Spent a few days in Shangri-La. Somehow I thought it would be a cute and small city. It was actually pretty large. The actual name of the city is Zhongdian. But the city fathers felt there was similarities between the city and the city of Shangri-La made famous in the book Lost Horizons. So they renamed the city Shangri-La. Plus that name could not hurt tourism. ...Sort of a typical sprawling Chinese city. Here is a city view from the graveyard. And a street view. Wide streets with lots of small shophouses selling everything you could imagine. A graveyard right next to my guesthouse. A cherry blossom tree in the graveyard. Twilight view of a huge tower located next to old town. It slowly revolved and was quite striking at night when it was lit up. Here a temple located on the outside of town. It was being freshly built. Not to be a cynic, but......All this stuff was built in the town in the last few years. Even the area that looked pretty quaint and old , that was called amazingly enough old town, was all built in the last couple of years. It is all part of the plan to promote tourism in the area, with the Chinese government pouring in big money. Seems to be working as there were in fact a lot of tourists, both Chinese and foreign. Had some time on my hands so pulled out the oil filter. Hmmm lots of metal. Not a good sign. Am thinking of renaming it the metal catcher... Saw this sign in the Portola Cafe in town. Had not heard this before. Mark Twain truly was a genius for pithy comments. Had waited two days in town for the office of TTB to open. When they finally did the answer for a permit for me was no. Shit !! Was comtemplating simply running the border. However the night before I was going to leave got some bad news from a fellow traveler. Turns out the week before some Tibetans who had American passports staged some sort of Free Tibet protest while in Tibet. So now there was a big clampdown in effect, with the travel permits being checked everywhere. So much for sneaking in...Ok, change of plans. Time to head to Chengdu for some rest and recovery. From there onto the desert of the nortwestern corner. So here is a small lake just outside town. Elevation of Shangri-La was about 3200 meters. From here the road just keeps heading up, following rivers up canyons many times. Mystery junction, not shown on my pretty detailed map that is in Chinese. Also could not match up the symbols, so had to wait until a car came by to ask directions. Distant overseas cousins of "Brighty of the Grand Canyon". First ones that I have seen in China. In this particular area the mountains were very dry like the high desert. Except here they were a LOT taller. Loved the contrast here between the mountains and the greenery of the river fed valleys. Yeah baby !! Chinese twisty sign. You can see here it was not kidding. This style of house was everywhere. I had heard of rammed earth houses, has just never seen one before. Makes perfect sense for cold weather as the walls were very thick. Here is one being built. Think they form each row, pound it down, and wait before removing the form and putting a new row on top of the one before. An enclave. The north facing was always blank, I think for solar heat purposes. Village kids along the way. They were so excited to see pictures of themselves I thought they were going to pee in their pants. My first big pass. That is meters by the way......:evil Tibetan prayer flags were everywhere at each pass. It was damn cold at the top, with a stiff breeze blowing. Here is some snow by the side of the road just below the pass. Brought back memories of Alaska for me. View down to Xiengchan where I spent the night. Temple along the way down. Reach town early evening. Stayed in a great room in a completely empty new hotel for the price of 130 yuan. It was very surreal, as the whole town looked brand new, and had a bunch of villagers wandering around . Just do not understand the economics here. Think there is some sort of goverment program develop certain areas, regardless of ecomomic needs.