BUTTER TEA, SWEET CALF
We do not have to step far from the resort, at the edge of tiny Bisong Village, to experience lots of local life.
Within Bisong is the three-storey house built by groundskeeper Lao Yeh (Grandfather), as everyone respectfully calls the resort employee who maintains the grounds flawlessly, cares for a pair of small, strong local horses, leads us on an uphill trek to gather fresh pine cones, and more.
At his home, his wife makes yak butter tea. She slices the creamy butter from a slab and churns it with hot water in a bamboo tube.
"Singaporeans are family,'' she says shyly in Mandarin, as she pours the tea into bowls.
Lao Yeh makes a doughy conconction with tsampa (roasted barley flour) and butter tea, rolling the mixture in his hands. This is the breakfast of champions, a high-energy food with a nutty fragrance that can be eaten all day.
It is like a cultural playtime in their home as we sip potent homemade barley wine mixed with berries. We peer into their grain room, prayer alcove and open hearth, and also notice a washing machine.
A calf, all big eyes and baby fur, is tethered in Lao Yeh's pocket field. It keeps fleeing from me, until the resort's managing director, Ms Cynara Tan, theorises that the calf is triggered by my red jacket.
She lends me her black jacket and the calf draws near, licking me like a puppy.
City-dwellers, I imagine, will capture all the Instagram-worthy scenes of clean and cuddly black piglets, the peaceable dzo (a hybrid of yak and domestic cattle), tall racks of organic barley, chiselled Tibetan faces and other elements of rustic idyll.
Just beyond the resort is another cluster of lifestyle experiences, in and near town.
We explore the market, Old Town, Songzanlin Monastery and award-winning craft beer factory with a Tibetan twist - all compelling windows into the destination.
In the Old Town, we linger in a chic cafe and buy pu'er tea from a traditional purveyor.
We choose gifts from shops where Chinese snacks are artfully arrayed like library books or stock Tibetan crafts with whimsical touches.
At night, there is dancing in the square. It is lovely to know this appeals to locals young and old, who cherish community life even as Shangri-La modernises with highways that seemingly spring up in weeks.
There is another glimpse of hyperlocal life at the market where I sample goodies, starting with a spicy snack of gelatinous, cold bean noodle.
At one of the greengrocers, I break off a strand of verdant, white spring-onion roots - it has a clean, pungent flavour just like the familiar green shoots.
We buy vacuum-packed Yunnan dry-cured ham, which costs 50 yuan (S$10) for a half a kilogram. It can enrich a soup or be stir-fried with Chinese cabbage.
Heritage gets hip at the Shangri-La Highland Craft Brewery. Founded in 2009 by Swiss-born Tibetan Songtsen "Sonny" Gyalzur, 45, it is the largest indie beer company in the country.
China's craft beer industry is growing at 25 per cent a year - 3,000 breweries popped up in the last three years - and the trend is propelled by young Chinese sophisticates, he says.
"Our premium beer is integrated into Shangri-La society,'' he says. "We source pure mineral water from a 4,000m lake. The beer is brewed with highland barley or qingker."
Also, 80 per cent of the staff, including a young deputy, are from his mother's orphanages here and in Lhasa, Tibet, adds Mr Gyalzur, the suave face of the new Shangri-La.
Using German technology, six beers are brewed here, including the popular, robust Black Yak that has coffee bean and dark chocolate overtones.
Limited editions have included the Russian Imperial, thick like Yunnan coffee.
Farther afield, I love the sense of purity at the seasonal Napa Hai lake and the contemplative Dongzhulin Monastery with towering butter sculptures and alcoves, including one filled with weapons.
We also make black Nixi plates with a potter who uses 2,000-year-old techniques and lets us pluck pears from his tree.
We also wander in the Xiao Zhongdian village set in a windswept valley.
The Napa Hai is a seasonal lake near Shangri-La. In summer, snow from the mountains floods a series of rivers, turning them into a vast lake. In the November-to-April dry season, the shape-shifting Napa Hai is an endless grassland.
On my late October visit, the lake is still full. It will take an hour to drive around it except that the ring road is flooded.
We sneak up on the animal life on the shores instead - horses with tassles; kinetic rootling piglets; and dzos with curved horns and tinkling bells that intrigue urbanites.
That day, we see the lake again at the golden hour before sunset, when the light is soft and the lake is lustrous.
It is an hour as ephemeral as the lake and great for photography - Chinese tourists with gargantuan telephoto zoom lenses have arrived for the perfect shot but are happy to share the space.
On other days, exhilarating hours are spent at the enigmatic Jinsha Bend, when the Yangtze River loops like a moon or omega sign.
Three mighty rivers of Asia flow here - the upper reaches of the Yangtze, Mekong and Salween.
They are part of the Three Parallel Rivers protected area, a Unesco World Heritage Site of wild gorges and glaciated peaks on the border of Sichuan and Yunnan.