Hiking the Great Tiger Leaping Gorge
Most folks use Lijiang as a base before proceeding to Qiaotou to do the greatest hike in China. Set aside at least 2-3 days to do the hike in Tiger Leaping Gorge and avoid the rainy season at all costs. You need to have really good gore tex boots and a hiking stick for this activity. The rocks there can be bloody slippery after a rain and a missed step can be fatal.
Steamed Meat Buns (Baozi)
What do the locals eat for breakfast in Lijiang? Baozi of course, a fluffy steamed bun filled with meat, vegetables or bean paste. You can find these buns in pratically any eatery in town, coddled in huge bamboo/stainless steel steamers. Since these little things are a paltry 0.80RMB each, you can try all the varieties if you're a greedy sod.
Here's the more common varieties found in Liijiang:
1)Rou Bao - Pork Bun
2)Xiang Gu Bao - Mushroom Bun
3)Cai Bao - Vegetable Bun
4)Dou Sha Bao - Red Bean Bun
5)Tu Dou Bao - Potato Bun
5)Xiao Long Bao - A mini-me version of the pork bun. It's supposed to be filled with broth but the ones found in Yunnan are dry.
The Best 'Old' Village in Town
While hordes of tourist flood into Lijiang old town, they fail to realise that there is another village nearby that is older, quieter and more charming. Su He Gu Zhen (Su He Village) is a 1000-year-old village is essential Lijiang Old Town minus the tourist. Like LJ Old Town, it does have parts that were rebuilt after the earthquake but that's where the similarity ends.
For starters, this place does have genuine sections, including several 700-year-old buildings made from the local pine. Life is also a little slower here. It's possible over here to take an open horse-drawn carriage and ride slowly along the cobbled-stone streets or wander about and see a native spinning on an ancient loom.
Tip: Look out for the Green Dragon Bridge, which was once part of the ancient road to Tibet.
Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiao Xia)
Located about 40 miles, 2.5 hours away north of Lijiang, the Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the world?s most spectacular gorges. It is one the longest, deepest, and narrowest gorges in the world. The narrow gorge located between Haba Peak (about 15,000 feet) and the steep backside of Jade Dragon Mountain (18,000 feet). Hiking trail runs along the base of Haba Peak providing spectacular views of 7,000 foot cliffs yielding to the jagged pinnacles of Jade Dragon Mountain that rise another mile above them. Overall, it?s about 13,000 feet from the river to the top of Jade Dragon. There are two trails, the high trail, and the low trail. The high trail is much more scenic and solitary than the easier accessed lower trail. Instead of trekking up the gorge, you can choose to hire a jeep at RMB300 per day.
LiJiang- a majical old Naxi town
Well its time for yet another update. I left Kunming which was a
typical boring Chinese city in search for the countryside, and more of
rural China. The 9 hour bus ride from Kunming to Lijiang was actually
quite nice. The scenery was gorgeous! From Kunming to Dali the road
was a brand new expressway so that portion of the trip was relatively
uneventful however after Dali the massive bus (very similar to coach
busses but the seats are higher up around where a double decker bus
would sit) attempted to climb through the small paths winding through
the mountain. Luckily we made it in one piece!
Lijiang is situated in a beautiful valley and is surrounded by
mountains, including the famous 5500m Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The
bus dropped me off in modern Lijiang, which was the usual
conglomeration of cement, dirt, bustle and sprawl. Not at all
attractive. I caught a taxi to the old town (could have walked the 3
km but was a bit lost) and was dropped off at the entrance. The
streets within the old city are too narrow for any traffic so it very
peaceful - or at least the streets away from the centre are! The city
is crisscrossed with canals and tiny bridges and is a maze of tiny
cobbled streets. Lijiang was leveled in 1996 by an earthquake which
killed 300 people and injured 16,000. While most of the newer city was
damaged much of the old city built in traditional Naxi style was
unharmed. In the rebuilding the Chinese government took note of the
fact that the old architecture survived the earthquake and rebuilt
many of the surrounding villages in the old style. The earthquake made
the world aware of this beautiful area and it was declared a World
Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999. My 1st impression of the old city
however was massive crowds of Chinese tourists! And more crowds!
