Yunnan Province's


Global Mark : 13.45

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


3 3 1 4 5 2 3 2



Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend Range AVER.
17 100%  (17) 76%  (13) 88%  (15) 10 to 20 15.35

Description :
A Tibetan Chinese city in the middle of nowhere and next to the biggest Tibetan monastery complex in Yunnan

Comments : Forget about the modern part of town,  really Chinese looking. Concentrate on the monastery and the old south-part of town for a Tibetan's cultural bath.

What to do : Dream at the scenery / Practice your Tibetan / Walk the monastery complex / Smell the butter / Smile back at the monks / Visit nearby villages / Check how traditional houses are being built / Climb hills for a panoramic view of a developing town

What you may not like : The price of accommodation if you do not stay in dorm / The cold weather

How long ? One day is enough for the monastery and the old town but if you want to explore the countryside...

Where to stay ? 

A lot of dorm facilities but very few acceptably priced Sgl or Dbl and only expensive accommodations with attached bath.

  • Tibet Hotel (822 3754), 1km South of the Bus Station /Traditional architecture / Dorm 20 in nice 4 bed's room / 25 per bed in Trpl / Dble 50 / Dble with bath 180 / Good common bath & flushing toilets / HW 24 hrs // Go there to be with the other backpackers, for the services, the satellite TV (if repaired), the location next to the old town-village. / What you may not like : walking the distance to be told they are full so, on the way from the bus station, you can check the followings :

  • Jiaotong Hotel (822 3612), next to the bus station / Dorm 15 (5), 25 (4) or 30 (3) / HW 18 to 22

  • Diqing Hotel "Anch Hotel" (822 2703), turning right from Bus Station (south), on the left side / A luxury Hotel with an old building for dorms / Dorm 20 (4) in correct rooms / Acceptable showers but very hard toilets / HW 19 to 22:30

  • Ji An Jiudian, on the right side, opposite Diqing Hotel / Dbl 80 but down to 50 after negotiation / Trpl 90 / Correct showers and toilets with doors / HW 19 to 11am

  • Kangba Hotel (2126 665), on the left side / Dbl 100 / Trpl 135 / Quad 160 / HW if enough people (!)

Tibet Hotel yongsheng fandian

Jiaotong Hotel

jiaotong fandian

Ji An Jiudian

jian jiudian

Kangba Hotel

kangba jiudian

Backpacker's Tips : Keith Lyons, New Zealand (May 05)
« The old town of Zhongdian - aka Shangrila - is now openned up and has some funky guesthouses, bars and restaurants, signalling the end of the new town and its associated Tibet Hotel and Tibet Cafe as the centre for backpackers.
The best guesthouse in the old town (reached by #1 bus from bus station - 1yuan) is Harmony Guesthouse (Roo Juu Guesthouse) at 22 Beimen Street. To get there go straight from Long March Road (the main drag) past Noah's cafe (good museli and Indian tea) and Tibet Cafe (good place to meet travellers - crap food) into the old town where it is in a state of construction. Continue along the street to the end of the road, where you'll see a market square. Go diagonally across the square and then turn right up a narrow windy cobblestone street. Harmony Guesthouse is about the fifth on the right, just opposite Hazel's (great atmosphere and food) and Raven bar. The unique thing about Harmony Guesthouse is that it is set up for travellers and trekkers, with a noticeboard for trips, hot showers 24- hours, plus you can use the laundry and kitchen. There's a sunny courtyard out back, and dorm beds are 15Y while pleasant twin rooms are 20Y per person - surely one of the best deals in sw China. The owner Joe doesn't speak much English, but he and the team make up for it with friendliness - and the place is clean too. Guests have a discounted menu at the bar for drinks and snacks, and Joe has a jeep for hire, and other friends in the old town who can also help with onward travel, advice on routes, etc. The place is small, cosy, quiet and relaxed. Lots of people unhappy with the cold showers at the Tibet Hotel or the unfriendliness of new town hotels and hostels end up here. Phone 139 88747739.
Another guesthouse to try if Harmony is full is Rockside - a former slave owners house at 17-18 Changfang Street - out of the square continue 100m instead of turning right into Beimen Street. The manager Xiao and his wife Mina are also a good source of information on what to do in Zhongdian.
For example there's a Swiss-run orphanage near the No 5 Middle School which welcomes visitors. And other monasteries around like Ringa 12km from town. Plus the Tibetan communities at Trinyi and Shambhala which welcome visitors (Kampa Caravan and Tibet Cafe run visits, though they are a little expensive).

