The documentary series ‘The far away home’ (远方的家）did not head north into Tibet as I had expected. It headed east into Diqing (迪庆) or Deqen prefecture. Diqing is not exactly a border area, though the highway route 214 that passes through Diqing is the main route for entering Tibet from Yunnan. Perhaps, it is also because there are many remarkable stories of the people living in the land of rolling grasslands, jade green lakes, deep river gorges and snow capped mountains that remain to be told.
Shangrila or Xiangelila (香格里拉) county is within Diqing prefecture. It is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. The original name of Xianggelila is Zhongdian (中甸). Shangrila was originally used by the English novelist James Hilton in the 1930s to describe a mystical earthly paradise somewhere in the Himalayas. Someone came up with the idea of promoting tourism in this area, and thus the name was changed to Xianggelila back in 2001. While I am not exactly enthusiastic about this name changing matter, I do acknowledge that it works wonder, as tourism has taken off rapidly ever since and more and more local people are enjoying the fruits of tourism boom. The name is also being promoted on the adjacent Sichuan side, such that there is also another Xianggelila over there.
The main town in the Xianggelila area is Jiangtang, where the elevation is 3300m. The town is fairly modern with wide roads, and new buildings. There is also a renovated old sections. Further from the town are the beautiful lake area of Napahai (纳帕海) and other grasslands areas mainly inhibited by the Tibetan cattle herders.