Lijiang : Labyrinths and lanterns
Lijiang Travel Blog› entry 155 of 268 › view all entries
After arriving in Lijiang yesterday and having made my way through the dizzying labyrinth of the âOld Townâ (only asking for directions 3,072 times) I was fortunate to meet a whole bunch of familiar faces at my chosen guest house. Some expected ( Vanesha, Emmy & Nick from Dali) and some not (Doug whom Iâd last whiled away an evening with in Hoi An, Vietnam). I canât deny familiar faces are a comfort whilst travelling in China.
Lijiang is a pretty sizeable Chinese city sprawling ever onwards, outwards and upwards through the valley area it finds itself. Its historical heart though is a more compact, though no-less blossoming, area of âtraditionalâ slate tile roofed houses, shops, guesthouses and restaurants known as the Old Town.
The Old Townâs composition is that of a seemingly endless labyrinthine network of cobbled streets that twist, turn, start and end just as suddenly as they started, and forever bend both your feet and your mind in their complexity. The at first seeming helpful wood-carved civic authority âYou Are Hereâ maps ( âThank God a map, Iâm saved!â your soul exclaims) often more a hindrance than a help in their liberal and inventive use of compass points. Walking through the Old Town is great fun. It could take you a long while. Depending on how lost you get.
Fellow travellers you meet and chat to in China fall into two camps of those who either prefer Dali or Lijiang. As fruitless as such comparisons are, for my money, Lijiang has a little more of what I like although there is no denying that it struggles genuinely to come across as much more than yet another quaintly presented tourist playground in its current incarnation. The streets absolutely pulsate with the human rush of tourism that is a key signifier of Chinaâs current economic success and the reawakening of national pride that this has swelled.
If you want to avoid a positive tidal wave of foreign and Chinese tourists choking the streets and alleys of Lijiang you and your camera are gonna have to get up and get walking about early doors. Like 7.00am. At this time the paved streets are empty all but for a few ladies preparing fresh vegetables in doorways, street sweepers and satchel bearing school children on their way to study. Lijiang at this time can slip back in the mind of the observer to a softer, sepia-toned and red lantern-spotted portrait of itself that harkens back to an Old China of a more romantic inclination. In the post-dawn light the rust-colour shuttered shop fronts stretch long distances undisturbed by the twitch of tacky commerce that their closed lids conceal. The waters of the many, many rivulets and streams that thread their way besides, through and under the streets of the Old Town (occasionally rolling an âoldâ waterwheel into life) will accompany your silent, undisturbed exploration of this rather charming townscape.
Outside of the Old Town is Lijiang City. Probably not worth your time to explore on top of everything else although the old, many chambered market area that forms a kind of natural border between the Old Town and the new to the west must not be missed for market-addicts like myself. Itâs a cracker!
The guys and I venture to the city and north of the Old Town enclave to the park area which contains âBlack Dragon Poolâ and several reconstituted temples sat at the base of large Elephant Hill that once ascended does afford some impressive views of the valley, city and mountains about.
We all had good times in Lijiang. A very soothing place to be. We stayed at the magnificent MaMa Naxiâs No.3 Guest House. A clean, smoothly run operation in the heart of the Old Town run by the hilariously charismatic, powerful, slightly zany and culinarily gifted matriarch referred to only as the eponymous MaMa. This place deserves more praise than this paragraph can contain so if I get me arse in gear a review will follow shortly. Thereâs plenty for the eye to feast upon here in Lijiang. The Yulong Bridge and Waterwheels (a prize to the person who can get a photo of these things without a Chinese tourist in the shot), the mild carnival atmosphere of SiFang Square with the rugged Davey Crockett style men on horseback and occasional impromptu traditional group dance performances.