Shangri-la

Past greetings from China!  I thought that Shangri-la was in India somewhere.  I know it was the name of a bungalow we took as a weeks hoilday at a long time ago in the UK and a resort in Laos.  Anyway I digress!  I am still getting used to China.  I like the food more than Vietnam or Laos, the Chinese are friendly and not in your face, do not hassle you or get in your way really, but they smoke a lot and everywhere, which is no good for me!  They also cough as loud as they can and of course spit a lot, but there is no hassel factor here which i enjoy. Most of SE Asia is all the same in general but here is different, but I have difficulty in knowing how to describe it…. Its a big place, lots of construction, massive development, lots of rice fields and immense numbers of crops as you can imagine with such a crazy population figure.  So it seems all a bit artifical.   Yet so far of course I have only been in Dali and here.
Dali, the old town is very beautiful but, its all been rebuilt and developed to draw in the tourists. There are beautiful new old buildlings, lovely architecture, loads of temples.  Shangri la is 3250m high and so the views are immense, yet it is still a bit oppressive in my view.  I did not notice the altitude when arriving as me and a german guy sank a bottle of local brew because it was National Swiss day (August 1st) and my 14 month party.  Maybe that was why I slept like the dead!  The old town is beautiful as are the prices but I now head to the new town and get stuff even cheaper still; food, clothes, water- everything.  In fact I bought a pair of super chinese quality jeans yesterday as its a bit cool for shorts and the belt loop has come unstitched already!  Typical when buying cheap clothes from Vietnam, Laos etc.
I want to start moving north from here up to Deqin on the Tibetan border but the road has been completely washed out with severe flooding that is currently happening in the surrounding country.  Not sure how long till they re-open it, as I really would like to go, it is supposed to be a beautiful place and further into the true local culture.  On a different level I am nervous about finding or rather not finding work in the Swiss Alps for the winter and these kind of issues on the road can put a strain on things.  You spend a lot of time thinking and planning and not enough getting involved and seeing what a place is all about.   I have an issue now with this whole trip hinging on getting a Russian visa, which I have not secured yet.  I have been working on getting a travel agent I met on the road to sort me out with a letter of recommendation, but this has still not come through and you need it to secure a visa in the same way you do for Vietnam now. I need to get the Russian visa as quick as possible because that gives me a month here .  Oh yea I need another 30 day china visa too! So this will give me from September 2 til October 1st to get all the way up to Vladivostok and that is a long way north!  When I figure out an exact plan I will feel a lot more settled with everything and can enjoy this amazing place. It just goes to show that if you needs to plan in advance because of time restrictions then it is good to have things booked in advance.   There are still many places I want go to…. Huangshan, Shnaghai, Qufu, Tai shan and Beijing. The good news is that there are good trains. 12-24 hours on sleeper trains, between common stops, so the distances as you can imagine are absolutely huge.  It is so nice that I have friends to meet in HK, Shanghai and Beijing from previous travels and makes you appreciate the travelling circuit, but time is going so fast! good or bad? I am not sure yet…

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