Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The old city of Lijiang

A lot of my travels in China have taken me to modern cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Other travels have taken me to see something very specific like the Snow and Ice Festival, Naadam Festival or the Great Wall. Lijiang was a destination to just go and absorb.

This side trip to Lijiang was not included in our original travel plans but on one of our long train rides Jon and I were perusing Lonely Planet and Discovery Channel guides when we stumbled across info about the cities of Dali and Lijiang, both of which are still old, well-preserved cities in the south of China.

Jon and I decided that we wanted to veer off of our originally planned trip slightly and make a side trip to a smaller town outside of Kunming. He wanted to go to Dali, which is four hours from Kunming and I wanted to go to Lijiang, which is eight hours from Kunming. We had to be back in time to catch our flights from Kunming to Chengdu so time was of the essence. After looking at the bus/train schedules and talking things over we decided that we would head to Lijiang at night after we left the stone forest and we would stay there for one day before going to Dali for a few hours on the way back and then finally getting back to Kunming.

So after frolicking at the stone forest we went back to the hostel packed our things and boarded a sleeper bus bound for Lijiang. This was my first experience on a sleeper bus and I have to say it was absolutely awful. It looked like something out of a bad horror movie, I didn't get a good night's sleep and by the time we rolled into town I just felt miserable.

Since the trip was last minute we didn't have a place to stay lined up and spent the first hour of our time wandering to hostels and hotels trying to find a good deal at a place that was relatively clean. We ended up finding a hotel where we got our own room for 80 kuai per person for the night. By American standards obviously this is ridiculously cheap, but it was quite a bit more than we had been paying. In the end we decided the place was nice and worth the extra cash.

Because Jon is a nice guy he offered to go and buy our bus tickets for the next day that would take us to Dali so that I could take a nap for an hour or so and try to feel a little bit better. After some rest, medicine and a shower I was feeling better but still pretty bad. At any rate, I wanted to get out there and see the city so we took off exploring.

We went and wandered around a park with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the background. Our book claimed it was the most picturesque place in Yunnan province and it did not disappoint.

The park was also beautiful and we had a good time walking around. There was a big hill (I believe it was called elephant hill) that we started to climb, but I still wasn't feeling very good so I turned back about halfway up and let Jon do the rest on his own. I got a beautiful view from my spot as well though.

After walking around the park for a while we continued into the old part of the city where we were staying and spent the whole day just getting lost, admiring the architecture and having fun.

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