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Hiking fervor transforms Tibetan hamlet

Aerial photo taken on Nov. 8, 2019 shows the sunset scenery in Yubeng Village, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Deqen in southwest China's Yunnan Province. (Xinhua/Hu Chao)

KUNMING, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- Snow-capped mountains, grasslands, prayer flags and the splendid view of sunrise -- this scene enveloped in a mountain village in southwest China's Yunnan Province has been attracting hiking enthusiasts from across the globe.

Elevated 3,000 meters above sea level, the Yubeng Village at the foot of the Meili Snow Mountain is much like the image of "Shangri-La," an earthly paradise depicted in the 1934 fictional book "Lost Horizon" by British writer James Hilton.

For a long time, villagers in Yubeng made a living by planting highland barley and wheat and raising livestock. Now, almost every household has opened homestays, supermarkets and restaurants, and hikers can rent mountaineering sticks and portable oxygen cylinders everywhere in the village.

But it was not easy to reach the hamlet. It takes five to eight hours of walking on the winding dirt road just to enter the village. However, in recent years, hikers have found fun during the walk, and local government and villagers saw opportunities to develop tourism.

In 2018, a local company was established to develop the hiking industry in Yubeng and provide more convenience and security for tourists.

Photo taken on Nov. 9, 2019 shows the scenery in Yubeng Village, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Deqen in southwest China's Yunnan Province. (Xinhua/Hu Chao)

Now, tourists have the option of taking the off-road vehicles operated by the company into and out of the village, and a one-way trip has been shortened to 40 minutes.

There are about 30 staff members in the company, and 26-year-old Tibetan villager Drige works as a ticket seller for this off-road vehicle ride.

"I earn about 4,000 yuan (about 560 U.S. dollars) a month. I don't have to leave my hometown to work anymore, and I can accompany my family here," Drige said.

Every year, many Tibetans will go to an iconic scenic spot near Yubeng -- "Shenpu" or "holy waterfall" -- to pray.

It is about 12 km from Yubeng to the waterfall, and it takes about six hours to walk. It is the most elementary hiking route in Yubeng, with many cement roads along the way.

"Now, tourists can experience more, not only hiking. Every household in the village has a mule and the mules have numbers. The tourist who wants to ride a mule will be assigned to a villager according to the number," Drige said.

Depending on the distance between destinations, fees for riding mules fluctuate between 300 yuan and 500 yuan. The company is responsible for contacting the villagers, and all the fees paid by tourists will be given to the villagers.

Currently, there are around 190 villagers and 53 homestays in Yubeng. From luxury hotel rooms to youth hostels, tourists have more choices than before.

The environment of Yubeng has been protected well. The villagers clean up the garbage every week, and there are also special cleaning staff to clean up and recycle the garbage at the scenic spot.

"In Yubeng, I can hike and also learn more about Tibetan culture. It is truly an ideal destination for hiking," said Chen Xin from Yunnan's capital city Kunming.