we took on a daytrip where one of the stops was ShuHe old town, smaller and much more laid back than its big sister Lijiang old town.
instead of going around exploring the 'other' old town, we end up in a so-called Tibetan quack doctor at the far left of the town.
the doctor-monks are said to correctly guess your health condition, and prescribe supplements to correct them. They never did. and the supplements, said to be from Tibet where the exotic heal-all herbs are gathered, are 5x more expensive than in the local drugstores. dont fall into the trap
Unique Suggestions: upon arriving the old town, go with the group to learn more about the Tibetan way of life and architecture, but dont go inside the quack doctors' area. go out anyways, and explore the old town urself. I did a bit of exploring. it was pleasant.
Yulong Tourist Centre is geared for Chinese tourists- the staff's English is not good. Despite showing them a drawing of Blue Moon Valley they did not seem to understand. Go straight to the ticketing office.
We walked up to the area on the first day for a view of the old city. It was Ok. However, very soon after arriving a young girl came up to us and we had a small conversation. In the outer courtyard there is a small area where for 10 Yuan you can spin a horn around a circle of Chinese horoscopes. Of course, I did and of course I then had to reveal my Chinese sign. Next thing you are invited to cross the threshold. Beware.. a monk will want to tell you your fortune. I thought the 10 Yuan covered that!! NO…you are then told a whole lot of good things and given a cloth which you write your loved ones names and “given” a lucky jade Buddha. Then. Crunch time. Donation…sign your name in a book where other people have signed and donated….300 Yuan!!! Don’t get suckered!!! Don’t cross into the temple!!!
I understand that Lijiang is a preservation of old China. I understand that it's cultural and historical sights are interesting and great. But Lijiang RAKES in the money from tourists. Touts gouge tourists, with no moral dilemma about lying to customers about the quality or origin of their products. For example, I took a 99.9% pure silver coin and compared weight with one of the coins at a jewelry store. The woman nodded and said, basically, "yes, but look- your coin doesn't make the proper sound that my coin makes. Ding! And when you blow hard on my coin, it makes a sound too." What? When did the sound of blowing on a coin determine its silver content? She told me that my coin wasn't real (though, of course, it is) and that I should buy her fake coins for 80 yuan a piece. 80 yuan... Oh, and she said that her coin was bigger around... like that makes a difference. The minting was suspect- poorly minted and misspelled words... a dollar coin with Chinese characters on the back... and here's the kicker... her coin weighed 0.8712678 ounces or 24.7 grams. Mine was 1 ounce, or 28.3495 grams (actually mine weighed 31.1034768 grams... also known as a Troy ounce.)
I know their business is gouging tourists. I know how to bargain, haggle... whatever you want to call it. Touts and vendors don't like me very much because I won't be ripped off like tourists who don't know how to haggle. All that said, it's not very decent of them to try to charge such ridiculous prices for souvenirs just because tourists don't know any better or happen to have money.
Now, add to all this another problem: 80 yuan is required to see the Black Dragon Pond. 80 yuan is recommended to be paid at tourist sites. You pay it once and get a receipt so you don't have to pay it elsewhere. This fee is for preservation of the old town. Now, with the new town around them and with the amount of money made by the stores, hotels, restaurants and bars in-town, they don't need this money. If it's worth seeing in China, they'll gouge you.
Wanchu Temple, built in 1997 just for tourists, isn't that expensive- only 15 yuan... but it's the principle... Wanchu was built just for tourists... not as a holy site, not for religious or other cultural significance... it was built to get money out of tourists... if you build it, they will throng.
Anyway, Lijiang is a tourist trap that gouges visitors. Be aware and hang on to your money, or bargain hard. If they aren't smiling when you walk away, you probably got a fair price.
Unique Suggestions: Avoid paying the 80 yuan. Maybe you can't get in somewhere, but so what?
Lijiang's Old Town is a tourist trap. Tour groups mass their way down the narrow, stone streets, designed not for them but for the few local people and possibly an occasional cart. Anyway, it can get annoying dealing with the crowds, so get out early (before 8:30 am) as the groups and most tourists start to clog up around 8:30.
Sadly, one of the draws of this town is shopping for souvenirs. This is to the point that it's not a real experience you have here, but, once again, your relationship to the people is "you take their picture, they take your money". It's a sad state, but that's why people come here.
People also come here because this is so different from much of China, with its small streets and old style of architecture.
Unique Suggestions: It's worth a visit, but just get out early, then go find something else to do, like sleeping or hiking the gorge.
