The Three Parallel Rivers

The Three Parallel Rivers

By a remarkable coincidence of geography, three of Asia’s major rivers flow for a while in the same north-south direction just 70 kilometres apart, each in its own deep gorge—and the LUX* Benzilan is at this narrowest point. The Yangtse, overlooked by the hotel, is Asia’s longest river, while the Mekong, called the Lancang Jiang here and just 40 kilometres to the west, connects the largest number of Asian nations. Another 30 kilometres further west again is the Salween, remote and unnavigable until it finally reaches the ocean at the Burmese city of Moulmein. With peaks reaching over 6,000 metres and gorges as deep as 3,000 metres (far exceeding the Grand Canyon), this dramatic, vertical landscape is home to 6,000 plant species, including more than 200 types of rhododendrons, and, as UNESCO describes it, the "epicenter of Chinese biodiversity.” A very special place indeed, varying from a year-round warm, dry and sunny in Benzilan (vines grow and wine is made a few steps from the hotel), to high glaciers and barren peaks. The Mingyongqia Glacier on Mount Kawakarpo descends lower than any other mountain glacier in the northern hemisphere, yet just a few kilometres away, along the Mekong River, walnuts and oranges grow. So special is this region traversed by the Tea Horse Road that in 2003, UNESCO designated this 1.7 million hectare region the Three Parallel Rivers World Heritage site. Ecologically, it is one of the richest temperate regions of the world.