Driving through the mountainous Yunnan Province and stopping at Tiger Leaping Gorge, a deep river canyon, was impressive enough, but arriving at the ancient town of Shangri-La (formally known as Zhongdian) was unforgettable. At an altitude of 3,200 m (10,000 ft), you have to take things slowly here but it offers time to soak up Shangri-La’s deep historical and cultural ties with the Tibetan autonomous prefecture. I’d recommend becoming submerged in Tibetan art and spirituality by walking through the Songzanlin Monastery and hiking through the Yi La grasslands to the village of Wang Chi Ka.
Rick, China Specialist
I’ve had a passion for travel and the environment from a young age, and my journeys across the globe have taken me to a variety of highly impressive locations. Along the way, I’ve lived in Australia, worked for the United Nations in Switzerland, and backpacked through Latin America, Europe and Asia.
I lived in China for five years, and spent my time researching and monitoring the effects of chemical water pollution in the Pearl River Delta as part of my master’s degree, as well as undertaking positions as a biology and environmental science teacher.
Through my research and teaching, I gained a deeper understanding of the country by experiencing its many cultures and looking at how it is developing its future by holding on to its traditions. It’s a complex but fascinating place and I’m delighted to be able to use my experiences there to help others explore the country themselves.
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Located deep within the Guanxi limestone karsts, the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat on the Yulong River offers a respite from the bustle of everyday life. A small, family-run property, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. The hotel uses a traditional design aesthetic, with much of the furniture being Qin dynasty antiques, but its boutique charm comes from the mix of traditional and modern in both the indoor and outdoor spaces. Nothing is better than sitting on your private balcony with a beer, listening to the sound of the river and watching the sun set between the mountains.
I'll never forget when…
One of the most inspiring and remarkable experiences I had was in northwest Yunnan while visiting the local Baisha village. Known for its ethnic Naxi community, this UNESCO-protected village and former capital of the Naxi people is renowned for producing the finest silk embroidery in Asia. Wandering around its ancient streets and learning about local customs, folk traditions and culture was fascinating but the highlight was seeing people at work on the exquisite embroidery which was historically provided to the emperors and made Baisha a key location on the ancient Silk Road.