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May 20, 2006 – A journey to Lijiang, China in Asia

Loud Lijiang

At first, hardly saw any tourists and locals while walking from the bus station to Lijiang Old Town. Though once inside the old town, weaving through the hordes of massive tour groups to look for a guesthouse was a feat. After plunking down the backpacks at a quiet and cute little Naxi traditional house, Water Town Inn (highly recommend this guesthouse, it’s really a few hundred years old), went to wander around the town.

The Old Town itself is huge with many winding cobblestone streets. As a newcomer, it’s easy to get lost in them. After ten minutes of trying to surpass the big tour groups, decided to veer off to a less-trodden street that just went up. Got an excellent view of the vast city, passed a bunch of middle school kids in PE class, sauntered by very old mud-brick buildings with tiled roofs, and unintentionally ended up at Looking Past the Pavilion (Wangu Lou) scenic spot.

one of the many winding streets

middle school kids playing a game in PE class

looking up at Looking Past the Pavilion

Got my snapshots and continued walking, this time down. Ended up at the Old Market Square. So many tourists crowded the square that you can hardly see any of the grounds. Souvenir shops lined the whole area. Saw many elderly Naxi women in traditional dress hanging out, and a few Tibetan men with horses posing for pictures. People from other minority groups as well as foreigners and Han Chinese milled about. Quite amazing to see such a cultural mix. The noise was unbelievable, too.

Old Market Square at night

Naxi women hanging out in the afternoon

In the evening, observed some Naxi around-the-fire dancing on the newly built Naxi Street, which is across from the waterwheel and Old Town. Crossed over close to the waterwheel and sat in on a free traditional Naxi orchestra concert (you can go see an actual concert in the Old Town for 100+ yuan per ticket). Glad to have seen the free one (who wouldn’t?). Because it was short and sweet and with a good introduction.

Naxi people dancing

this Naxi woman, who’s part of the Naxi orchestra, is using a leaf as an instrument

The next day, took a day trip to Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain (Yulong Xueshan). Hopped onto the local No. 7 bus, which was a grave mistake. The local buses now only take you to the first stop and won’t go any further. So, you have to hop on another one to get to the next site, and so forth. Costs 8 yuan each time you do that. It is much better to hire a car for 100 yuan for the whole day (can be split with up to five other people, ask your guesthouse for more info). A hired car can take you to all the spots listed on the entry ticket, which costs 80 yuan for student and 120 for regular. The spots include all the stops on Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain, a few other scenic sites, and Tiger Leaping Gorge on the Daju side.

So, the No. 7 local bus dropped us off at the first stop, Dry Sea Meadow. Didn’t take the 160 yuan chairlift up (you can take a pricey chairlift at each of the Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain stops). Rick was able to convince a hired car that was waiting for his clients who were going up the first chairlift, to take us to the third Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain stop, Yak Meadow. Took the chairlift up (60 yuan per person), and got a great view of Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain. Also visited the Tibetan monastery or gompa up ontop.

view of Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain from Dry Sea Meadow

on the way to Yak Meadow, a Naxi woman and her herd crossed the road in front of us

cable cars up

a Tibetan gompa at the top

inside the gompa looking out (note the Naxi-patterned floor, not Tibetan)

I enjoyed Lijiang quite a bit despite the touristiness and noise. But, I must admit that I’m glad to have stayed in Dali longer than planned before reaching Lijiang. Dali is quieter and less commercialized. Lijiang has become a major tourist attraction, with lots and lots of people coming to visit. Some parts of the town have been radically renovated, which loses some of the old town feel. Quite a few vendors are only out there to make money (e.g. the souvenirs are quadruple the price than in Dali). These factors sort of make the town lose some character (sometimes, the Chinese seem to have a knack for turning historical cultural gems into gigantic tourist attractions similar to amusement parks, e.g., Shilin Stone Forest). Overall, Lijiang is still an excellent town to see if you're looking for traditional Chinese minority culture. You can still find what you’re looking for, if you look hard enough.

an elderly man in full minority dress

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