The north of Yunnan is host to an interesting mix of ethnic Chinese groups, most famously the Naxi (who were featured in a textbook I taught from in Japan) and Tibetans.
The city Zhongdian changed its name to Shangri-la after similarities to Jame Hilton’s famous book Lost Horizon, which put the word into popular meaning ‘utopia.’ I really had a good time and stayed longer, mostly due to an awesome couchsurf host. She took me all around old town where she lived and on a nice hike in around a mountain and through some yak fields.
The city is famous for its 400 year old or so Tibetan monastery with about 600 monks. You see them all over, talking on cell phones and chatting. The monastery was incredible with several very large Buddha statues and all the color one would expect.
I think I’ve enjoyed this place the most. You know its interesting when walking along, someone says, “This road goes to Lhasa.” Perhaps if I can return after Mongolia, Tibet will be more feasible and affordable by then?
Additionally, I found an awesome restaurant that served proper yak steaks, as opposed to the one I had in Nepal.