Lijiang in the land of eternal spring
Lijiang Travel Blog› entry 3 of 6 › view all entries
Lijiang in the province of Yunnan (the land of eternal spring) is one of these cities that are getting more popular very quickly. When we were there in 2008 there were already some westerners but we were still an exception. By now it already has been discovered by larger public. Hopefully this city, which is a success story for the Naxi minorities and for the policy to phase out polluting paper industry in favor of tourism, will manage to keep its character.
When we arrived at the new airport, Mr. Zhang, our guide was already waiting for us. He and the driver got us to the hotel, and there we discussed our plans. We would go visit the old town that evening and have dinner there. Then tomorrow, we would go to the literal high point of Lijiang, the Yulong Xue Shan, translated: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Lijiang is located about 400 kilometers northwest of Kunming, at the entrance of a valley where you can follow the river upstream all the way to Shangri La, the legendary ideal place for longevity and happiness, on the border of Tibet. Many places in China claim to be Shangri La, but according to our Chinese friends this one probably has the strongest case. We would not be able to go there now as our stay was too short, but being in and around Lijiang made clear to us that this is a totally different China from the big cities and huge masses, and pollution and traffic, that we see on TV sooften.
This is the doorstep of the Himalayas, the traditonal land of many minority tribes with all their rich traditions. They are in charge of their daily lives and to a larger extent than we may sometimes think in the west, and many places in Yunnan have been designated as tribal autonomous area.
Lijiang used to be the village of the Naxi tribe, until the industrialization came. Deforestation, heavy pollution and almost the extinction of the life of the Naxi were the consequence. Then there was an enormous earthquake and after that a choice has been made to get rid of the industry, and to develop tourism instead. And the Naxi themselves play a big role in it. They do things different from the big cities in other parts of China. They cherish their culture and history and have found a way to make their living out of it. Maybe it means that they have to make compromises by being opener to the outside world, but they have decided that it is a choice between either this, or losing it in a fastly developing China.
The historic old town has been restored beautifully. Yes, there are hostels, shops and restaurants and even backpacker café's now. But the historic buildings are there, and well taken care of by the Naxi. We went to eat at a small restaurant in the old town, where it was warm and cosy inside (no tube lamps like in so many other places) with warm colors, hot rice, steamed and roasted meats and veggies, mushrooms. I will retrieve the name of the restaurant and write a review if i can.
The hotel that we had was located just outside of Lijiang city. It was a brand new large hotel with a fantastic view on the mountain massif of yue Long Xue Shan, our destination for tomorrow...