Having gathered our experience from various overseas community service expeditions, a group of us has come together, with the support of X-Trekkers Adventure Centre (XAC), and in partnership with the Shangri-La Folk Environment Protection Association, to organize Operation Shangri-La – an extraordinary experience incorporating elements of adventurous traveling with community service in Shangri-La (formerly known as Zhongdian) Yunnan, China. Operation Shangri-La aims to preserve the unique Tibetan culture of Shangbala, explore the cohesive relationship between humans, society and environment in the context of sustainable development, and protect the environment of Shangri-La.The expedition will comprise two main components – 2 weeks of adventure travel and 1 week of community service in June & July 2002. In total, we have 3 groups (a total of 30 people), with each group overlapping the preceding group on the community service phase for one day. During the expedition, there is only one group working on the project at one time. Outside the project phase, the group will explore the Shangri-La region. We believe such an arrangement provides further enrichment to a traveler’s experience.   Why ShangriLa? Whilst grateful for the advances that have been introduced in the area by economic progress and globalisation, such progress and advancement have not been managed effectively, to bring benefits to everyone in the area. The damage to the people and surroundings of Shangri-La are manifold – widening of the income gap, destruction of the natural pristine environment and the rich cultural heritage of the people. Recognising this problem, the Shangri-La Folk Environment Protection Association aims to ensure that the increasing number of tourists and the economic changes introduced into the area do not result in great harm being done to the environment and the rich heritage of the people of the area. The main aim here is “sustainable development” – develop the area in a manner that is manageable both to the environment and to the quality of life, without causing excessive harm and damage to ensure that the place is still able to offer abundant opportunities to generations to come. Through Operation Shangri-La, we aim to provide an opportunity to participants to have fun visiting and exploring this wonderful place with newfound friends, and at the same time do their bits to preserve the natural environment. This is part of a wholesome experience we hope to encourage amongst travelers. Work done include: (1) Fencing Fences by the road and near a stupa is completed. Though in future it might be extended to cover more area. These fences main purpose is to prevent vehicle from entering and cows from going off the pastures to the road. Fences at the farm is near to complete when the last group left. Some fences are used to surround crops to prevent pigs/cows/goats from entering. More clay slabs might be need for the remains. (2) Water piping at two Villages Water pipe connection is almost complete before the group left. The rest would be to connect the water from the upstream. A reservoir pump would need to be installed at the upstream to pump water to the village. Digging of the bigger pipe towards the upstream is done by the villagers themselves and will continue to do so after we left.
Marshland at Xiao Zhongdian


Shangri-La – a name that conjures images of breathtaking scenery, peace and tranquility – a place that is far from the concrete jungle that is urbanized Singapore today. This Tibetan highland area was previously known as Zhongdian, Yunnan, China. The project will be carried out in the Shangba-La Farm Community-based Nature Reserve (3160m above sea level). The Shangri-La Folk Environment Protection Association manages the reserve. The Association was initiated by 3 Tibetans, who manage it together with the villagers living in the area.

Who can join?


Anyone who is between 17 and 60 years of age, looking for something adventurous, challenging and deeply fulfilling, and willing to rough it out for 21 days is welcome. Ideally, we would like to have people of various ages to form the groups. We are looking for a total of 66 adventurous souls who are willing to commit three weeks of their time and effort to this project.

Who can join


We welcome people from any nationality/race as long as you are able to secure a tourist visa from China.


Priority will be given to people who applied and paid up first. There will not be any selection procedure. We believe you are the best judge of how suitable you will be for the expedition.  


(1) 04 June 2002 – 24 June 2002 (2) 11 June 2002 – 01 July 2002 (3) 09 July 2002 – 29 July 2002

Feedback from guests

The best moment of the Project – seeing the villagers being engaged in the project, only very few of them, but most of us did not appreciate it then – Going to the project site in the modern beetle car – most fun. The best moment is when I heard that the water pipes were working with only 2 faulty connections becos’ its most satisfying. The stay with the villages was immensely beneficial even with the lack of communications. Working hand in hand with the villagers was very enjoyable – felt we are a part of them. – The second day into installing the water pipe system because the villagers could see the system taking shape and began to take over the threading, installing, painting and other works. They were taking ownership, where they were sceptical (in my personal opinion) before. And of course, the pride of contributing to an entire water pipe system. – Working with the locals on the water pipes/logs. Interaction with the locals. – Home stay at the village and the group/villagers camaraderie. The food/cultural exchange was interesting. Despite all the high and low, tense and relax moments plus whatever eccentricities encountered within the group, the overall spirit and cooperation is commendable. – Finally realizing that if I had overcome my shyness with the villagers a bit earlier, I’d have learnt a few more tibetan words. – water piping time. More fruitful, more interaction Others – I felt its value for money –  very practical, maximised the use of the air ticket and the length of stay in a particular place/country cum providing an opportunity for us to contribute back to society/environment. Also the opportunity to learn from fellow participants since each comes from very diverse backgrounds. – Provide a service to them? U must be joking, they are not call “su you cha”  for nth. (brutal strength experts)!!! Of course, it’s too embarrassing to say we didn’t contribute our singaporeans’ 2 cents worth, what else? planning lor! !! So after much haphazard interaction, we all sort of compromise and work together—we talk, they work!!! So I guess everyone learns a bit from everyone and bitch about everyone(1 tap, 2 taps, 3 taps and even 4 taps!) and still managed to come up with an almost completed and workable piping system for our adopted families and took some proud photos beside it. In short, I think our presence is more of a morale booster for them to carry out the work even more diligently. We are more of a new distraction, a break from their daily routine to be excited about. Come to think of it, we do provide a service to them — cheer leaders J – It’s better than just having an adventure tour, because part of the romance of travel is to contribute and know that you made something happen and is a part of something while you were there. You were not just a passer-by.