I took a day trip out of Lijiang in order to visit the Tiger Leaping Gorge which first included a trip to the first bend of the mighty Yangtze River. The Yangtze River, considered the mother river of China, flows majestically through the centre of China and is the third longest river in the world. Starting from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Yangtze River surges south-eastward until it meets the Hengduan Mountain Range. About 44 miles outside of Lijiang, unusual geological phenomenon’s force the Yangtze to make a sudden V-shaped bend and flow to the northeast. This extraordinary turn, nearly 180-degrees, creates beautiful and marvellous views. Here, the river is wide and the water flows in a gentle, slow pace. Large willow trees grow luxuriously alongside the river that is banked on both sides with lush, fertile deep green vegetation and immense, steep mountains that rise up from the river to touch the clouds in the blue sky above. The whole sight is like a wonderful landscape painting that never ends. This is a world-famous geological phenomenon and an extraordinary panoramic scene whose vistas you will long remember with great pleasure.
Most tours only take you to the first of the rapids just at the start of the Gorge, this one is most developed with steps, stairs and viewing platforms and plenty of people. By staying overnight at Tina's Guesthouse, which is great, over looks the Gorge and about 8kms further in we were able to hike down to the middle rapids. The scenery was better and very few people. The road in leaves a lot to be desired but as there wasn't much traffic once we got through the short tunnel it wasn't much of a worry
There's more here than the tourist stuff. Just look around and it's a nice place... men smoking bamboo pipes, mothers and babies, chilis hung to dry, walls crumbling to reveal the inner layers- a physical embodiment of the facade that is China. Right now I'm dealing with angry superiors for not letting students cheat on the makeup exam they took after cheating on the first semester exam. Anyway, back on track here, Lijiang is a facade, but it's quite a pleasant one. It's a tourist destination, kept intact for tourists, while sucking up their dollars as fast as possible. It's a hive of capitalism and commercialism, and a beautiful one at that. Lijiang is a unique contrast between old China (architecturally) and new China (economically), and it's an interesting place because of it.
It's not much to do, but just looking out over the town at night is quite nice. It's cooler, quiet- without much of the noise that takes over the rest of Han China, and quite picturesque.
Lijiang, being an old, Chinese city, has many interesting doors. While they aren't as grand as the massive ones you might find in Beijing's Temple of Heaven, for example, they are unique in their own right.
Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge, further into the gorge than the main parking lot, offers a trail that is less frequented and maintained by a family that lives at the top. It's not in the greatest repair, which makes it nice for hiking, and should take about two hours to go down and up.
If you aren't in very good shape, you might not want to take this trail- it's not really suitable for those not able to scramble a bit. Some of the stairs are steep and the "railings" are little more than chains attached precariously to stakes, wooden or metal. If it rains, the rocks do get slick.
While there is a watering hole near the bottom, there isn't good water there. Bring your own. It's a steep hike and can get pretty hot in the gorge.
Watch for falling rocks... I saw some stupid guy throw a rock down the gorge- DON'T DO THAT! He probably didn't have the brainpower to understand that there were PEOPLE down there who probably did not have brain injuries on their list of things to do in Yunnan.
Five images. Many more in the travelogues!
What was once done by only adventurers now sees high-heel clad city-people clambering their awkward ways down and huffing back up. The first hike down to the water, from the main parking lot, is done via stairs, and is more of a tourist trap these days than anything else- the view at the bottom is OK, not spectacular, and don't be surprised if Chinese tour groups stop for a photo or ten, blocking the pathway. This path took us about half an hour, with pictures and waiting behind slower people.
You can see, across the gorge, a statue of the leaping tiger- a tiger supposedly jumped the gorge, according to legend.
There are souvenir stalls on the way up, and some people sell corn and peeled potatos... mmmm.
More shots from Baisha- the locals still wear a lot of the traditional clothes, though it's mostly women who do- the men wear western clothes, including suit jackets in which they work the fields...
We walked out of Baisha for a while and into the more real/local part of town until the local old cop told us we couldn't go any farther. Oh well. Not many tourists hit this part of town, so it's nice to see some of the real Baisha, as opposed to the tourist section.
As I mentioned elsewhere, the town of Lijiang is best seen in the early morning, at least before 8:30 am, if not before sunrise- sunrise over the town is quite beautiful. If you want to catch sunrise, note that the town is roughly aligned with the compass with the west part of the old town being the hill holding the Wangu Tower and the Wenchang Monastery. Sunrise is best seen from that vantage point, somewhere between the two. Sunset you can see from, therefore, the east side of town, over the monastery and tower.
It's peaceful before 8:30, when the town is empty aside from a few people going to work, a baozi (steamed, filled bun) stand off a short side street providing locals breakfast in a hurry, and the occasional tourists looking for empty streets. At 8:30, as if on cue, the tour groups start their sluggish clogging of the walkways. I'd hate for too many people to get out before 8:30, but it's worth it for those that do.
While pu-er is all the rage in the town, the naxi locals actually drink a rarer form of local tea called Lijiang Snow Tea. My husband and I were invited to drink this tea in a village in Lashihai, while I can't say I like the tea very much, we love the interaction and the ceremony that went along with it.
The tea itself was slightly bitter but fragrant. And as we sipped, the local tell us that it was brewed from a herb that can only be found in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Since the herb cannot be cultivated or mass produced, it was relatively expensive at 50rmb.
We took a look at the white shriveled herbs and understood why it was called Snow Tea. Still,looking at it I had my doubts that it contained great restorative powers for the liver and decreasing blood pressure.
It was then the local offered me a sip of warm water to clear my palatte.The water was plain but it felt sweet in my mouth, how good it felt! Still, I opted to buy another tea (marigold with rose) which was even more fragrant and not quite as bitter.
Lonely Planet doesn't mention this at all but there is a pristine blue lake at the lower base valley of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It's here where you get the best shot of the Mountain since there are cascading limestone terraces that are almost white in colour.
This place is an important migration passage/breeding ground/wintering haven of nearly 76 species of wild geese and ducks, e.g. Anas crecca, Fulica atra, and Aythya fuligula.
I did not see the black necked cranes when I was here however.
Once you get out of the local bus terminal, at the foot of the Yu Long Xueshan, (Jade Dragon Mountain), after about one and a half hours driving from Lijiang, you will see on a higher meadow some horses ready to clime up the mountain on a horseback. The price is about 80 Yuan and for taller people, you have to stand on their very old weighting machine to check the right horse for you.
Then from this meadow at about 3000 m. high, you will ride on your horseback to the highest point of this mountain. The way up is not to difficult, but after a pause on the top, you'll ride down about the same small path and on the very steep parts, where your horse can take a short cutting to come quickier back home, you have to keep firmly the saddle.
When you'r lucky, you could cross on your ride to the top, a Long Haired Yak, who can reach 2 m. tall at his shoulders, and living only between 3000 and 5000 m. I took his picture no. 3 on a horse back, so rather difficult and a bit fuzzy.
On your way to the old town from the airport or from old town to destinations like Snow Mountain, don't forget to look outside. Most of the time, the fields are full of sunflowers or "you cai hua" (not sure what is it called in English...is it Dandelion?). It's worthwhile to just ask the driver to stop and let you take pictures. As the saying goes, we should sometimes 'stop and smell the flowers' ;-)