Lijiang Travel Blog

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I  think I am running out of adjectives. Just when I think I have seen it all, China surprises me with a town like Lijiang. After a short uneventful stopover in Kunming, we've booked a room in Lijiang's "Old Town" which is completely closed to everything but pedestrian traffic. Despite the fact that most of the centuries-old homes have been converted to shops and restaurants, the charm and beauty still shine through and a snapshot of what must have been is not hard to imagine. Narrow canals steadily channel water from the nearby river to feed the soul of the village while stone walkways and bridges follow along side and lead through the maze-like steps and terraces up the hillside.

At night, Lijiang is anything but a sleepy mountain village. The local "Bar Street" is the liveliest I've seen so far (it seems that ever city has one). The Old Town at night is an impossible picture to paint with words. From the central square the view is something that rivals the imagination of Walt Disney. The clay tiled rooftops of each of the ancient homes is illuminated from below created a definition of light and shadows like a glowing mile-wide staircase. Adding to the experience is the fact that we are here during Chinese National Holiday and many of the locals are dressed in traditional outfits as they fill the narrow pathways around Bar Street singing songs and cheering out to others from balconies across the canals. In turn, the cheers are repeated and returned. The only thing I can think to compare it to is a high school basketball game where rival fans try to outcheer one another with "We've got spirit, yes we do, we've got spirit how bout you?!"

We had arrived in Yangshuo just after sunset and the Venice-like "streets" had us dizzily spinning in circles looking for out hotel.

Just when we think we are done for, we meet Michelle, a Taiwanese transplant studying to become a local tour operator. She sensed our frustration, offered her help and within minutes we were unpacking our things and settling into our room. Michelle turned out to be a pot of gold. It turns out that Lijiang's tourism board has strict rules preventing guides-in-training from charging for their services so we offered to buy her lunch the next day in exchange for showing us around a bit. She was more than willing to practice her craft and we ending spending much of the next two days following her lead. We learned about Lijiang and the surrounding area and browsed through a genuine local market seldom seen by tourists. this place was clearly the nerve center of the community providing families and businesses with every provision imaginable.
I was in awe of the variety of exotic (to me anyway) fruits vegetables, spices, meats and fish. I could have walked through there for hours or just sat quietly and observed as generations passed by.

On our third day, Michelle took us on a trip north to higher altitudes to visit Tiger Leaping Gorge - a natural wonder created over several thousand years by steep mountain cliffs tightening around the steady flow of the famous Yangzi River and squeezing it's banks until a deluge of rapids cascade over huge bolders. The 5 mile hike into the gorge was dotted with scenic waterfalls and tunnels cut into the mountain. The same excursion brought us through the winding mountain roads to the ancient Naxi village of Baisha where we were promised a glimpse of what Lijiang was like before Unesco christened it a World Heritage site and tourism took over.

While both sites were worth seeing, I couldn't wait to get back to Lijiang, enjoy the cool autumn weather, sit at an outdoor cafe and read or write or just people-watch. This gorgeous town will easily rank in my top three for China. We orignially planned on staying one night and found ourselves hating to leave after three. We're headed back to Kunming to catch an early flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand in the morning. This is my last night in China and I couldn't have hoped for anything more than spending it in a place like Lijiang.

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4,986 km (3,098 miles) traveled
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photo by: Deats