Upon first arriving at the Old Town of Lijiang, unless you look like you already know where you've going, you'd inevitably get "harnessed" by people trying to get you to stay in their guesthouses. They'd try to sell the guesthouse to you with endless description and even insist that you come and take a look.
My travel mates and I followed a lady to her guesthouse and it was such a long walk back to one of the small and dingy houses. It looked acceptable and so tired from a 12 hour bus ride from Kunming, we just accepted the offer. It was definitely one of the cheapest place we found, but then the toilet was really horrible! We found another place the next night.
So my advice is that unless you want really no-frills and cheap accomodation, decline the "kind" offers of these touts and just stick to those trustworthy guesthouses you hear about on VT :)
I know I will get flak for saying this but I'm not the type to promote a place to earn popularity points.
Lijiang Old Town is a gigantic tourist trap filled with reconstructed wooden houses which are overpriced gift and souvenir shops, restaurants and guesthouses. The Unesco world heritage award, the new airport and the floods of local tourists have all but destroyed the soul of the place. Every day, the cobble-stoned streets are clogged with local visitors toting video cameras led by guides with little flags and loud hailers.
Genuine backpackers are few and far between, many of them have decided to skip altogether and head for the other 2 villages in town or to Dali which is less touristy. Things were different before the earthquake of 1996. My friends claimed that this place was a backpackers haven then since it took at least 8-10 hours to travel here by bus from Kunming.
I think I came here too late.
Unique Suggestions: Only 2 original gems remain there. The Naxi Old Orchestra and the reconstructed Mu Mansion.
Since this is a commercial place, the night scene ain't too bad. Do check out the bar scenes and cafes for comfort food.
Fun Alternatives: Do visit the other villages, in particularly Su He Old Town.
If you see lamas who wander about in the Old Town of Lijiang begging from people, please ignore them, because they are not real lamas or monks. They are professional beggars. Real monks or lamas will not ask money from people.
Someone persuaded me that there was another route to the top of Yulong Snow Mountain, I could enjoy different scene and there was no tickets. Coz I had traveled there twice before, I entered in the trap.
Finally I paid 3 times of money, didn't get to the point they promised, even there was no official insurance or receipt. If there was any accident......
Fun Alternatives: So, don't believe them, go to the right place, buy the ticket.
Don't let others, such as your driver, guide to help you, buy the ticket of horse riding by youself.
Most restaurants that serve Naxi food will offer Yak Meat in their menu. One of the locals told us that most of these are actually just regular beef but they call it Yak meat to be able to charge higher prices. We tried it once and it was indeed not something you'd like to have again, and yes, it was expensive! (almost 8 usd per dish so that's high for local standards).
Fun Alternatives: just order veggie, it's gotta be safer ;-)
If you go to the Dongba Kingdom and are in the section wherein they introduce the local Dongba culture, make sure you don't join the so-called "Traditional Dongba Wedding". Although it's interesting and fun in general, they would ask you to make some 'contribution' in the end. We ended up giving 200 rmb in total which is sooo not worth it. We should have just said no when they tried to convince us to join the 'Wedding ceremony'.
Unique Suggestions: Just hold on to your wallet and just play dumb. It's not really mandatory to give any particular amount anyway.
Yes, so this is the one to get..the larger size..and not the small mini van I showed you a picture of just before this. This bus will cost you just 8RMB. I guess it wont take you around the place like the mini van would have, but we would have had to pay for extra things once we were there anyway with or without the mini van around, so i strongly suggest you tske this cheaper bus..no-one here to cheat you!
Well, this was a VERY easy trap to fall into!!!! And I couldn't believe that having lived here for so long I managed to get fooled yet again! Well, we didnt let them get us the whole way but the fact that I didnt see that it was a trap to begin with was frustrating enough! So let my tale begin!!!!!
Lijiang as many of you will know has the beautiful Jade Snow Mountain in the background of the city. It has snow on its peak throughout the year and really is a truely beautiful sight. So of course every tourist wants to be a part of it and get as close to it as possible. This can be done by many different ways as other VTers have mentioned! I actually jotted down all the different combinations of getting there..and STILL fell in the trap! I asked at my hostel how to get to the Mountain, and she said that although she could arrange a trip for us through the hostel, we could also just get the No. 7 Bus from near the Mao statue. She drew me a little map and so we set off! It was literally just round the corner, so we were all in high spirits!!!After walking for around 5 mins we came across the small mini vans with a big No. 7 on the front. We asked how much it would cost to go there and they told us there were four different places we could drive to. These have been mentioned on other VTers pages..I forget where I got the info from, but most likely either from FreeCloud or Sharrie. So I already had a vague idea of where to go and prices. The prices they quoted were as the VTpages had written so I was pleased. But then there was the added mini van fare. She calculated it for the four of us and quoted 150RMB. I didnt really bargain on this as it wasnt a lot to pay between four. I asked if there were any other tickets we would have to buy when we got there and she said 160RMB for the cable car ride per person. This was also true according to VT. SO OFF WE WENT!
