Tag Archives: Shangri-la

Shangri-la after the fire

About 80% of Shangri-la old town (Dukezong in Tibetan) burned down in early January. The fire started at a guesthouse at the old town center and burned for nearly 10 hours. The fire trucks couldn’t get in to the narrow streets and water was either frozen or cut off which is usual in the old town winter time.

This photo is not from the fire this year. This was one building burning and the fire was luckily put down.

This photo is not from the fire this year. This was one building burning and the fire was luckily put down.

Luckily no one died in the fire although it started in the middle of the night. It was saddening visiting what was left of the town. The center burned down completely, some buildings were saved at the front and on the edges. The southern side and the temple on the hill are unharmed.

Spared by the fire. The front of the old town.

Spared by the fire. The front of the old town.

At the edge

At the edge

The old town square

The old town square

About the only building left standing - public toilet

About the only building left standing – public toilet

Beijing is pouring money into rebuilding the town and now they are also making proper water system. But the work is slow and everything is still mostly rubble with some blackened walls standing. The plan is to complete the work in three years.

Water system

Old town

The dance that took place every evening at the square has been moved to the southern part, the square in front of the temple.

Dancing Shangri-la

Dancing Shangri-la

Still dancing

Still dancing

Advertisements

Background information

I graduated as a forestry engineer from Kymenlaakso Polytechnic in 1997. The previous year I had been an exchange student in Harbin, China. After graduation I couldn’t find a job, so I decided to study East Asian Studies in Helsinki University. I thought that being able to speak Chinese must be an advantage in future. Now I’ve finished my studies except for the Master’s thesis.

So, this is the background for my decision to move to China. While searching a place to complete my research, I ended up in Zhongdian which nowadays is better known as Shangri-la. The population of Shangri-la is mainly Tibetan but there are also other minorities, such as Naxi, Bai, Yi and Lisu, and of course the majority Han as well. I fell in love with this area and my plan was to open up a bar in Shangri-la in spring 2009. Unfortunately the economic depression is felt here as well, although quite differently compared with many other places. Many previously wealthy Han have lost their jobs but they have savings with which they want to open bars, restaurants and guesthouses in Yunnan. So the property prices and rents have rocketed. After searching for a while for a place for me I realized that my savings weren’t enough.

Xidang

The previous autumn I had also spent some time in Yubeng village which is located in the Meili Snow Mountains nature preserve. I had friends in Yubeng, so I decided to check out, what would be the possibilities to have by bar/hostel in there. Unfortunately, I found out that the rents in Yubeng were also too high for my budget. On the way back down I met my friend Renqing Pinchu, who told me that his family was building a new house in Xidang village. The trek to Yubeng starts there. He said that I could rent part of the house for my bar/restaurant/guesthouse. And after negotiations this is what we decided to do. So my bar in Shangri-la had turned into a guesthouse in Xidang.