Sunday, 19 October 2014

China: Lijiang

This time our move involved a 1 hour domestic flight from Chengdu to Lijiang. Apparently, talking on a plane in China during daylight hours is a serious offence as when Sarah and Sam were having a conversation, a Chinese man started tapping Sam asking her to 'shhh!!'. After we refused to stop talking, his girlfriend then began kicking Sam's chair and persistently hitting Sarah's arm demanding that they be quiet (even though it was 2pm and she wasn't trying to sleep - ridiculous!). The fun police are definitely on board all China planes! However, we chose this option as opposed to an overnight sleeper train because Lijiang is not supported by a frequent rail service. Being semi-rural you can only get a train there from Kunming (the capital of Yunnan Province) which meant extra time and cost.  

Arriving in Lijiang, we were greeted by the most torrential weather conditions! Rain, and thunder and lightning were prevalent almost every day. We were dropped into the centre of Lijiang and decided to get a city bus to our hostel although within 2 minutes we were literally soaked through from the rain so we gave up and got a taxi. 

We stayed in the Panba Lakeside Lodge during our stay. This hostel is a little out of the main area, however, the view from our balcony made up for the 20 minute walk into town. It is located alongside a gorgeous lake (as the name suggests) and in the distance you can see the famous Jade Snow Mountain, which looks particularly beautiful in the morning. We're sooo glad we chose this hostel; it was truly amazing! The hostel is family-run and all of them were very welcoming - they could never do enough for us. They offered us impartial advice on trips of the surrounding area and one man even gave us his mobile number so we could phone him if we got lost - he was very concerned for us for some reason. He had amazing English and was always around when we needed him - most often to translate everything into Chinese which was required pretty much 24/7. Unfortunately, whilst in Lijiang Sam got quite ill and had to stay in bed for 3 days. The family were always checking in on her to see how she was doing and even allowed her to stay in bed 6 hours after check-out time so she could rest before getting our next train. As small as this gesture was, we really appreciated how caring they were; we felt like we were staying at their house rather than at a hostel which was so different to all the other hostels we had experienced so far.

We were mostly interested in visiting Lijiang because of its history - it was hit by quite a severe earthquake in 1996, killing 322 people and injuring 14,000. Around 300,000 people were forced to leave their homes because of the damage. In the years following the earthquake, Lijiang city had to be completely rebuilt and the Old Town reconstructed. It is now listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. We couldn't get enough of the town - we absolutely loved it! It's a series of alleys filled with cute trinkets, textiles, leather, and food shops with flowing streams running through. It had a very traditional feel, however, with it being fairly newly constructed, it was pedestrianised (which anyone travelling China will know is a massive plus!) and extremely clean. We enjoyed a naxi pastry in the centre of the town - one of our favourite snacks of China (it was basically like a Gregg's steak bake - heavenly) which we enjoyed in a cute little bar with live acoustic music and free lemon juice - win.

Most people who visit Yunnan Province visit Lijiang for the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge. Although in true Happy Wanderer style we missed out on the 'norm'. As previously mentioned, the weather was pretty horrendous which meant the hiking paths were shut off with overflowing waterfalls and rivers. We read that people were having to sign a waiver before being allowed to enter the park because it was pretty dangerous. As a group we didn't think a serious hike would be on our itinerary so didn't bring any good hiking boots. This mixed with the bad weather and torrential conditions meant we had to give this wonder a miss. :( A girl who was staying in our dorm room told us that she had to get carried along most of the way by a group of Chinese men because she physically couldn't do it herself which made us feel a little bit better about missing out though.

On what seemed like a reasonably sunny day, we hired bicycles from our hostel so we could explore a few other old towns in the area. The hostel provided us with a hand drawn map and off we went! Cycling on the roads of Lijiang didn't prove much of a problem as they were fairly quiet and we were glad of the exercise after the amount of junk we'd been eating over the last few days - cookies, chocolate, crisps, and Chinese pot noodles - nutritious! However, after about an hour of cycling and enjoying the scenery, the heavens opened and we were drenched once again - standard Lijiang. Sam resorted to tucking her umbrella into her jacket to make it back to the hostel - skills!

Here are our favourite pictures from Lijiang -


The view from the balcony at the hostel (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain) 

One of the bridges on the lake

Lijiang Old Town









Mastering the classic Chinese photo pose

Effortless with this nifty gadget!


Thanks for visiting! 

The Happy Wanderers 

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