Golden Week in Lijiang
Lijiang Travel Blog› entry 1 of 6 › view all entries
I was up very early to get to the airport for my 8am flight to Lijiang...
It seemed odd heading to the airport as Iâ€™d not actually been there before having arrived in China by train.
I was really excited about the trip as Smurf was flying over to spend the week with me. He actually arrived in Lijiang the day before I did, so was waiting at the airport when I arrived.
Lijiang is a town and UNESCO heritage site in the Yunnan province in South West China and not too far from the Tibetan border. We stayed at a great hotel just outside the centre of the town, but decided to spend our first afternoon chilling out before we got stuck in to the sightseeing.
We had a lovely dinner that evening... It was such a treat to have red wine with the meal, although I managed to ruin things slightly by making a bad menu choice! I ordered deer tenderloin â€“ thought it would be interesting to try! Interesting it definitely was, but also inedible!!
The next day we took a tour to Tiger Leaping Gorge. It took 2 hours to get there and the journey took us through some really pretty villages and scenery. The gorge is not far from the first bend of the Yangtze River so the scenery is spectacular. We had to cross into Tibet briefly at one point, Shangri-La to be precise, for some reason to do with the roads.
The gorge was beautiful but very busy with tourists as it was Golden Week. The set-up was also way too touristy for my liking â€“ I wasnâ€™t expecting it to be like that so was a little disappointed. From what I had read in my guide book, I was looking forward to a fairly rigorous hike, but what I found was a man-made pathway cut out of the side of the gorge. Sadly, I have slowly come to realise that overt-tourism is pretty common for China and also for an area with the UNESCO badge. Travelling anywhere in China during national holidays and the summer is a nightmare for crowds, so should be avoided if possible.
Whilst we were walking along, we passed guards at various points who stood on the outer edge of the pathway shouting through mega-phones at the masses of passing tourists.
As we passed this same guard on our way back, he played my message back to us with a delighted look on his face. Itâ€™s quite funny to think all future Western tourist will get to hear little moi as they walk up and down the gorge â€“ infamy at last!!
After weâ€™d finished being whisked up and down the gorge by our over-eager tour guide, Clark, he recommended a place for lunch.
Anyhow, we then drove the 2 hours back to the hotel and got to see the same great countryside a second time. It was just a shame we didnâ€™t have more time to stop off along the way and walk around a bit, but I guess this is the problem when you go on an organised tour.
The following day we decided to visit Black Dragon Pool Park and Lijiang Old Town....
Again, we were escorted by Clark, who I was a little wary of after he annoyed me yesterday....
Our first stop was a museum showing the history of the Naxi people, a minority Chinese race descended from Tibetan Qiang tribes. Unlike other Chinese races, Naxi women have superior status than men. They do all the work â€“ raise children, harvest the fields, cook and clean, while the men have a much calmer life. Their role is to be entertainer....therefore they spend their time playing chess, cards and musical instruments. I certainly know which role Iâ€™d rather have regardless of status!
The Naxi traditional dress is also quite interesting.
At the end of our museum tour we met a Dongba priest. Dongba is the religion of the Naxi people and the priests are the caretakers of the Naxi language, which is over 1000 years old and uses a system of pictographs â€“ the only hieroglyphic language still in use. We couldnâ€™t resist joining all the other tourists in buying a piece of Naxi script and getting the priest to sign it.
We then headed into Black Dragon Pool Park. This is a beautiful park and also where the famous picture postcard of Lijiang was taken, which is (on a clear day), a spectacular view across the pool, to a pagoda and bridge, with snow capped mountains in the background. Sadly, we didnâ€™t catch the view in all its glory, but at least I can imagine better than most what it must be like.
We then took a walk through an old palace â€“ I canâ€™t recall the name, but the one thing I remember being told was that the huge white wall erected in the main courtyard, was there to reflect light into the main hall. These walls, Iâ€™ve come to realise, are quite common place in imperial dwellings.
We then went for a stroll through the cobbled streets of Lijiang Old Town.
Fortunately the weather, which hadnâ€™t been good for the first couple of days, cleared up enough the next day to head to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. This was undoubtedly my favourite tour of the week. Smurf and I, again accompanied by Clark (who wasnâ€™t annoying me anymore), climbed this amazing glacier to 4600 metres above sea level.
After taking in the scenery at the top and getting the obligatory photo by the â€˜You are at 4600 metresâ€™ sign, we climbed back down to the 2400 metres mark and got the cable car back the rest of the way, which I believe is the highest cable car in Asia.
We then sat in a cafe having a hot chocolate to kill time before going to see the â€˜Impressions of Lijiangâ€™ show.
This show was fantastic and literally took my breath away at points.
After the show we went back to the hotel and thought it would be fun to go to the tea house to have a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. It turned out to be hilarious...the waiter had clearly never performed a tea ceremony before and managed to spill it all over Smurf, the table and the floor. I somehow escaped being hit! We did feel sorry for him once heâ€™d told us it was his first day and he must have been nervous serving such esteemed guests!
After Smurf had a chance to dry off a little, we bolted back to our room and enjoyed a few too many beverages before dinner.
Luckily weâ€™d planned no sight-seeing the next day, so it was off to the spa to sooth my sore head...
I was enormously flattered when the spa receptionist asked me if I was a movie star! Given how most of the Chinese Iâ€™d met to date seem to only ever comment on the size of my nose, I was quite surprised at this question but will certainly dine out on it for months, if not years to come!!!!
What followed was several hours of treatment bliss followed by a lovely long lunch sitting outside in the glorious sunshine before heading back to Lijiang Old Town...
We had a great time wandering through all the different streets, getting lost as weâ€™d been warned would happen, but eventually managing to find our way back to the main square.
The day then finally came when Smurf and I had to say goodbye to each other again. He headed off to the airport on the Saturday morning, so I headed back to the spa to kill time before my flight.
The journey back to Beijing was painless, but I then had to trial of finding a cab driver willing and able to get me back to Miyun. The first cab I got into at the airport told me he would charge Â¥300, which I knew was way over, so I told him to get lost and got in another cab.
I then got straight to bed as I had to be back in school in the morning.