Backpacker's Tips : Stefan Westerheide, Germany (Jan 05)
« Kevin´s Trekker Inn (dbl,sb,very clean,very friendly, very good English,free internet, espresso machine, free pool table, 40 Y, by far the best budget option in Zhongdian, located 100m west of Tibet Café)
Bus to fantastic songzalin monastery 1 Y. Zhongdian isn´t very special, but surrounding areas are very nice and give you a reasonable taste of tibet, absolutely worth going there from Lijiang, btw it´s possible to avoid backtracking by going back over Weixi and Liming to Lijiang, if you got time and the right clothes, Deqin is considered a must see, too. Bus to Qiaotou (entrance to tiger leaping gorge) 2.5 h 15 Y

Where to eat ?  For snacks, a lot of places prepare various kind of  tasty baozi (0.5Y par piece), this time not in bamboo case but a kind of fuming safe. For dinner, try the pottery dishes (Y7)

Backpacker's Tips : Blaise Fiedler, France (July 05)
« I recommend Noah's cafe - it's opposite the Tibet Cafe and prices and food are better. You can burn CDs for 10Y , incl the CD and they have a book exchange 1-for-1. At the Tibet cafe, LP says that you can get travel tips - not true. It's just a restaurant.» 

What to see/visit ?

  • Songzanlin Monastery : (5), 10Y, Bus No3 (1Y) / 5 km in the Northwest of Zhongdian. The largest Tibetan temple in Yunnan. Belongs to the Gelu religious sect. Approved by Emperor Kangxi (Qing Dynasty) in 1679. Location selected by Fifth Dalai Lama. 3 years to build. Covers area of 500 mu. A total of 13 places of worship incl. the Zhacang grand hall and 8 large Kangcangs. / Tip : There are a lot of ways to enter the complex without paying. Decide if this will bring you a good karma...

  • Small monastery in the old town, overlooking the city : (3), Y3 negotiable


Bus Schedules :

To Price Type Duration Time Nb Freq.
Kunming 130 sleep 15 10,13,14,16,18 5 na
Xiaguan 45/62 ordi/sleep 7 6:30 to 12 / 19,20 9/2 var.
Lijiang 25 ordi 5 7:10,10,11:40,13,14,16 6 na
Jinjiang 98 sleep 17 10:30 1 na
Baishuitai 20 ordi 5 7:30 1 na
Deqin 27 ordi 7 6:50,8 2 na

Notes : Frequency for ordinary buses to Xiaguan (Dali) : every 20mn up to 8am / From Jinjiang, trains to Emeishan & Chengdu / var. = various frequency

Trains  << Click here for trains from Jinjiang to Chengdu

Backpacker's Tips : Camielle Donaghey, Australia (Aug 02)
« The sleeper bus from Zhongdian to Jinjiang now leaves at 3pm and costs 112.5 yuan.»

The trip to Jinjiang : Sleeper Bus / SSSSS / L / Y98 / 16 hrs   

Go directly to Jinjiang from Zhongdian or go back first to Lijiang and take the 6:30am bus? I did not keep such a pleasant memory of the Lijiang's bus (except for the scenery) so I decided to try the sleeper. We left on time, half empty (this is always a good option if you are not keen to lie next to a smoking and spitting Chinese comrade). So we waited nearly two hours at a very interesting intersection, 10mn North of Lijiang, for more passengers. They did not materialize... And they would not, as we did not stop in Lijiang... This was therefore a relatively comfortable trip, even so the night masked too rapidly the scenery.. We arrived at 2:30 and slept in the bus, embracing our bags (I was told there was a lot of robbers) until we could buy our train ticket at 6am.

