Deqin is a small town in the very north of Yunnan which borders Tibet to the west, Sichuan to the east and Myanmar to the southwest. It lies at an altitude of 3550m and 80% of its inhabitants are Tibetan. The town itself is a little dirty, but it has some very impressing sites in its surroundings.
Deqin is a dead end as far as foreigners go. The border with Tibet is closed to foreigners and the only reason for coming to Deqin is to admire the grand Meili Snow Mt. (Kawakarpo) and to feel its Shangri-La mystique. If you can deal with the altitude it makes a great place to hike from. If you can't then just hanging out in town is also very rewarding.
The mountain pass into Deqin valley lies at the snowline and the surrounding snowcapped mountaintops are blinding in the sunlight. The lower mountainsides are brown bare rock, too poor to host anything more than occasional scrub except for the few squares of cultivated fields of rice. Nevertheless, they are majestic and indescribably beautiful. In these mountains, mundane thoughts fall away and what remains borders on the spiritual. It is perhaps for this reason that the Tibetans build their monasteries in these regions, away from the material trappings of society.In 1206 Genghis Khan broke through the Great Wall of China and in 1252 Kublai Khan rode into Yunnan. These mountains and the resistance of the fierce minority kingdoms cost him 27 years before subduing Yunnan and bringing it within the proper borders of China.
Deqin lies in a green valley, like an emerald in a strata of rock, but down in the town the three streets were dirty and shabby like a million other streets in a million other towns. For the first time in four weeks I find a hotel with a western type toilet. The squat toilets are touted to be 'character building' but I haven't noticed any new or better traits in the past four weeks except, perhaps, stronger knees. Much later, after two years of using squat toilets, I return to the western type and encounter some difficulty, so there may be some truth in the biological superiority of a squat toilet.