Lijinag is one of the principle tourist areas for Chinese tourists and
a popular honeymoon spot. To make matters worse I arrived on the
weekend before the May holiday travel rush.
Old city is a very hard place to find your way around - particularly
without a good map and all the maps I found were in Chinese - so I had
trouble finding some of the guest houses recommended in our guide
book. Eventually I found a youth hostel with a room - it was much
better than my place in Kunming and cheaper too! Dumping my bags I set
off to explore. Its an incredibly pretty place - full of dozens of
restaurants and literally hundreds of tiny shops. The prices in the
shops were surprisingly cheap and I had tons of fun shopping for
souvenirs. Lijiang was even prettier in the evening as it was aglow
with hundreds of red lanterns. It was one the cleanest place that I've
seen. In fact it was nearly sterile! Late in the evening gangs of
people would go around the streets with tweezers and pick cigarette
butts and toothpicks from the cracks in the cobble stones.
I spent my 1st full day in Lijiang exploring the outer streets of the
old city. It was very quiet and I got "lost" regularly as it was a
real maze. Although I had no real plan I was attempting to find Lion
Hill park to get some views of the rooftops of Lijinag. Rather than
paying the 60yuan admission into the park I actually found myself in
another area of town with little cafes and local shops that catered to
the Naxi people rather than to foreigners. I was invited up to one
old ladies roof and was able to see how closely together the houses
were built, and the maze of streets and canals weaving through the
After about 3 hours of wandering the streets of old town I made my way
to the "touristy" part and quickly escaped the thousands of chinese
tourists with brightly colored umbrellas blocking out the sunshine.
They all were wearing matching hats and following a tourguide belting
out chinese through a microphone. I escaped the masses and headed
through "new" LiJiang to a very photogenic lake called Black Dragon
Pond. This park has some of the best vantage points for taking photos
of Jade Dragon Mountain. Almost immediately inside the park you are
greeted by a charming white marble bridge lying across the emerald
green water. The symmetrical five bridge holes make a beautiful
inverted reflection in water. On a good day unlike yesterday you can
see the reflection of the bridge together with Jade Dragon Snow
Mountain, Elephant Hill, the sapphire sky and the white clouds. This
wasn't the case but I did get some good photos! Climbed up the side
of Elephant hill to get some better views of the park, lake and old
town. Took some great areal shots. Met two guys at the entrance to
the park who were staying at a nicer hostel so I came back with them
and ate dinner there. The food was great!! Decided to grab my bags
and spend the next two nights there.
The third morning in Lijiang I was eating breakfast at Mama's guest
house and overheard some people the next table over talking about
visiting Baisha. I decided to hop over and meet them. They still had
room in their taxi so I caught the bus to the village of Baisha which
was once the capital of the Naxi kingdom and was a fascinating place
to watch the locals live life as they have lived it for centuries. The
Naxi have lived in this area for 1400 years and it is a matriarchal
society - even today. They have flexible 'love affairs' and couples
don't set up residence. All children belong to the women only and are
not financially supported by the men once the relationship is over.
The Naxi women wear blue trousers and blouses covered by a black
apron. They also wear a T shape heavily padded sheep skin cape which
prevents their back baskets from chafing but also represents the
heavens. Day and night are represented by the black and white color
and each cape has seven embroidered circles symbolize the stars. Also
on each shoulder many have embroidered frog eyes. Frogs were once
important Naxi gods. The Naxi still use a hieroglyphic (picture
language) - the only such language still in use today in the world.
The whole area is covered in these symbols - all their buildings and
of course all the tourist souvenirs. Most of the houses in Baisha and
surrounding villages were made from mud and the streets were lined
with water channels which the locals used to wash clothes, vegetables
and themselves in. It was also the water supply for the village.
Baisha is a small village which became famous when Michael Palin
visited it as part of his 'Himalaya' series and met the famous Dr Ho.
As we were wandering the streets a nice old lady came up and started
speaking with us. She invited us back to her home for some tea, dress
up (in traditional Naxi clothing), and snacks. We spent over an hour
sitting and talking. For less than 10yuan we got adorable photos with
her in her garden. What a wonderful day!!!!
Today I am headed off to Zhongdian (Shangri-La) with one of the girls
that I traveled with yesterday. Booked a bus through Mama at the
guest house and we are set to leave in about 10 minutes.