The trip from Jinjiang (Panzhihua) to Emeishan : Train (hard seat) / SS / Y71 / 12 hrs

Most travelers leave Lijiang in the early morning and arrive at Jinjiang, quite exhausted, in the afternoon. If they are lucky, they might spend a nice night on a hard sleeper onward to Emei or Chengdu. If not, they will enjoy an additional 12 to 15 hours of hard seat...  For me, taking the 8am train, the hard seat option was more acceptable : I would not sleep but check the scenery. Unfortunately, the scenery somehow made me sleep. It was pleasant enough but every time I started to dream at it, a tunnel woke me up... If it is to be constantly in the dark, better to do it at night ! We arrived at 20pm, too late to go to Baogao (except by taxi, Y20) so I decided to recuperate from my trip at an hotel in front of the station : this way, I would be fresh for the Emeishan adventure... Check the Sichuan's trains for schedules from Jinjiang. 

Tip : Considering the above and that the scenery between Lijiang and Jinjiang is truly amazing, people who do not mind to switch a (dirty) sleeper bus for an uncomfortable big bus should consider going back first to Lijiang from Zhongdian (5hrs), spend the night there, take the 6:30 bus to Jinjiang and pray that a sleeper will be available on one of the Emei/Chengdu bound's train...

See also Trip from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Zhongdian...

Backpacker's Tips : Susanne Kannenberg, Germany (April 07)
« We did the Zhondian-Lhasa trip and have found out some really juicy info. It turns out that the TTB office in Zhondian is really a private travel agency, a certain Tibet Chamdo international travel agency, its director is a Mister Liu Zhen. But you wont know this unless you ask, otherwise you think you are dealing with the TTB office. They offer the same trip as most of the other agencies, albeit much cheaper than the rest ( with some bargaining of course). The only problem is that they are charging 1400rmb for the permit, which is outrageous. We did a 9 day trip with them in a Landcruiser with driver and guide the total price btw 4 people was 17000rmb. The trip was awesome and really worth it. But when we arrived in Lhasa our curiosity about the permit story left us with a bad taste in our mouths. We came to find out that the same trip, but from Lhasa only costs 8000rmb ( 4*4, driver, guide, permits based on 4 people), we checked with 4 different agencies. They also quoted us only 150rmb for the permits. We were pretty pissed off and resolved to get to the bottom of this permit story. We lodged a complaint with the TTB headoffice in Lhasa and found out some really interesting things.

1) The permits in Lhasa only cost 50rmb(per permit 4 are required, incl. alien and military permits) but foreigners are not allowed to apply for them, they have to go through a travel agency. The travel agencies normally charge about 150 - 260 max.
2) Travel agencies with the TTB sign can charge whatever they want for the permit.
3) In Zhondian the options for overland travel are very limited especially for the budget traveller. The TTB office in Zhondian will only issue permits if you go with Mister Liu Zhen's vehicles ect, regardless if you have organised your own tranport, driver ,guide. This is wrong as this TTB office is the only place to get the permits. Many people on the street in Zhondian had offered us all sorts of deals but all ceased to materialise the moment we went to TTB office for permits.

Travellers should be wary of the TTb in Zhondian. The problem is that all TTB department are cashing in on this( surprise, surprise..) The blokes at the TTb head office in Lhasa, although friendly had officially allowed this office to do what they wanted in Zhondian and started sweating when we perservered for answers.

The conclusion was that we managed to get a 2000rmb refund( from Liu Zhen) which showed us that this was a big con and he is still afraid that we take this further by laying a charge with the Tibet Government( as advised by the TTB office if no solution was found). Anyway, hate to bitch but there is no reliable info about this damn permit, we did our research and only came up with blanks!

Backpacker's Tips : A cool adventure to Tibet, by Paul Meier, New Zealand (Sept 01)
«Getting to Lhasa was a mission and a cool adventure. I'll start the story in Dali - it's straightforward to get to there.

I'd met an American guy in Laos and in Dali we met a south African. The three of us started talking about this trip because the only alternative was a big loop up to Goldmud or a flight from Chengdu - both unappealing. So we decided to look around to find a Chinese driver willing to take us to Lhasa by the back-roads. None of us spoke Chinese but we found a travel agent in Dali who said he knew someone with military connections who could get us through. We made a deal but it then fell through because we didn't have enough people - the cost was too high. 

