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Hidden Trails, Tribes & Markets: Yunnan To Vietnam

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Over a quarter of Yunnan’s 35 million people belong to 25 ethnic groups who still maintain their customs and traditional dress.  Walk through the old Tibetan town of Gyalthang commonly known as Shangri-La.  Explore a 300-year-old stunning hilltop monastery with over 700 monks and admire its murals and statuary.  Drive past grand mountain landscapes and steep gorges, with breathtaking descents into the river valleys.  Stop at a remote monastery to meet the friendly monks.  After unforgettable views over the largest nature reserve in Yunnan, arrive in Deqin in the very north of Yunnan on the borders of Tibet, Sichuan and Burma.  Pass numerous lamaseries and prayer flags to Mount Meili, the most revered Tibetan pilgrimage site.  Amble along the main market street to shop for antique saddle blankets, black pottery and azalea wood bowls and hike to picturesque villages with painted farmhouses.

Drive past idyllic villages to Tiger Leaping Gorge, which sits on the first bend of the Yangtze River.  Arrive in Lijiang, nestled in a valley and flanked by the dramatic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, is the center of the Naxi culture and its intriguing Dongba religion that combines Hinayana Buddhism, Tibetan Lamaism and Shamanism.  Drive to the market town of Dali, a peaceful town, which lays at the edge of Lake Erhai, and has retained much of its traditional character.  Enjoy a pleasant boat ride on the azure Lake Erhai, at the base of the dramatic Changshan mountain range.  Fly to tropical Xishuangbanna located on the Lanchang (Mekong) River is known for its rare exotic plants, abundant bird life and ethnic diversity.  Visit local markets and villages, nature reserves and botanical gardens.  Finally, stroll through the classical gardens and walk along the famous “Bund” with it neo-classic architecture in Shanghai.

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