For Renat & Stephanie

May 2003.

Tea and tradition

Dear Renat,

As tea conoisseurs, you and your wife could not have picked a better destination. However, tea does not exist in a vacuum: the meaning and cultural significance of the tea ceremony can only be understood in the context of the geographic, spiritual, and artistic offerings of this place. Thus, the journey I have planned for you uses the tea ceremony experience in all its forms as a unifying exploration for a journey that spans many remarkable villages, natural wonders, and cultural practices.

Day 1: Arrival in Xishuangbanna

You will arrive late in Xishuangbanna, just in time for a quiet welcome dinner and time to rest.

Day 2: Laobanzhang

Still recovering from the time difference, you will appreciate the quiet first day I have planned. You will start by visiting a Hani ethnic minority village in Xishuangbanna. Then, visit Laobanzhang and surrounding area to explore the views.

In the afternoon, you will taste the ancestral culture with a traditional Hani tea ceremony and ritual. This will be presented to you by Jeff, an expert on the origin of all teas, who will also provide guidance to you throughout your journey. Per your request, we have coordinated for you a village homestay and dinner with villagers for an authentic discussion on local customs and traditions. This experience will show you that extraordinary travel is magic often created in the simplest of terms.

Day 3: Xishuangbanna

One of the great pleasures of my work is coming across the unusual, the charming, and the unknown. Today, the tea fields in the mountains await you. You wil be driven to Nannuosha, where you will take a hike to visit ancient tea trees. Then, a local host will await you to sip tea made with leaves from ancient tea trees.

Day 4: Shaxi

Today, you will have lunch in Dali, then drive to Shaxi village. Jeff will facilitate meetings with friendly locals, and will also offer you detailed history and legends of the village. In the afternoon, you will visit the Shaxi Old Town, where a tea ceremony will await you. Your eagerness to discover everything about tea will be met with a dinner this evening where the dishes themselves are made with tea. Rest tonight at Laomadian.

Day 5: Badawan

Wake up early this morning for an excursion to Badawan. Per our discussions, you will have a chance to follow your whims: the day will be at leisure to enjoy an easy walk along a portion of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road.

Day 6: Lijiang

Today will begin with an excursion to the Jianchuan Shibaoshan Grottoes, which offer a glimpse into the history of the Dali Kingdom. The rock formations are a sight, and you will observe many rock sculptures in the caves. Climb the steps slowly so you do not miss the details. Later in the afternoon, you will drive to Lijiang, a beautifully preserved ancient Chinese town. Strolling along the 800-year-old bridges and waterways is like stepping back in time. Before retiring to Banyan Tree Lijiang for the night, you will visit the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Day 7: Shangri-La

Arrive in Shangri-La today via Tiger Leaping Gorge, a scenic canyon on the Jinsha River, and one of the deepest gorges on the planet. Jeff will provide an overview, and also offer a talk about the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road over dinner. Conclude the day with relaxation at the Songtsam Retreat.

Day 8: Songzanlin Monastery

With time to explore Shangri-La, today you will visit Songzanlin Monastery– the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province. It belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelukpa order of the Dalai Lama. The Fifth Dalai Lama’s Buddhist visionary zeal established the monastery in Zhongdian, in 1679. Its architecture is a fusion of the Tibetan and Han Chinese. Then, explore Pudacuo National Park, which contains more than twenty percent of the country’s plant species. Spend the afternoon walking around Shangri-La Old Town and enjoying a cup of tea.

Day 9: Gonjo

On your last day, walk a portion of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road around Napa Lake. Then, visit Gonjo, an artisan town where you will meet the locals and understand their rich traditions and history. In the evening, a Tibetan-style farewell dinner party and celebration will await you.

Renat, it has been my pleasure to plan this itinerary for you and your wife. Please feel free to contact me at any time, should the need arise.