Benzilan is 3 hours by car from Shangri-la along the Yunnan - Tibet Road. It was an important trade stop on the ancient Tea and Horse Road.
In the past decade, I can’t remember how many times that I travled on this road to worship the mysterious Kawagebo. Every time, I would make a lunch stop in the small one-streeted town of Benzilan. Sits between Deqin(Meili) and Shangri-la (Gyalthang), Benzilan was heaven to have a simple but tasty meal which was hard to find on highland. Rumor always had it that people in Benzilan cook well, but I believe it’s the low altitude and relatively high boiling points that made rice softer and dishes tastier. Deep fried ribs decorated by a few pieces of mint leaves had been my all time favorite.
Now I am ready to embark on a journey determined to discover what more Benzilan has to offer -- other than deep fried pork ribs.
From the main road bustling with big trucks, we turned on to a smaller road leading deep to the mountains. Built only in 2007, this road connectes an unknown world to the busy Yunnan-Tibet road. 10minutes later, we arrived in a quite and sunny valley where Songtsam Benzilan locates.
Early March is still considered winter in Shangri-la, actually, there is more snow in March than in December. The warmth in Benzilan seems impossible to someone came from Shangri-la. Only 2hours ago I was trying to put on as much clothes as possible, but now, sitting outside in a light jacket, I am enjoying my coffee and a great view of spring.
Our neighbor is a cool old man who was a fearless hunter and talented craftsman. Most of his family now moved to the States, this old man however decided to stay for the easy and relaxing life style that only this secret valley has in a modern world. Baima - the founder of Songtsam bought quite a few antique Tibetan carpets and furnitures from this man, and that’s how he decided to build a hotel in this location after a “treasure hunt” trip. The original idea was to bring guests to this village on horse back, but during the construction of the lodge, a new road was build to bring modernity to this village.
Liming Jia, March 8th, 2012 (To the continued...)