Walaikum salam. Alhamdulilah, we returned safely to a very wet Singapore on 19 Dec 06.
We were blessed with splendid weather all through the China trip, with only a slight drizzle on our last couple of days there. The sun was shining brightly on most afternoons and reduced the severity of the winter cold.
The first 3 local guides assigned to us (Katijah in Kunming, Jack in Lijiang and Hassan in Shangrila) were friendly, sincere and concerned and knew their jobs well. Even though Jack fumbled in the beginning, not knowing we were Muslims, he redeemed himself well by finding us a nice Muslim restaurant, and took us to the Lijiang mosque for a visit. The iman/caretaker proudly showed us his personal transcription of the Quran. We were very impressed with his calligraphy!
We were also especially impressed with the driver from Lijiang, Mr Yi. He was professional, patient and knowledgeable, and we felt safe travelling through the mountain roads in his van. We also felt that the 3 guides did their utmost to make us feel comfortable and happy.
I was touched by the simple lives of the villagers in Shangrila. It is indeed a lovely picture of tranquility and freshness. I couldn't help comparing the difference in attitudes between the Shangrila folks and the citydwellers in Kunming.
Shangrila filled me with peace and calm even though the nights were freezing cold! And we were totally thrilled that we were able to pick crunchy and tasty apples off the roadside trees – something we'll never be able to do in the city!
I regretted not bringing my daughters' old children books for the kids in the village schools. Please let me know if you will be doing any old books/clothes collection. It was a pity that we couldn't enter the 2 mosques in the villages, and I wondered how come I never heard the Azan at all throughout the 2 days' stay at the farmhouse. I should also have had the foresight to bring my own towels – I had to make do with wet wipes!
I was also glad to have met Mariam (Zheng Lixiang) in Shangrila Town. She's such a pleasant and warm lady and I was touched by the closeness of the small Muslim community in Shangrila Town.
Thank you, Mariah, for the efficient arrangements! This trip has certainly been different from all other holidays we've had. I had a great time, and and returned with many lovely memories, as well as an insight into the lives of fellow Muslims in China. Thank you!
By the way, I took some pictures of the kids, as requested by you. The young ones are so adorably sweet. The photo files are saved in my husband's laptop and I'll email them to you ASAP. I'll also need to pass the children's progress reports to you. I am very sorry that I only brought 2 of the 4 Qurans to Shangrila, as I had left the other 2 books at home in my hurry to get to the airport. I will need to return the 2 books to you. My husband and I will like to know more about the sponsoring of these kids too.
Salam and thank you again.