Songsam Meili Mountain Lodge, room 205, China © 2013 . All rights reserved.

26 Aug ’13

We are sitting above the clouds, or actually in the clouds. In fact there are clouds all around us. We are at Songtsam Meili at 3600 meter altitude and if the clouds would not be here, we would have views over the sacret Meili Snow Mountains. Despite this little misfortune we are in luck, because the owner of Songtsam Lodges is also here with us (in the clouds). I am having a chat with Baima Dorje, a charismatic Tibetan but also a well-known documentary maker in Beijing for CCTV. Lovely Min, the operation manager for the lodges is with us too and we are talking about the lodges, Shangri-La, the future, saving white chickens in Shangri-La, roads that are build too fast and dreams about building another lodge in Llhasa, Tibet. I ask Baima how it all began. In 1999, during a visit to his hometown Zhongdian for a reportage, Baima started noticing that tourism was about to pick up. Since nothing interesting was happening hotel wise, Baima built a guesthouse on the grounds of his family house, just next to the golden Songzanlin Monastery. Local craftsmen came and helped construct the wooden house with its intimate front patio. Inside you will find Tibetan carpets and decoration and most staff is from the region.

This first lodge was a huge success. So Baima wanted more and was looking for a good concept to integrate in the pristine nature of Shangri-La. He found it in 2009 when he was traveling to Bhutan and stayed at Amankora Phunaka. In Bhutan he saw how Aman Resorts offers small and intimate boutique hotels, with no big impact on the environment and where local communities are involved. He decided in 2010 to start his own more affordable version up here in the mountains of North-Yunnan.

But first good locations had to be found. Baima discovered Benzilan by accident while he was visiting a local carpet maker and found the little valley incredibly charming. He dreamed about a lodge in this valley that had no road at that time. Guest would have to be taken with horse and carriage to the hotel. He build the lodge but then the road also came. Progress can’t be stopped, even in a small and secluded valley in Shangri-La. Baima’s other lodge Meili where we are today, is all about the views. Like this friendly Tibetan says it is all about the beauty of the location. Capturing the beauty of Shangri-La, the essence, en then take it back home.

Currently Baima employs over 300 people of which 95% are local from Shangri-La. Most staff comes from small villages around the lodges so the local community also benefits from a venture like this. Baima’s dream? Opening up a lodge in Llhasa, Tibet. One day, he says, when he has learned a lot from running these lodges. But first he wants to focus on the Songtsam Lodges.

3 Comments

  1. Pieter

    Hi Debbie,

    I just discovered your website and have a very nice dejà vu. We stayed also in Songtsam Lodges Benzilan, Meili and Sangri-La about 2 weeks ago. The views in the lodges are truly magical.
    We traveled in western Sichuan and northern Yunnan with our 2 children (3 and 5) for 2 weeks and we really enjoyed this region.
    Thank you for the nice reminder…
    All the best
    Pieter
    Torhout, Belgium

    • thanks for the message Pieter! do you know you can follow us also daily on the website of the Belgian newspaper De Morgen almost every day? Anyway, great to hear fellow Belgians are finding their way also to Shangri-La and to Songtsam! Amazing you were traveling with the whole family! Thanks again and keep on following! (next is Mongolia)!

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