had our sleeping bags on the bus with us to keep us warm and hoping to get some sleep whilst it's still dark outside, but proved exceptionally difficult due to the very bumpy roads and uncomfortable seating on the bus. Plus could have had something to do with them all praying for about 30mins, the same tune over and over and over again. I'm not complaining, we wanted a different experience and boy are we getting what we asked for te he.
At first toilet stop I really needed to go, but the guys were just standing on the bank going and there was no way in the world I was going to join them. Luckily I noticed a local girl also on the lookout for toilets, so I stuck with her, at least she could speak the language, we asked around for about 5-10mins and people were pointing us in all kinds of directions, but eventually we found the local toilets. I let her go in first as it was one of those share and share alike loo's and I wasn't really in the mood for sharing my toileting with a fellow stranger. The experience was as pleasant or not so pleasant and the many other public toilets I have visited in China, getting used to it now, so that's something I suppose.
The ladies on the bus were a little irritating, as the sun rose and the bus became more of a green house affect I would open the window to cool us down, well the lady behind would probably allow us 2mins of the window open then reach round and close it and it didn't matter how many times I opened it, she would just close it again. So I tried to pull back the curtain in front to at least cover our part of the window to block the sun from us, but the lady in front was not only laying on her curtain but ours as well and it didn't matter how many times I tugged on it, she wasn't giving it up. I got so fed up in the end I tugged it so hard it flung her arm away and then she realized she actually had enough curtain of her own, so she didn't need ours as well. She never said anything thankfully.
Lunch was nice, we stopped at a nice little roadside restaurant and had a shredded potato dish, very tasty, enjoyed it, the toilets were probably the worst I have seen yet, but like I said before, we are getting used to it now, nothing surprises me anymore.
Continue Tuesday 27th October
We both agreed that this had been the worst journey yet and were thankful to be pulling into Shangri-la about 10 hours later. Grabbed a cab with a really sweet Japanese guy, he was really chuffed when we said a few words to him in Japanese, bless him. The hostel was a fair distance from the bus station so really pleased we got a cab, we were considering walking to start with. On the map it looked a lot closer.
Was so chuffed to be able to haggle the lady down enough to get our own room with bathroom, for only about 50p cheaper than the dorm, what a luxury. Took our time to settle in, shower and relax. Fortunately, the hostel did nice meals, so we didn't have to go anywhere tonight and sat in their front room area, with an open fire LOVELY, watched some tacky Chinese TV and enjoyed a noodle and Yaks meat soup and beef on fried rice YUM YUM. Stayed put for a little while, one of the locals put some basket ball on, which was actually good fun to watch, then we went on web for a bit.
Absolutely freezing at night, we had to use our sleeping bags each and covered ourselves in 4 blankets, can't believe it, but was soon snug and fast asleep.
Wednesday 28th October - GATE CRASHED A WEDDING/GOT BLESSED BY A MONK
Alarm went off at 7am, but no chance we were budging. Was so nice being able to relax in our own room, without people coming in and out distracting us. Finally got out around 10ish and made our way into town.
Just as we stepped out onto the main road, we could see what looked like a festival across from us, people were dressed up in what looked like traditional clothing and handing out peanuts, sweets and even cigarettes on a tray. We helped ourselves to a monkey nut each and went to investigate. It took us a good few minutes to realise actually this was not a festival and in fact we had just gate crashed a wedding DOH!! Whoops, well nobody seemed bothered, in fact they were really friendly and polite to us, perhaps a few were avoiding us with the trays of fruit and now cakes etc, which I really fancied and a couple of people were whispering and pointing in our direction so we got the picture and moved on, was great to see though.
Headed towards the old part of town, not too far away, had some dumplings for breakfast on the way, saw a local buying some and just watched what he paid then asked for the same, at least this way they cannot charge us more, not that they do that here anyway. Our taste buds went wild from the smell of fresh bread as we got a little closer to town, there was about a dozen fairly large pizza size flat breads, laying out in the sun, we did ask the owner if we could buy one from him, but he wouldn't sell it to us, perhaps he was getting them ready for pizza or a party or something, shame, they smelt amazing.
