I discovered this place in an alley, 5 minutes away from the bustling center of the lijiang old town just next to my hostel (mama naxi). The cafe bar has cozy red couches and an ambience perfect for chilling out on a lazy afternoon. They serve great hot chocolate and small snacks at reasonable prices. They even provide shelves of books, ranging from fiction to travel books in English, Korean and Spanish- perfect place to relax and rewind especially since I was worn out from my backpacking trip. The cafe is quiet with soothing music in the afternoons and at night, it turns into a bar with live music. What particularly attracted me most to this place is the passionate musicians with great voices unlike those in the more touristic bars who hire mediocre musicians just for the sake of having live music. I could sit there for hours on end and the live music's not too loud so my friends and I could still enjoy a nice conversation. Freshnam is also one of the few bars which plays music in Korean and English. I would definitely return if I have the chance to visit lijiang again.
Dress Code: wear anything you like!
One of the must see (and for that matter hear), things to do in the evening whilst in Lijiang is to pay a visit to the Naxi Orchestra. This music shouts China and is the ancient music, the traditional Naxi classical music that is regarded as a 'living fossil of Chinese music.'
The orchestra is made up of 33 men and women - the men wearing silk clothes and the women wearing the local costume. A woman announcer, who spoke both Chinese and English, came on stage and introduced some of the eldest guys - about 6 of them are in their 80's with the eldest at 86. Above them over the top of the stage are black and white photos of previous players. The woman announcer also mentioned about some of their instruments - the oldest of which was 175 years old and, of course, these are nothing like we have back home. There was no conductor - the 86 year old guy was the conductor who played some kind a hanging chime thing which he struck in time and he also chanted the rest of the orchestra at the beginning of each piece of music. The music is traditional Naxi music and also features some singing by the women, a flute solo and 2 operatic songs. All-in-all it was great to both see and hear and it will stay with me for a long time, as music does that to your senses.
Tickets costs between Y100-160.
I was quite amazed by just how much nightlife there was in Lijiang. The main concentrate exists along Xinhua Jie where the main Yu River runs along. Here you can find many bars and a few dancing night clubs and all kinds of music from modern disco to a solo act playing acoustic guitar.
If there is one thing I didn't like that much about Lijiang is the No. 1 Bar Street (Xinghua Street) Especially at night when the cafes and restaurants "came to life" and converted into pubs with live performances and performances (fusion of traditional Naxi dance and modern Hip Hop, techno, etc.) I do reckon that economic growth comes with a price but I can't help feeling a tinge of sadness...
If you're longing to be in a place where you're surrounded by good books, coffee and a hushed ambience, Prague Cafe is it. They have the best cakes and possibly the most extensive coffee menu (vietnamese caphe, blue mountain coffee, yunnan coffee, etc) in town.
Needless to say, it's the perfect place to regain a bit of your sanity if you've been travelling in China for weeks on end. Guide books always fail to mention that weeks of drinking tea and eating oily noodles/white rice can wrecked untold havoc to a person weaned on a western diet. The regular dinner/lunch menu is just as extensive and they have very good sandwiches/juicy hamburgers stacked with vegetables.
Tip:The cheesecake usually sell out by 8pm since they're bloody good.
Dress Code: regular backpacker's uniform aka casual clothes that look as though they haven't been washed for weeks on end.
casually expensive clothing favoured by expats.
Recommended by the Australian, The Lonely Planet, Rough Guide
This is the best place in town for live music and a good bottle of beer, period. The musician over here really knows how to work the guitar, never mind if the lyrics were in Mandarin, it sounded good! The bar also has a good Chinese and French menu if you're feeling peckish in the wee hours of the night.
Tip: Avoid the local wine at all costs. It gives you a stinking headache for hours on end.
Another useful tip: It's ok to reject the itinerant flower peddler who buzzes in and out of the bars. Get your wife/gal pal to do a quick and easy rejection.
