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Leaping Tigers and Karaoke!

Tour to Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La: Day One

semi-overcast 16 °C
View Great Escape to the East! on Tam-Jo's travel map.

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Early start today - by 6.30 am we were being led through the near empty streets of Lijiang to our tour guide, who immediately started jabbering on in Chinese! Why exactly we signed up for a Chinese tour with a guide who spoke no English we were unsure at that point!! We were literally the only the non-Chinese people around. Luckily for us a lovely Chinese man on the tour spoke a little English (by far the most out of everyone in the tour besides us). Him and his girlfriend took us under their wing and became our surrogate parents for the two days!

For the first few hours of the drive our guide talked incessantly to a captivaed audience. Tam and I put in our earphones and began what would be a mammoth couple of days of reading! The kindle version of Lonely Planet's China guide book became our own personal tour guide!!

First stop - the first bend of the Yangtze River (we think!!!). Big and brown and surrounded by impressive mountains and a strange, eery mist. Next, lunch - a random mix of Chinese dishes..... we're getting pretty good with the chopsticks now but we're sure that our fellow tour members found our eating style amusing still! Then on to Tiger Leaping Gorge - stunning! We walked a mile or so to a viewing platform near the rock that gives the gorge its name. Lonely Planet explains to us that legend says a tiger once leaped onto said rock in an attempt to cross the huge river flowing at the base of the gorge. An epic feat! The sound of the water was amazing and the scenery was really spectacular! Whilst we provided a constant source of amusement to the people on our tour, the signs on our walk along the gorge bottom were pretty amusing to Tam and me..... translations were clearly not approved by an English speaker before being printed!!

After saying a reluctant goodbye to the beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge we headed onwards and upwards. Another few hours of endless chatter from our guide (what he could possibly have had to talk about for five hours we don't know - Lonely Planet seemed to sum everything up in only a few pages!)!! Next stop - Songzanlin Temple just outside Shangri-La. Amazing! A 300 year old monastry still occupied by monks, surrounded by run down little shacks. It was amazing!! Our surrogate father encouraged us to wander off on our own rather than linger around to listen to a tour that we wouldn't understand! We dutifully obeyed and spent the next hour exploring all the temples on offer. We heard monks chanting, watched the Chinese army marching about the place (a strange contrast to the monks!), and gazed at all the beautiful and sometimes disturbing Buddhist paintings.

Then, after a confusing half an hour in a very random tourist shop (selling spices, dried insects and crossbows and swords!) we were led out of the maze of counters by a kind girl on our tour. On to Shangri-La! Here we were led into a museum about the local minority groups in the area (we think!). By now we're pretty good at interpretting the jist of what people are saying. As we stood in the crowd the museum guide asked something of the group, who all then turned to look at us, then back to the guide and said "hello" in Chinese (one of the few words we do know!). We take this to mean that the guide has asked whether we can speak Chinese and the group replied to say we can only say hello! Our surrogate parents encouraged us to be rebels and leave the museum tour, when we weren't allowed to wander off on our own! We visit the nearby temple instead - much better! We spun the prayer drum and took lot of photos of the mountains and all the prayer flags.

Dinner is at a replica Tibetan home where we were given meat stew and a roasted pig. Watching the "locals" eat is still fascinating, tearing meat from bones in an almost animal like way! We watched some dancing and got involved in the Butlins like atmosphere of chanting to get the dancers and singers to come out and perform! Hilarious! Somehow we manage to follow what was going on. Yet again, being the only non-Chinese people in a large room of tour groups, we were a source of amusement and fascination! Then, horror of horrors, they started getting people out of the crowd to sing!! Someone else in our group offered to go up and sing but we knew we hadn't escaped humiliation yet! At the end of the night the guy running the show said something and all eyes turned to us. We knew what they wanted. After a few moments of refusal we realised that there was no way of getting out of the situation. We quickly thought of a song that would put us in the lime light for the least amount of time and approached the centre of the room. We were handed two microphones and started to sing..... Happy Birthday. Well we figured they would all know the song and we could only be up there for a minute at most! Everyone began to laugh, snap photos and clap. At the end we quickly scurried back to our seats in a fit of the giggles.

On to our very luxiurious hotel for a good night's sleep!!

Jo xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:09 Archived in China Tagged and tiger gorge shangri-la leaping

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