After Shangri-La we the plan was to head north to Deqin, the closest you can get to Tibet in Yunan without actually going to Tibet. Highlights of the town are the views of Meili Snow Mountain and the nearby Feilai Temple. Besides that, the town is relatively bland and more Han feeling than Tibetan.
Though not too far away the ride was incredibly long as not only are you making your way over and around mountain passes but you also have to add in the copious amounts on construction that is being undergone on the road.
After arriving at Feilai Si, I ran into a girl who I had met a few times along the way. My original plan was to go back to Shangri-La from here and then from there head up the back roads of Sichuan to get to Chengdu. The back roads are mostly tibetan villages and I was looking forward to experiencing this. However Ruby said there was another way through Mamgkeng we could take. I asked her if it entered Tibet and she assured me it didn't. I wrote the following on my ride to Mamgkeng.
"Sitting in the back of a minivan heading from Deqin to Mamgkeng squished next to the bags and sacks of whatever the other passengers may be carrying (rice, stones, clothes, etc). In front of me sits my travel friend ruby and three already drunk tibetan men. Did I mention it's barely 9:30am? For music one of the Tibetan men has their phone on full blast so we all have to listen, a common occurrence with Chinese people. A different tibetan man sings the songs from the other mans phone. Outside, the sun is still hidden behind the clouds and the temperature reads "still damn cold, laddie!". We're driving through the valleys of big mountainous regions. Occasionally passing small Tibetan villages This is the back door road from Yunnan into Sichuan. We're so close to the Tibet province but not inside which saves us all the hassle from the Chinese government yet still gives you a feel for what Tibetan culture is."
Sadly I had to go back to Deqin (and then Shangri-La in an epic day of being in a car for a shit load of time) as Mamgkeng is indeed in Tibet and I wasn't allowed through the first checkpoint.
It's hard to see but there is a village near the top of that mountain. not sure how they get there or why they'd want to be there but i just hope the kids never hit the ball over the fence as it's a long way down