10 Apr China: Lijiang, The Venice of the East
I’ve got an affinity for China.
Many of my friends asked me, “Why China?” They feel contempt for the place and people. They’ve never been there and vowed that they won’t step into the country. Some of them are Chinese themselves.
I never believed in listening to what others egged you on. Listen to your heart, trust your gut feeling. Everyone travels differently, with different preference, objectives, style, pace, budget. Your experience is uniquely yours, and during the journey, your compadres’ too.
This March, I went to Lijiang, Yunnan. It was a place I’ve wanted to visit a few years back. Yunnan, claimed to be a beautiful place with favourable weather “四季如春”, it’s like Spring all year round. My plan was to visit Lijiang, Dali and Kunming in 15 days. However, plans changed. I stayed in Lijiang for the two weeks (Apart from the short trips I made from there). I love impromptu plans.
I arrived at Lijiang Sanyi Airport before noon. The flight from Singapore to Lijiang was about 4.5 hours. I felt excited and apprehensive at the same time. This was the second time I visited China. The first time, I went to Chengdu and Beijing. While there, my friends were with me. So it was a lot easier whenever I needed anything. I’m also aware that it would not be as accessible as Singapore in terms of transport and mobile/data network. And me, being very dependent on mobile data, I wanted badly to get a data card as soon as I reach there. Unfortunately, when I reached the (International) Airport, there were only immigration counters for clearance and no shops or whatever. It’s not like Taiwan Taoyuan Airport where there’re many mobile companies, you can just grab a card and access to the internet immediately. As I walked out of the airport, I was clueless as to where to head for the airport shuttle bus. There was another building beside this airport. It turned out to be the domestic airport and it’s way larger, busier and with shops and cafes. There were airport buses (everything’s very ambiguous) parking around and drivers smoking and waiting, and spitting. While I tried to figure out how the bus service works, a local (non-Han) approached me and hustled me to carpool with another two fellas (already in his car at the carpark). I didn’t know what came up to me I actually agreed to go with him when he said 30Yuan (around $6.50) to the place I wanted to go. I didn’t even know if he’s a scam or baddie. Anyhow, I was unscathed. There was indeed a couple in his car. He sent me to where I wanted to go. He’s also a tour guide and his car’s available for full day rental.
白房子 (House & White Lakeside Lodge)
I booked this hostel on Hostelworld and I highly recommend this place to all of you who want to visit Lijiang. A bed in a 4-bed dorm costs around SGD15 or so. It’s one of the cleanest and comfortable hostel I’ve ever stayed in. You know, toilets have always been an issue in China, but THIS, has zero issues with that.
The staff were very friendly and we instantly hit it off. Some of them guests wanted to take a ride to Shuhe Old Town and I joined them. The hostel provides bicycles FOC for the first two hours, 30Yuan for half a day and 60Yuan for whole day. The bicycles are of good quality, superb.
Shuhe Old Town
This old town is smaller and less busier than Lijiang Old Town. The ride from the hostel to Shuhe took about 20 minutes. The weather was great for cycling, cool breeze and nice skies. The old towns in Lijiang has cobblestoned grounds and it can get a little hard on the feet if you move fast. So we parked our bikes at the entrance of the old town with a fee of 5Yuan per bike. You can’t cycle inside the old town on those wretched grounds.
There were street food like fried potato patties, yak yogurt, homegrown carrots, cucumbers and fruits.[one_third][/one_third][one_third][/one_third][one_third_last][/one_third_last]
玉龙雪山 (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain)
The hostel booked the visit for me. It costs 530Yuan (SGD114), inclusive of private transport (max of 4 pax), entrance fee to the snow mountain, visits to the sights “Dry Sea Meadow”/ “Gan Haizi”, “Blue Moon Valley”/ “Lan Yue Gu” at the foot of the mountain, cable car ride up and down the mountain (4506 metres), insurance and all that stuff. You may arrange on your own, it may be a few tens lesser. I was just plain lazy to make arrangements myself, hence I paid slightly more for everything.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain consists of 13 peaks, among which Shanzidou is the highest with an altitude of 5,600 meters, the mountain stretches a length of 35 kilometers and a width of 20 kilometers. Looking from Lijiang Old Town in the south which is 15 kilometers away, the snow-covered and fog-enlaced mountain resembles a jade dragon lying in the clouds, hence the name.
“According to the research of geologists, for about 400 million years the area around Jade Dragon Snow Mountain was the ocean and it was during the last 600 thousand years that the different landscapes had come into being because of the uprising of the lithosphere. Archaic legend about this mysterious and beautiful place goes like this: Once upon a time, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain were twins. They had lived on panning in Golden Sand River until one day an evil fiend usurped the river. The brothers were very brave and had a fierce fight with the fiend, Haba died in the fight and Jade Dragon drove off the fiend after wearing out 13 swords. For guarding the people and preventing the return of the fiend, Jade Dragon held the 13 swords in hands day and night. As time passed, the brothers had turned into the two snow mountains, and the 13 swords had become the 13 peaks. The mountain is a holy place for the local Naxi people not only because of the legend, but also because long time ago, it was a place for young lovers to sacrifice their young lives in honor of true love and to escape from the arranged marriages and feudal ethics.”
The scenery was great, it was a new experience to be on top of a snow mountain with nice mates but I didn’t feel overly exhilarated about it. Like many scenic spots in China, it was crowded with Chinese tourists. I’m not complaining about it, merely pointing out this phenomenon. I totally understand that some of them have never seen snow in their hometown and they got really hyper when it was snowing heavily that day. So the bigger ropeway was not open due to the heavy snowing and we didn’t get to climb on foot to 4680 metres. Staff were busy shovelling and clearing out the thick snow. Thanks for the hard work, Comrades.
My hostel is facing the reservoir. Everyday seemed like a fine day for a walk, with such cool and breezy weather.
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There were people swimming in the reservoir despite warnings. WELL.
Many people were flying kites. So serene and laid-back lifestyle, no wonder the city people come here just to rest and space out.
There was not a single elephant on this mountain.
Hiking this little hill nearly killed me. Thanks to my lack of exercise back in Singapore. I guess I took around an hour or so to reach the peak and from there you can see the view of Lijiang city.
Getting down was another great feat. The slopes were steep and rather slippery when you stepped on scattered fir leaves. Anyway, I survived.
Lijiang Old Town
A highly commercialised place but it’s nice to walk through the big ol’ town. It’ll take a few hours to browse, excluding the hours of getting lost in the maze-like town.
拉市海 Lashi Lake
Despite being called Lashihai (Hai means sea), it is actually a lake cut off by Lashi Dam. Lashi is a word in ancient Naxi language, meaning a “new desolate dam”.
We rode horses on 茶马古道 (Ancient Tea and Horse Road), they looked like ponies but we were told that they were of a smaller breed of horse. The weather wasn’t fantastic and started drizzling, it was fun though. The dirt route had ups and downs, not an easy track for the horseys, let alone my poor back.
After two hours of horse-riding, we went for a boat ride, with a boatman. The lake didn’t look amazing that day, murky instead. But still, the weather has turned for the better and the breeze was nice when you’re onboard a boat. After that, we didn’t get enough of that boating, so we rented canoes and started to paddle on our own. It WAS a lot more fun than being a passenger. We had the time of our lives when we paddled to the nearest floating stall. The stall was selling grilled fish caught from the lake and other stuff like potatoes and eggs. Believe me, a meal is the most delicious when you have to sweat for it.