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Golden Week in Lijiang

Lijiang Travel Blog

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Tiger Leaping Gorge

I was up very early to get to the airport for my 8am flight to Lijiang...

It seemed odd heading to the airport as I’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.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

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 – 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.

At Tiger Leaping Gorge
.. I was quite excited by this actually as at least I can now say I’ve been there!

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 – I wasn’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.

A small waterfall
  One of these guards approached our tour guide, Clark, and asked him if I would record a message on the mega-phone in English so that he could play it to any Western tourists.  I was obviously flattered to be ‘chosen’ for this great honour, and so in my best BBC voice, recorded the message...’Beware of falling rocks; please walk close to the rock wall’.  Apparently, despite this area appearing overtly touristy, this was quite a dangerous pathway as huge rocks would occasionally fall, taking out a few tourists on their way into the gorge.  It was therefore advisable to stick as close to the rock wall as possible to avoid this fate.

As we passed this same guard on our way back, he played my message back to us with a delighted look on his face.  It’s quite funny to think all future Western tourist will get to hear little moi as they walk up and down the gorge – infamy at last!!

After we’d finished being whisked up and down the gorge by our over-eager tour guide, Clark, he recommended a place for lunch.

Going through the rock tunnel
  The restaurant was lovely, with a great view of the river.  There was no menu...you chose what you wanted to eat from the produce laid out in the kitchen.  The food was very good and the experience definitely novel, but I couldn’t help but get annoyed at the inevitable rip off.  I stupidly expected Clark to advise us on suitable prices, but everyone makes their extra back-hander when it comes to tourism.  Having lived here for a bit, I am also well aware there are different prices for Chinese and Louwei’s (foreigners), so not sure why it frustrated me as much as it did.

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 didn’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.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

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 – 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 I’d rather have regardless of status!

The Naxi traditional dress is also quite interesting.

Fighting my way through the crowds
  The women wear ribbons that cross across their chest and go over each shoulder to tie at the back.  If the ribbon lies flat at the cross on the chest, this indicates that the lady is unmarried.  If the ribbons are knotted at the cross, this indicates she is married – a much more obvious sign than a wedding ring, which would clearly lead to less confusion when spotting a potential date.  There are also 7 embroided circles on the back of the dress which symbolise the stars.

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 – the only hieroglyphic language still in use.  We couldn’t resist joining all the other tourists in buying a piece of Naxi script and getting the priest to sign it.

A fallen bolder at the gorge

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 didn’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 – I can’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, I’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.

Me and the gorge
  We didn’t really stop to browse too much as we had Clark in tow who liked to walk at a pace, so Smurf and I decided we would come back another time.  It really is a pretty old town, but again very touristy...It’s packed to the brim with souvenir shops, but you can at least pick up the odd local handicraft at a reasonable price, plus more common Chinese souvenirs were definitely cheaper than in Beijing.

Fortunately the weather, which hadn’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 wasn’t annoying me anymore), climbed this amazing glacier to 4600 metres above sea level.

  It was really quite tiring at such altitude – my lack of fitness had nothing to do with it – but it was also pretty funny to see the hundreds of Chinese tourists all sucking on cans of oxygen.  If Smurf and I made it up to the top without the need for oxygen so could most people, but it was obviously THE thing to do and we’d clearly missed that point!

After taking in the scenery at the top and getting the obligatory photo by the ‘You are at 4600 metres’ 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 ‘Impressions of Lijiang’ show.

This show was fantastic and literally took my breath away at points.

The safety soldier who recorded my voice
  It’s set in a big outdoor arena, with the backdrop of the mountains.  It consisted of various scenes of dancing and music, with hundreds of performers in traditional costumes and I think just over 100 horses. The show was directed by the guy who will direct the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony.

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 he’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.

A photo stop on route to the gorge
..

Luckily we’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 I’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 we’d been warned would happen, but eventually managing to find our way back to the main square.

Street sellers at the gorge
  We picked up a few souvenirs along the way, which I enjoyed as a shopaholic.  However, my bartering skills had clearly been left in Beijing so I’m not sure we came away with too many bargains.  I consoled myself with the face that at least prices, compared to Beijing, were pretty cheap.

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 ¥300, which I knew was way over, so I told him to get lost and got in another cab.

Tied corn
  I think my driver came from Miyun, which is a real coincidence, as he seemed to know exactly where I lived.  I know the instructions I had from Mr Guo directed him to the school but he took me straight to my apartment block – very freaky!  The metre came to ¥210 so I was glad I’d told the first cabbie to stick it.

I then got straight to bed as I had to be back in school in the morning.

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Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge
At Tiger Leaping Gorge
At Tiger Leaping Gorge
A small waterfall
A small waterfall
Going through the rock tunnel
Going through the rock tunnel
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Fighting my way through the crowds
Fighting my way through the crowds
A fallen bolder at the gorge
A fallen bolder at the gorge
Me and the gorge
Me and the gorge
The safety soldier who recorded my…
The safety soldier who recorded m…
A photo stop on route to the gorge
A photo stop on route to the gorge
Street sellers at the gorge
Street sellers at the gorge
Tied corn
Tied corn
The restaurant kitchen
The restaurant kitchen
The restaurant kitchen
The restaurant kitchen
In the kitchen
In the kitchen
Surveying my lunch
Surveying my lunch
a chicken claw!
a chicken claw!
The Dongba priest
The Dongba priest
Black Dragon Pool
Black Dragon Pool
A Dongba priest in full swing
A Dongba priest in full swing
THE view of Lijiang
THE view of Lijiang
Me in front of THE view of Lijiang
Me in front of THE view of Lijiang
Smurf hugs a money tree!
Smurf hugs a money tree!
Panarama across Lijiang Old Town
Panarama across Lijiang Old Town
Mother and child
Mother and child
two Naxi ladies
two Naxi ladies
A crowded Lijiang Old Town street
A crowded Lijiang Old Town street
Life in Lijiang Old Town
Life in Lijiang Old Town
Street cooking in Lijiang Old Town
Street cooking in Lijiang Old Town
The horses in the Old town square
The horses in the Old town square
Lost in the old town
Lost in the old town
Quieter streets of the old town
Quieter streets of the old town
Lijiang Old Town
Lijiang Old Town
The cutest puppy!
The cutest puppy!
Children play in the streets in Li…
Children play in the streets in L…
Smurf queues for the cable car
Smurf queues for the cable car
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Glacial view
Glacial view
View of the glacier
View of the glacier
The obligatory shot at 4680 meters!
The obligatory shot at 4680 meters!
Jade Dragon glacier
Jade Dragon glacier
Another glacier shot
Another glacier shot
The Chinese oding on oxygen
The Chinese od'ing on oxygen
In the cafe after climbing the gla…
In the cafe after climbing the gl…
Smurf poses in the dodgy white cap…
Smurf poses in the dodgy white ca…
In our seats at the theatre
In our seats at the theatre
The stage and backdrop
The stage and backdrop
The performers come out
The performers come out
The show begins
The show begins
Beating drums
Beating drums
Enjoying lunch al fresco
Enjoying lunch al fresco
The lunch view
The lunch view
Enjoying dinner and red wine!
Enjoying dinner and red wine!
A view of Lijiang from the hotel
A view of Lijiang from the hotel
Lijiang
photo by: Deats