The town was very quiet, had a wonder through some of the residential areas, hardly anyone around, very odd. Found ourselves at the local square, with a couple of monasteries and a museum. Trekked up the stairs to the monastery first, had some amazing views looking out over the whole of Shangri-la, beautiful, could even see the large monastery the other side of town. Was a very peaceful place, the monks must enjoy being here out of the way of the town. To the right of the monastery building was a huge statue looking thing that turned and locals were walking around it over and over again, spinning it as they went. I guess this was some kind of good luck thing.
The museum was nice, upstairs was lots of little rooms with desks in for the monks, not sure what it was, but it was very quiet and neatly laid out, perhaps it was the monks offices, lots of pictures on the walls surrounding the offices, only a handful of people were looking around also, but they had a tour guide.
Further into town, we noticed that most the café's etc were closed, I guess it's just out of season, perhaps that's why it is so quiet. Found the cheese and wine tasting shop that we had read about and got to try some Yaks cheese on crackers. Absolutely delicious, I don't know if it had anything to do with us not having cheese and crackers for so long, but it really was good and we took our time to enjoy each mouthful to is fullest. Mmmmmmmmmmm. The café was really cute, nobody there, just us, so we picked a nice seat looking out over the town, it was kinda odd town a bit like a wild west place, really cute, but looked a little set up for tourist, which took the individuality away from it.
After, we wandered deeper into town looking for a café called Noah's café, which we had read had burning facilities and we were now in desperate need of burning a couple more discs and sending pics home. Found it after about 5mins of looking, but turned out we had reached the wrong one, we didn't realize there were two in town. Even though it was a bit of a pain to find, I kinda enjoyed the maze of shops and little streets in the town. We found a little café called Rose's café, so couldn't resist getting a pic taken outside. Finally came across the second Noah's café, where I chilled with a hot choc to share with Ad while he had the annoyance of burning the discs - annoyance is not the word, it was a painfully slow system and one of the discs we wanted to copy wouldn't even open PAIN!! Gave up after what seemed like ages, it just wasn't working.
Luckily at the end of that road we came across a Kodak store and yes to our delight, they not only managed to find the photos on the other disc but copy them in no time as well YIPPEEEE!! Whilst this was all going on, an American guy came in with a local girl, I got the impression he was teaching in town and it was amazing to listen to him speak fluent Chinese then to us in English, WOW, wish I was that fluent in a language - have now made a deal with myself to learn a language as fluent as possible by time I'm 30. Fingers crossed.
Now the discs were done and we were happy, we jumped on a bus to take us to the other side of town to the large monastery. Not realizing that a little scam was all set up at the end for westerners such as ourselves. The bus stops at the furthest point and a guy gets on to ask if you are going to the Monastery, he then guides you to another building where you are asked to pay a not too bad - but big enough fee. You are then guided to another bus which takes you the rest of your journey. Seems all ok, until you realize that actually the local bus does go all the way to the monastery, we saw it as we were on our way and the tickets that we just purchased are not even checked on the doors and others just walk in. NICE!!! YOU'VE BEEN SCAMMED!! Oh well it was kinda worth it I suppose.
Very quiet considering there was supposed to be about 600 monks living here. We did see some chilling in a garden area, they looked very relaxed, it was hard to understand what they get up to all day, perhaps they are giving us false impressions on what they really get up to te he. Wandered around the grounds and although lots of construction seemed to be in place, it still had a nice charm about it and some marvelous views looking out over the town. Thanks to a Chinese traveler who spoke good English we were able to get blessed by a monk who also gave us prayer beads each, it was a very spiritual experience and one I will never forget. The lady was really good, she explained to us what he was doing and told us about some of the structures within the monastery, what they meant and reasons for the way hands were positioned etc, found this very interesting. Stepped out in time to see the sun disappearing down behind the mountain, was a perfect end to our visit.
Bused back to town and got chatting to another couple, who unfortunately also experienced the scam, but we had a good laugh about it, told them about the Cheese and wine tasting in the old town , think they are going to give that a try tonight. Off to the bus station, booked out ticket for tomorrow and then on our walk back to the guest house, stopped for a delicious fish stew, another situation where they couldn't understand us so took Ad out back to show him what they had on offer and for the price, this has got to have been one of our best choices MMMMMMMMM. Fairly long walk back in the dark, but seemed perfectly safe and grabbed some cakes to make the whole journey that much sweeter. Not a bad day after all.