Bala village

Nicholas Quirke was breathless with astonishment on 1 May 2021 by the landscape he found himself in. It was both terrifying and beautiful. They were travelling to a gorge and it required a drive through mountain passes that dwarfed everything in sight. They had to stop when he spotted a shrine with prayer flags stretched across the gorge and pinned up the cliff face. It was no mean feat to achieve that as the mountain side seemed to be sheer rocky face. They had not yet reached the scenic spot but this view was just the first of a sequence of vistas that moved from the impressive to majestic to spectacular. Their journey did not pass without the obligatory police check and endless list of questions about his status and once they were satisfied he was not a health risk he passed through and the reached their destination deep in the valleys of the Hongshan Mountain range and is at the junction of Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet provinces. Bala where they would eventually reach is a mountainous village sitting high in the clouds and previously was isolated from the outside world. In Tibetan language, “Bala” means people who migrate from Batang(巴塘). And it is recorded that the people moved here in the Tang Dynasty giving it a history of more than 1300 years, in search of an ideal home away from war and suffering. Apparently the Blue Moon Valley described in the book Lost Horizon is within the Balagezong Grand Canyon. It is also said among the local people that this is the place where the immortals live, the real “Shambala”. At the end of the village, colorful sutra streamers around Marnyi stones sway in the wind and in the distance, Balagezong Snow Mountain can be seen. Legend has it that a brave and powerful Chieftain Sinaduoji(斯那多吉) of King Gesar in the Batang region, led his people there at the cost of blood and life. In a long talk with an old Lama, he learned of the Buddhist sutras of Tibetan Buddhism recording a place called Shambala kingdom, surrounded by a snow mountain like eight-petal lotus and was the ideal pure land that Tibetan Buddhists yearned for and thus settled in Bala. To this day Bala Villagers still use the oldest Tibetan dialect and the language is known as a living fossil of the Kangba Tibetan dialect. Until recently there has been no highway and mules and horses was the only means of transportation. Usually the villagers spent several months getting out of the village to buy some necessities of life until a villager of the Bala village named Sinadingzhu(斯那定珠), raised the money and built a road to the outside world for the villagers of the mountain. This road not only let the villagers get out of the village, but also let the outside people have a chance to see this paradise. A bus took them up the mountain with a stop at the beautiful rebuilt Drolmalhakhang temple originally constructed 1300 years ago and at the highest point they could go they followed an ancient road along the mountain side which at one point had the scariest walkway he had ever been on. The metal bars were nearly a foot apart and below his feet was a sheer drop It was dizzying but satisfying achievement though it did nothing to cure his vertigo. In the village itself they were able to go inside a home and experience the lifestyle the villagers enjoyed. They journeyed back down the mountain to the river and they were able to walk along side the banks of the gorge and absorb the sights and colour of many of the visitors. A trip back down the river was offered but it was twice the entrance price and the parsimonious pair walked back, but not before he left his DNA by building a small structure in a garden of rock shrines. When they got back to Shangri-La they were hungry and found a suitable but expensive restaurant that could serve them vegan food. Fortunately they had just finished their meal when two parties of Laowai came in with their guides and they realised it specifically dealt with foreigners and the restaurant obviously had a deal going with the tour guides. They quickly escaped the french and German parties and with another day on a snow mountain planned they went back to their hotel, worked and slept.

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