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52 • Vacations

®

Summer 2018

Next day, I follow the Tea Horse Road higher, weaving through

terraced farmland, deep valleys and the imposing mass of

Haba Snow Mountain. A stop at a local village gives me a close

look at the life of local herders and farmers. Their homes are

sturdy Tibetan-style structures, spacious enough to house

extended families. Grandmothers watch the children while

mothers serve us yak butter tea and tsampa, a mixture of yak

butter, cheese, barley and a little sugar, traditionally rolled into

a ball and carried by herders and the caravan traders as their

staple diet.

I visit Tiger Leaping Gorge, the deepest in the world, wonder

at the sweep of the first bend in the river and feast on spicy

Kung Pao chicken in a family-run restaurant. And then it’s on

to our last city on the tour, Shangri-La.

At 3,200 metres, Shangri-La is in the present-day Tibet

Autonomous Region, and one of the last stops for the

caravans crossing the Hengduan Mountains into Tibet.

The jewel of this area is the Buddhist Ganden Sumtseling

Monastery, high above Shangri-La and full of echoes of the

hidden civilization of James Hilton’s 1933 utopian novel,

Lost Horizon

. The monastery is the largest in Yunnan Province,

a vast interconnected series of temples. Amidst the hum of

chants and the tang of incense, monks in red robes conduct

their religious worship.

Later that evening, after a comforting dinner of yak meat

hot pot, I join a group of villagers in their nightly collective

dance in the main square, the mountains behind us pink in

the evening light. A lady with her child in a sling on her back

smiles and makes a place for this clumsy westerner, and we

glide around the circle, each doing our own version of a dance.

This is a corner of the world layered in history and warmly

welcoming. A tour of Yunnan and Tea Horse Road offers

a rewarding glimpse into the cultural richness of the

‘Middle Kingdom’ – and may enhance the appreciation of

your next cup of tea!

TIGER LEAPING GORGE ©BARBARA RAMSEY ORR

If you go

Ask your travel agent about tour companies that offer

packages that include Tea Horse Road, including

Abercrombie & Kent, G Adventures, Insider Journeys,

and Big Five.

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