I sure do!
Ever since I was a little child. “Travelling broadens your horizons”- I am sure you heard of this saying.
It sounds cheesy, but it really does give you what it stands for.
Learning about new cultures, meeting new people, trying new cuisine, seeing new places, hearing new stories – all your senses are involved when you travel.
Feeling the soft sand under your feet on breathtaking beaches of Greece, or hearing stories about ancient places like the city of Petra in Jordan, you name it.
Every type of travel fills your spirit with new colors, new ideas, new knowledge. What more could we wish for?
Of course, it all depends on your preferences.
You might be inclined to have a relaxing holiday on some sun-soaked beaches and swim in crystal clear waters.
Or you might want to go to the end of the Earth and visit some exotic destinations like New Zealand or go backpacking across Australia.
For you who like icy cold winter, your perfect holiday might be the greatest railway journey through Siberia.
This journey takes you through mysterious Russia, from Moscow, over the Urals mountain through the endless steppe, and magnificent snowy landscapes.
But, for me, the ideal holiday would be visiting paradise on Earth.
If I ever found it. But my quest starts right now for the lost Tibetan paradise of Shangri-La.
The mythical place of Shangri-La accounts for the Tibetan legend of paradise called Shambala.
It is represented by a valley, far away from the rest of the world.
All the wisdom is gathered here, and nothing can destroy it.
This is one of the most sacred and the most inspiring places in the Himalayas.
This valley is a striking landscape, placed on a high plateau and surrounded by high mountains.
This myth of the lost Tibetan paradise was first noticed in the 1580s by some travelers to the court of the Moghul Emperor Akbar.
They heard strange stories told in a Buddhist text, about this mysterious place. The story is Tibetan but, some claim that it was actually first recorded in India in AD 962.
The story goes like this: There is a land in the Himalayas where peace and harmony rule.
People who live there follow Buddhist principles and they are waiting for the moment when the world is finally ready to live in peace.
This land stands proudly in the shadow of a white crystal mountain and it can’t be approached easily.
There is also a lake and a palace where all the wisdom is kept, ready to be used when the world needs to be saved.
Now, this is a myth, but some explorers have actually found a place that resembles this lost paradise.
It is lush with greenery, it is secluded in Tibet’s Himalayan, and it is surrounded by a monstrously steep canyon. It is placed under the mountain at a sharp curve of the Tsangpo River, and if this is not a paradise, I don’t know what is!
There is a breathtaking waterfall, and a subtropical garden surrounded by huge mountains. It is claimed to be the world’s deepest canyon.
The place is overflowed by life. There is a wild river with small waterfalls, strong rapids, and immense current rushing through. It’s lush with all sorts of flora – it is a magical garden. Some rare animals inhabit this garden like the creature takin, which is sacred to Tibetan Buddhists.
How can we return to civilization after witnessing such splendor?!
But, actually, only Zhongdian in China’s Yunnan Province officially bears the name of Shangri-La County.
This region encloses an astonishing land of snowcapped peaks and forceful canyons chiseled by three of Asia’s ferocious rivers.
This land is the heart of Chinese biodiversity.
On our journey through China’s Yunnan Province first, we stop at the Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery.
It is situated 5 kilometers from the city of Zhongdian. It is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery and it is placed on 3380 meters.
It was built in 1679, and it’s the biggest monastery in Yunnan province and the most important one in southwest China.
This monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddism of the Gelukpa order of the Dalai Lama.
This monastery was built by the fifth Dalai Lama’s Buddhist visionary passion. Regarding architecture, it’s a combination of the Tibetan and Han Chinese style.
It used to offer accommodation for 2000 monks before it was greatly damaged by the Cultural Revolution.
It was rebuilt in 1983 and now it accommodates around 700 monks.
Every year on 29 November, The Gedong Festival is held in the precinct of the monastery.
Many people attend this festival to worship and see the religious mask dances, called the Cham dance.
The dance is performed by monks who wear colorful costumes that portray ghosts, animals, and deities.
There is also a Horse Racing Festival or Heavenly Steed Festival. It lasts for three days and is held in June according to the lunar calendar.
This festival includes dancing, singing and eating, and horse racing.
Our journey around the Shangri-La continues and our next stop is Potatso National Park.
It spreads out through 1300 square kilometer area and it is claimed to be the first national park in China to meet the standards of the International Union for Conservation of nature.
It is a part of the protected world heritage site. There you can enjoy the flora and fauna of China and see different plants, mammals and birds.
You can see the endangered Black-necked crane, some rare orchids, and Himalayan Yew.
This tree contains extracts that are a source of the anticancer drug paclitaxel.
This park is about 20 kilometers away from Zhongdian. There are two lakes, a few minority villagers, abundant forests, and magnificent views. Enjoy the walks through the woods around Shudu Lake.
Our journey continues to Tiger Leapin Gorge.
It is a picturesque canyon on the Jinsha River. It belongs to the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan protected Areas World Heritage Site.
According to the legend, there was a hunted tiger that escaped by jumping across the river at the narrowest point, with the help of the rock in the middle.
That’s how this magnificent canyon got its name. The highest peak is 3790 meters from the river and this canyon is one of the deepest and most breathtaking sites in the world.
You can see only indigenous people Naxi living here in a few small villages.
Our journey is finished.
After we have enjoyed beautiful nature, seen amazing landscapes, tried unusual food, heard traditional chants and music our senses are full. Even though this is not the real lost paradise from the legend it sure looks like one.
I will continue my quest for Shambala. The present Dalai Lama says that maybe it is in another world. Maybe it cannot be seen in an ordinary way.
Maybe it’s just the place of imagination.
Whatever is the truth the search for Shambala starts with the journey into ourselves.
Shangri-La could be reaching enlightened consciousness. I don’t know… The Tibetans say that we won’t have paradise if we are trying to find it elsewhere.