Next, Lijiang. A bigger and better Dali, with even larger snow-capped peaks on the horizon. We sat in European cafes and watched the rain patter on the blurry panes. On our last night we went to see the Naxi orchestra - a group of ancient musicians playing on even older instruments pieces from the Middle Ages. There was even a solo from one of the oldest members called "heartless love" about how his money left him and his woman followed suit. ouch.
Oh, then to Shangri-la, where we expected so little so the return was even greater. We met with the first foreigner allowed into town in 1987, and she told us of how she got around town on horseback. We drank yak butter tea and were invited into the dormitory of an orange-robed Tibetan buddhist monk. I watched the sunset from beside the largest prayer wheel in the world, looking over Old Town Shangri-la with prayer flags rustling in the wind overhead and bells tinkling in the temple and I realize that looking for Shangri-la is a fruitless endeavor, it can only be realized in passing moments like this.
Finally, Shaxi shocked me. The most intact and least touristed village yet, we saw an ancient Buddhist temple, trudged along the old Tea Horse Caravan Road through the fields of harvesting Bai people, and ate locally-grown organic potatoes, roasted red bell peppers, snow peas, chives and goat cheese washed down with thick red tea for two dollars and twenty five cents. We laid to rest under the roof of a structure built during the Tang Dynasty. Look it up - it's more amazing than you think.