On the way to Shangri-La, I was reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs, coincidently, the early chapter about his spiritual journey to India.
Shangri-la, which was renamed from Zhongdian in 2001 to attract tourists, is a primarily ethnic Tibetan county in Yunnan province Southwestern China. According to Wikipedia, the name of Shangri-la came from a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains.
Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise but particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia — a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. In the novel Lost Horizon, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shangri-La).
In my short one and half day visit to Shangri-La, I visited the two largest local Tibetan monasteries, had a yak feast at a Tibetan family and hiked in the Pudacuo National Park. During the yak feast, I found out that polyandry (a form of polygamy whereby a woman has several husbands ) in Tibet is still the norm in rural areas.
The 500 square mile park sits about 13,000 feet above sea level and is home to more than 20 percent of the country’s plant species and many rare animals . The breath-taking (literally with the high 12,000ft+ altitude) landscape and the pollution free air was the highlight of the trip.
The yak feast at a Tibetan family reminds me of an indoor Hawaiian Luau with Tibetan singing and dancing. Tibetan food can definitely be a challenge to the western palate but can also be surprisingly good. The yak feast included locally distilled liquor made of barley.
A unique snack that was universally liked was a popcorn version of barley sweetened with sugar. Yak cheese must be an acquired taste that you apparently have to be born into. The yak itself was well roasted, a little more stringy and gamy than beef but not unpleasant.
One thing for sure, celebrations are universal. Whether an entire village feasting over a whole roasted yak or a small group of yuppies sipping cocktails at a bar, human beings continue to long to be around each other, lingering over long conversations and toasting to the joys of live.
I’m thrilled that my personal journey has led me to Froomz, and look forward to helping you with your own celebrations.