Seemed like a good idea at the time

Lijiang Travel Blog

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Well, I now know how to use the ACDSee photo editor in Chinese thanks to my new friends from Guangzhou and Jiangxi, and reduced six photos to reasonable size.  They took only about 6-7 minutes to upload, but don't show up after all that!  I've left a message on the help forum on this site and hope I can get things working eventually.  However, my time in one place will be severely limited until next week, so we may have to wait til then.  Sorry 'bout that!

(A short aside -- these two guys who helped me were hanging out here drinking wine.  Now their wives/girlfriends have come in laden with shopping bags.  Men are from Mars, women from Venus here, too!)

Meanwhile, I'm off to find a nice place for dinner and then go to a performance of Naxi (the predominant minority here, pronounced Nah - shee) music conducted by the inimitable Xuan Ke.  If you've done much reading about Lijiang at all you've heard of Xuan Ke.  On my previous visit he was off in Europe with some of the musicians and Yvonne and I missed him. Don't have time now, but I'm sure Google will have a lot to say on the subject.  By the way, I looked at that website for my new hotel and while it's in Chinese, you can get a good idea from the pictures.  Not bad, hunh? 

Tomorrow I head out with Lily for new adventures in the area and later up northwest to Zhongdian, the "original" Shangri-La,  so I'll be back when I can.

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I just tried again to upload some photos but at the rate this connection is, it would take 90 minutes for the first four, so I've bailed out of that mode.  The girls at this internet cafe have just been inundated with business so they don't have time to translate the Chinese characters that would let me save the photos in smaller files, so I'm stuck for now.  Will keep trying.  I KNEW I shudda brought my own computer.  Most of these places have wifi, it's too bad.

Oh!  I've just found a Chinese guy who can speak some English and is willing to help me with the photo files.  See you in a little while and keep your fingers crossed! 

That's what "Yunnan" means, and it's the province I find myself in now in the Southwest.  What a contrast to Beijing, and what a contrast to my visit here in 1998!

I left behind the muggy, hot, near sea-level smog for crisp blue skies at something over 7,200 ft. and had to break out my long sleeved tee shirts and socks.   Lijiang used to be one of the three main foreign backpacker destinations in China (in addition to Dali, not far away, and Yangshuo, where I will be going next), but now virtually everyone clogging the formerly quaint streets is a Chinese domestic tourist.  It's great that the economy is allowing that, but you have to wander well off into the back streets to find any peace and quiet.  Most of the young Chinese men are attracted to the shops that sell yak leather goods, including cowboy-style hats, so it really looks like the Wild West!  Of the Lao Wai's, or foreigners, there are a few here and there but almost all are European. 

Anyway, let's go back a little to Beijing as I haven't been able to access the net for awhile.  Many may think I'm crazy, but I wanted to see the Beijing Wal-Mart, since I know the one at home like the back of my hand.  And I've been to virtually all the historic and "scenic" spots, so my tastes are different than your basic tourist.

It's in a beautiful multi-story curved-facade stainless steel building near the center of town but only occupies the first and basement floors.  When you enter, you see the optical shop and hair salon.  Perishable food is on the first floor and the "Chinese characteristics" include large open bins of frozen shrimp, frozen pre-made dumplings with all kinds of fillings and fish with rolls of plastic bags next to them  for you to make a selection and weigh. There're other big bins of sides of pork ribs and a butcher in the aisle to chop off just as many as you want. 

To get downstairs, you wheel your shopping cart onto an escalator without steps, and little feet drop down to support the wheels so you don't zoom down and crash in a heap at the bottom.  Coming back up, an attendant grabs and heaves your cart over the jamb back onto level floor.  Down there are clothing (selection not very big), cosmetics, housewares, etc., etc.  Not too many shoppers, and no "greeters," but a far cry from my shoppiing experiences at my local "Kmart" when I lived in Beijing..

Then I taxi-ed to Qianmen, which used to be one of the oldest neighborhods just south of Tian'anmen Square.  I'd heard that the hutongs and shops there were falling to the wrecker's ball, and the rumors are correct.  All the storefronts at least half a long block down are boarded up and in various stages of destruction.  However, I walked into an alley at Dazhilan and about 100 ft. back from the main road the area is untouched, so far.  Further back, they've cut a swath parallel to Qianmen as if putting in a large street or something, and then the hutong seems to continue but I didn't go very far in because it was so hot, nearly 90 degrees.  I ducked into a little teahouse for a jianyi kele (diet Coke) to cool off.  The owner immediately brought over his new menu for me to "polish!"  I changed "Ireland Coffee" to "Irish" and many other items that were mispelled and in return he brought me a second jianyi kele for free.