It looked like failure but while doing the Tiger Leaping gorge hike we met a Dane who was keen to come with us, so we were 4 but still not enough. 2 days later we all met up again in Zhongdian. Zhongdian is the last town before Tibet - you either go to Tibet or you turn around and go back. By some crazy chance we found a Japanese guy in our hotel who was all set to hitch but thought he had a better chance with us. So we had 5 people. we decided to resurrect our plans.

The drivers recommended by the hotel owners in Zhongdian were all wanting stupid amounts of money, or else saying the road was closed by too much snow (it was early April last year, 2000). We didn't believe them so we called the guy that the travel agent had recommended directly (with help from the receptionist). To our amazement he arrived at 8am the next morning - he must have started driving about 4am. Xin (the driver) tried to jack the cost up again but we were having none of that and eventually settled on us180 per person (5 people), paid in thirds: 1/3 at the start, 1/3 after Markam (notoriously bad police) and 1/3 in Lhasa. this is a lot and about the same as flying but we figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. The trip was planned to be a 5 day drive, 6-8 hours a day to Lhasa. 

Xin was ex-military, always wore his uniform, and had "connections" which were necessary to get us through all the military check posts. There were about 4. Sometimes he timed the driving to set off early in the morning to go through them in the dark. He spoke no English and that's why we were so lucky to meet the Japanese guy - they could communicate by writing things on paper as some of the Chinese/Japanese script is shared. 

The vehicle was a Nissan Pathfinder but pretty unprepared for the conditions (bald tires, no chains). At one pass it started snowing pretty heavily, everything was white and the Xin started talking about turning back. We were putting up quite a lot of resistance to this (as you would) when fortunately a convoy of army trucks came thru in the opposite direction and we could follow the tracks.

The route we followed was 
Day 1 Zhongdian - Deqen. 
Day 2 Deqen - Markam - Zogang. 
Day 3 Zogang - Zhamo -Rawu - Bomi. 
Day 4 Bomi - Nyingchi
Day 5 Nyingchi - Lhasa

Everything went smoothly until day 4 when we arrived in Nyingchi. Some crazy stuff then happened with the police. We believe Xin tried to hand us over to the police and claim some sort of reward, but it backfired somehow. He parked just down the road from the local police station (!) and asked us if we wanted to keep driving because the town was dangerous. Of course we said yes. Well about 2 minutes after he parked a police 4wd drove past, saw us, turned around and ordered us to follow. We spent an hour or so being questioned and given some fairly amusing pamphlets on why the Chinese are entitled to occupy Tibet. There were about 10 confiscated mountain bikes in the room next to us, so the police were obviously particularly diligent in this town.

Fortunately it all worked out reasonably well in the end, after some very nervous moments. The police indicated that they would fine us us70 per person (in yuan). Somehow we pleaded this down to us50 per person. They then told us to stay in a particular hotel, take a bus to Lhasa the next morning and never do it again! :-) And of course we never had to pay Xin the last 1/3 of what we owed him (although he came and begged us for it). He was kept back after we left looking very unhappy. The other strange thing that happened here was the Japanese guy refused to pay the fine!!!! The rest of us were like, what are you doing??? Apparently it was some 'honor' hang up the Japanese have with the Chinese. Anyway he had his passport confiscated and we thought he would be locked up or something, but a week or so later, by co-incidence, we saw him on the way to the Nepalese border. His visa had been cut short and he had been told to get out of China and never come back.

As for the scenery it was pretty amazing - lots of 5000m+ passes, dodgy roads half washed away by the rivers (headwaters of the Yangtze, Brahmaputra, Mekong), remote villages, surprising lush forests in some places, frozen lakes and waterfalls and always massive mountains in the background. The locals in the villages were friendly, the food was very basic. We were very fortunate with the weather too. 

From Lhasa it was on to Everest base camp with a combination of hitching and paying people - also a crazy adventure - and from there down to Nepal.

Chances are it would be pretty difficult to find another driver - probably we were the only westerners to go through that way last year and it was a lot of work to arrange it all plus we had luck. Hitching in is an option but the truck drivers that stop will want money (they will ask for LOTS because they know they can). And you have to somehow skirt around the police checkpoints or hide in the back of the truck. Biking in is an option but I saw risky because the police will confiscate bikes if you get caught. There are sleeper busses operating but the drivers simply won't let you on. Other Asians e.g. Japanese have success on the busses though, because they can disguise themselves as Chinese.