When sun sets, red lanterns light. Girls and boys are preparing for "singing campaign". If you could, you would be welcom. The two level barrooms usually open all windows so that people inside may sing with others who in the opposite bank barrooms seperated by a small river. Local people dance around needfire at the Square Street on Tuesday,Thursday and Saturday each week. If you would like, you could dance following them, but they seem not like you inserting into their line. If you just want to watch or dream, sit and drink in a good seat. Going shopping or walking along the small river in a quiet street is also available.
Dress Code: Casual clothing
Sakura restaurant own establishements on both sides of the canal and each side competes with friendly chants. Other have posted jutifiably admiring reviews of the Sakura restaurant. I am adding some pictures.
Dress Code: Very informal
There's a very very cool bar in the south end of Old Town. It's cooler than any of the other places we went into. Unfortunately I don't remember the name. It's across from Mu's Residence. At night, it's filled with young travelers. Great ambience.
Philip and Hsiaoping Houston have put together an amazing and friendly pub just minutes walking distance from Lijiang’s Old Town. They have Chinese and Western food, Cold Beer & Glasses, Satellite Sports, and a Quality Pool Table. While all this is amazing, the best parts about the visit are the hospitality of Philip and Hsiaoping and their regular patrons AND, by far, the cleanest toilet in China. A highly enjoyable visit.
These shops open very early and close around 11pm, so you have no excuse to not have bought anything on your trip to Lijiang! I must say I walked up and down this street, which actually goes on and on and on for about an hours walk..its endless!!! I think I went into most of the shops two or three times during my time there as I kept thinking maybe I had missed something really worth buying!!! There are lots of beautiful batiks to buy there and several other local handicrafts, but you must bargain hard, as their prices here are tough.
This restaurant is Korean owned and Chinese run! The staff all seemed fairly good at thier job and although thre were sme times when we were getting frustrated to not being served, I think we just put it down to the fact that Sakura is the biggest restaurant on the street and also the busiest. The menu was huge and really varied..Chinese, American, English, Korean....all reasonably priced. They had wonderful breakfasts, gorgeously juicy fresh squeezed juices, spicey noodles, Korean rice and vegetables pots, yummy meat lasagne..but dont take the broccoli lasagne as it is just broccoli..nothing else..no cheese inside or meat- really dry. Hhhmmm..what else was there....chicken kebabs with a red wine sauce, wonderful homemade pizzas at great prices..oh the list is endless...ans as you can see..we seemed to eat there quite often!!!! The plates were also huge so they kept you full for many hours!!!
Dress Code: No dress code....Come here, buy some food, buy some drink and dance the night away....
The local Naxi preserved their old music through many centuries. The old men I heard playing their ancient instrument in an almost private atmosphere now present their art to a bigger public in a special hall. Don't miss their performance!
Nightly performances are held at the Nàxi Concert Hall (Dong Dà Jie) from 8 to 9:30pm. Purchase tickets for ¥30 to ¥50 ($3.75-$6.25) ahead of time; performances are frequently sold out.
It's a little bit hard to choose which bar to go in LiJiang, because there are too many and all are cute. It's better to sit outside along the river to feel the breeze and listen to the flow of stream.
Dress Code: anything as you like
DAYAN NAXI ANCIENT MUSIC in LIJIANG: An orchestra formed mainly by musicians over 60 years of age & a few are in fact in the 80s-95 range. Formed to preserve the cultural heritage of the Naxi tribe, this Taoist ritual music can be hard to adjust to in the beginning. But one gets used to the rhythm with time & it's quite an interesting cultural experience! If you have the chance, try it.
You'd also be surprised to find out that the orchestra has performed in many places out of China like the Scandinavia, U.K., Japan & U.S.A.
Music Quote from 'Book of Music':
'The beasts know only noises but not sounds; the common people know only sounds, but not music; it is only the gentlemen who are capable of knowing music. By examining the sounds, you will know the music, by examining the music, you will know the politics. Then you will know the way of government.'