Back at the Jade YH I freshened up and my tour company's Beijing office chief came to pick me up for dinner.  We met a young woman at the"Le Quai" restaurant who is the operations manager I usually deal with to plead for more king-sized beds, etc., for disgruntled pax, so I was glad to meet her.  (I'll write a review of the place in the review section -- it was a wonderful upscale place that I'm glad to know about to refer well-heeled clients to.  The company owner will probably faint when he gets the bill for the three of us!  We had a lovely dinner and I was glad I remembered at the Narita airport Duty Free to pick some gifts for them.  They gave me some shirts with company logo plus a gen-u-wine Olympics ball cap. 

Then, Tuesday, I needed to get to the airport early and without hassles for my 8:20 am departure for Lijiang. With the memory of my arrival still unpleasantly fresh,  I splurged and forked out Y120 (about $15)  to book a taxi for 6:15am.  (If I had taken a cab on the street it would have been maybe Y30 less, but I didn't want to drag my bags a ways out to the main street and be unsure how soon a cab would show up that early.)  Turned out the driver is the father of one of the employees of the JYH and a very nice man.  Getting to the airport was no problem, but I needed every minute because the mob at the security area was intense.  Changed planes in Kunming with a half-hour layover and on arrival there was a bus into the city (about 20 miles?) for a reasonable Y15, or $2.  Along the way I befriended a Swedish couple and was able to help them out a little bit.  Both early 20's, she was Goth, all in black, with several mouth and nose piercings. I don't know what category he might fit in -- well over 6 ft. tall, blond dreadlocks down his back, major metal in ears and lips, wearing a red sleeveless undershirt-type thing and yellow and black horizontally striped clingy pants that looked like escaped prisoner garb.  What a contrast we made!  They couldn't have been nicer and we shared a taxi to the Old Town here in Lijiang.  I haven't seen them since, so I imagine they booked a daytrip or something.

After checking into the San He Inn I went off in search of my next night's accommodation.  The San He is fairly upscale (you can Google it if your want more description), all things considered, and while the room rate at the desk was Y560 for a single room and my company had booked me for Y320 including breakfast, I needed somewhere a little cheaper.  There are a zillion little inns and guesthouses.  While wandering aruond enjoying the town I popped into maybe a dozen of them and found accommodation ranging from a high of Y400 at the Zen Garden Hotel (wow! a cool place! laid back!) to a low of Y50 at a little house that wasn't all that bad but the security didn't look so hot and it had only a squat toilet, which I'd like to try and avoid in my own room!  Finally, I found a great compromise at the Mu Shi Guest House.  It was the home of the Mu family, whose son is the proprietor and speaks fair English.  Mom and Pop work there, too and are very friendly.  The accommodations are similar to the JYH but here just Y120, or $15 a night as opposed to nearly $30 in Beijing.  Actually, the card they gave me has a website that I haven't seen yet, you may like to check it out:

So, I wandered around as darkness fell and the pubs started filling up.  I returned to the San He to meet the woman at the Ecotourism outfit (you can also find out more about it at which I've made arrangements with for the next five days. Lily is a cute young Naxi woman who will be accompanying me starting at 9 tomorrow morning.  After she left I wandered about some more and there's nothing more boisterous than a group of young Chinese guys drinking heavily on vacation.  Bar after bar full of them!  Instead, I went to Don Papa's  pizza joint that I had spotted earlier.  Mmmmm!  Had an al fresco table on the second floor overlooking the street scene. A far cry from Le Quai, but just as good in its own way.  No. 15 pizza (all kinds of veg plus ham) is Y48.

This morning I packed up and moved to the Mu Shi and am having a blast especially spotting all the dogs, cats, puppies and kittens around the lanes.  The locals obviously love their pets!  I've taken a number of photos and if I ever figure how to upload them successfully, you'll get to see them.

Well, I've been sitting here at a quaint little internet bar drinking coffee for quite awhile now, so I need to bail out and find the nearest "ce suo" or Ladies' room.  See you later with more!

photo by: Deats