Unique Suggestions: We arrived at the entrance to the National Park in about 20 minutes or so and THIS is where the trap began! As we pulled up, the driver said we each had to pay 120RMB to get into the area. We couldn't believe it! I had SPECIFICALLY asked them if there would be any extra costs and she had only told us about the cable car fee..nothing else! So we all said we weren't paying and that we wanted to go back to town. We were all furious. The funny thing is that I had read about this on VT, something along the lines of 40RMB for the toll fee and 40RMB to get into the Old Town, which is part of the National Park area. But the fact that we hadnt been told about this, made us believe that the 150RMB we were paying between us, was part of this price. But NO! The driver got annoyed and said because I had notes with me..yes yes yes..my VT notes,she thought we knew about this entrance fee. I told her not to give me such rubbish, and that we wanted to turn back as this was a scam! We turned round and headed back but not without her trying her hardest to take us somewhere else. She said it seemed like a waste of time to be paying her 150RMB and not go anywhere!!!!HA HA HA!!Thats when we turned round and said "WHAT? You think we are paying you for this trip that didnt' take us anywhere?!" She was shocked and said she would reduce the price to 100RMB...we said forget it!!! So I was therefore surprised that she drived us back..thought we were going to be thrown out of the van there and then!
Got back to town and got out. She tried to bargain with us and we just gave her 10RMB. As we walked away, she came running after us and gave it to us back wishing us a good rest of our trip....we left quite puzzled!
Fun Alternatives: I think she gave us the money back due to two reasons. One, she knew that she had tried to fool us and seen that we hadnt fallen for it and two, she didnt want to lose face, which is what she was doing by accepting the 10RMB. So came out of ti not looking like a money pinching thief...
So, yes, what do you do as an alternative?!!!! Well you follow instructions a bit better and actually go to the Square where the Mao Statue is and catch the REAL NO. 7 bus as advised by my hostel lady!!Ha ha!!! As we were walking back to the town, we came across this and I asked how much it was and guess how much per person it was.................... just 8RMB.....!!!! We were so getting ripped off with the 150RMB deal!!!!
You'll be swarmed around with too many stuff. The lovely wax printed cloth, handprinted T-shirts, local necklaces, bracelets etc. But remember, you either bargain, buy and never look at the price elsewhere or you compare the prices in 5 different stores before you buy! Sometimes, the price difference will be 10 times, it's still cheap though!
Bai Sha is around 1 hour's cycle from Lijiang and was the former capital of the Naxi kingdom until Kublai Kahn had other plans for it in the 13th century. To be honest, I'm stuck between listing it as a tourist trap, an off the beaten path tip or an absolute must see... it's a bit of everything.
Its historical importance and traditional feel are not to be underestimated. However upon our arrival, clearly a quiet day for the Naxi capital, we noticed ancient white-brearded men drop their mah jong pieces and scuttle to a table to play the congenial hosts. At the same time the womenfolk stopped their gossipping in a corner and ushered us in to visit the impressive murals housed within the complex.
We paid our entry, then were "encouraged" to pay again for a short burst of traditional music played on a collection of ancient instruments, and then fleeced once more by the women, who meanwhile, were dancing, hand in hand, a repetitive step to the left and again to the right.
Unique Suggestions: Bai Sha is a feature of many trips out of Lijiang and of many organised tours of northern Yunnan. It is worth the visit, but certainly not worth paying out for an expensive organised tour.
Should you be a very lucky person, Dr Ho will surely accost you too. He will encourage you to visit his clinic, under the sign of "Taoist physician in the Jade \mountains of Lijiang".
Fun Alternatives: You should anticipate the 3-stage entrance fee (none of the main features is optional), enjoy the traditional mural, smile encouragingly during the impromptu concert and clap politley at the dancing. I managed to take my leave politely without visiting Dr Ho's clinic.
Then get back on your bike and head off into the wilds, towards the foot of the mountains and see some truly traditional Naxi villages.