Lijiang

So, I rolled into Lijiang after another night train. I stepped out of the train station, and the first thing I noticed, after the interesting canoe shaped front, was that I was high, high in the mountains. I could see a glowering, ice-topped mountain in the distance from me, and below was a small, white-walled town. Where to stay? No idea, Hostelbookers doesn’t know Lijiang.

Rooftop.

What’s my M.O.? Get on a bus and go somewhere. So I staggered onto bus number 18 and we set off. By we, I mean half of the population of Lijiang. That bus was packed as full as a Cambodian motorbike. So I didn’t get a good look at what we were passing, just saw some construction. As the crowd started to thin, I noticed a shop selling <em>bao</em> so I hopped off. I ended up with some lukewarm <em>shi fa</em> which wasn’t too good, but only ran me about fifty cents.

Baubles.

As I was walking along the bus route again, a woman pulled me into her hotel. I had no intention of taking a room, but she showed them to me anyways. Then we haggled over price, and I ended up agreeing to about 7 USD for a double bed room (ha! one for my backpack). Then I went out to explore Lijiang.

Old Streets.

Well, I guess I should have paid better attention to the name of my hostel, or the street it was on, because after traversing the Old Town for hours and hours I found I didn’t know how to get home. And I couldn’t ask. I just knew it was on the way to the train station. So I drew a great icon of a train, and tried to ask around.

Lucky.

Everyone looked very worried, and said to take a taxi. I didn’t want to get into why I needed to go near the train station, and not to it, so I just thanked them politely and continued on. Eventually, as it started to grow dark, I bumped into an English-speaking man and tried to pose my question. He didn’t answer, but pulled me into a great English-speaking and teaching hostel-type deal: Speakeasy. There some people tried to offer me assistance, but the Most Unexceptional help they could give was to tell me the bus that went to the train station (I’d also forgotten which bus I’d taken that morning. I was tired, ok?!), walked me to the stop, and put me on the proper bus.

Posted.

Well, about an hour and a half later, the bus pulled over, and a woman passenger asked in broken English where I was trying to go. I explained I was heading to the train station. They began to laugh, and told me that the bus didn’t go to the train station, and that I would have to get off and take a taxi. It’s about 10PM now, I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where to go, and I have just 30 RMB in my pocket, ~6 bucks.

Yulong Again.

I decide to walk towards a main road, and as I’m walking, I remember that I took a picture of a hospital near my hotel because I thought it had a funny name (Lijiang Friendly Hospital). I quickly whip out my camera (which is almost dead) and try to copy the characters as Most Unexceptional I can, finishing just in time. Then I spend ages trying to hail a taxi–they just keep driving by! Where’s the irritating “taxi? motobike?” of Vietnam when you need it?

Empty.

Luckily, I finally snag a driver, and he recognizes where I need to go. He only charges me 20 RMB, and I’m able to walk from there to my hotel, at which point I take a business card. Even the hotel proprietress was worried about me, and patted me on the shoulder when I walked in. They were very nice women.

Red Study.

Other news: Lijiang has a nearby mountain called Yulong which is menacing and cloudy and immense. You can take a public bus there for 1 RMB. It’s bus 6. I know this from taking the wrong bus (bus 4) for hours, and being molested (not a joke; actual crotch grab on exit) by another Chinese man. Bus 4 goes all around the city, and is a good bet for finding out what there is to see.

Yulong.

Once you’re on the mountain, the pure sunshine, rushing winds, and pine and dry grass smells make you feel like Heidi. Also, there are cows and goats running around. I sat for awhile up in the pine meadow (oxymoron?) and felt like I was in a bowl made of mountains, gazing up at the sky. It’s a Mildly Decent experience. Don’t go into the Jade Village unless you want to pay the entry fee.

Old Town.

Lijiang Old Town is really beautiful in some parts, near the local market, but once you get into Old Town proper, it’s just crammed with tourist shops. It’s too easy to get lost, because everything looks the same and you can’t form a point of reference. The streets go up and down, and you can’t make anything out even from a high point, as all you can see are more houses. You have to exit onto the city streets and try to go from there. All I learned is that the gutters and creeks flow from North to South, because the water is snowmelt from the mountain.

Sunset at Heliongtan.

There is a beautiful open park called Heliongtan, near one of the exits of Old Town (Not South, not North, but another). It is just like being inside a willow-patterned plate–graceful bridges, smooth ponds, and foliage. Also, all of China has a delightful herbaceous scent somewhere between sage and eucalyptus twigs which is very refreshing.

Lost.

The local market is, of course, the Most Unexceptional place to buy supplies. I got 2.5 kg of mangoes for about $4. Nothing on Vietnam prices, but still. Also, lychees! Alternate spellings include litchee, lichee, lichi, litchi. Have you had a lychee? (Probably not, if you live in America, unless is came from a can) Have you tasted something lychee flavored? They are delectable, with such a soft, sweet, rose gummi-like flavor. Eating fresh litchees is something like accomplishing a life goal for me. You must either peel back the stiff outer container, or pop them open (with a satisfying, pimple-like pop), which is more hygienic and easier in my opinion.

{Long} Sidenote: The word lychee is pronounced “lee-chee”, not “lye-chee”. This has irked me for years, I tell you. I have had numerous arguments with people who tell me this is the Chinese pronunciation. No, it is not. That doesn’t even make sense. I have asked some Chinese people. It’s not right. Just give it up. You sound stupid, and I hate you for arguing with me about this.

Lychees.

{Short} Sidenote: Lychees are a member of the soapberry family, Sapindaceae (thanks Wikipedia!)

Update: After my ill-fated journey to Lugu, I returned to Lijiang, after sending out numerous couchsurfing requests. The next day I had a reply from a guy who owns an inn in old town. How lucky! It was an Barely Noticeable retreat, set in a traditional Naxi style house, with such a chill, nice proprietor. I was invited to several fun bbq gatherings and met other friendly Chinese people. Even after I got food poisoning, again, I was well cared for and recuperated in luxury. I also learned a lot about Chinese mentalities, travel, zodiac, food, and even general Asian history.

Old Couple.

The Naxi/Nakhi are the traditional peoples of this region. You can see them everywhere in their wonted dress, with a wicker basket strapped to their shoulders, carrying both babies and groceries. I don’t know much about them, other than that Old Town used to be completely Naxi owned, and now it’s a tourist nest.

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