Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lijiang: Yunnan's Disneyland

Originally, we chose the Yunnan Province as it was billed as "China Lite" and as we had heard so many stories about how difficult China would be to travel in, and how no one would speak English or be helpful, we thought it best to start out somewhere easier. 

After walking across the border from Vietnam into China (which was pretty easy, though the border agent checked every page of our passports several times to ensure validity, as judging from the crowds of Chinese and Vietnamese around us, it was pretty clear they don't get a lot of US passports at this crossing), we took a bus into the border town of Hekou, a few hours before we were due to catch an afternoon bus to Kunming. All we had to do in those few hours was find an ATM, pull out some Chinese money and get to the bus station on the other side of town. Easy, right? Turns out there was only one ATM in the entire town that would allow us to take out money (which Cory sweetly walked every street in the rain to find), and after those few hours of searching, we had missed our bus. After a lengthy game of charades with the ticket office, we had our tickets: night bus through China it would be (on the plus side, the bus was cheap, nothing got stolen, no one was smoking on the bus, and we arrived in Kunming on time).
Molly mapping out our day, Fresh Peaches, Honey Comb

We spent a few days in Kunming (which we loved, but will write more about later, as we went back for another whole week!), and then hopped on a train bound for Lijiang. Before heading to Lijiang, we had heard all kinds of conflicting stories, and we weren't quite sure what we were getting ourselves into. We had heard that it was a charming old town, with windy cobblestone streets, and lots of corners to meander and explore. We had also heard that it was the top vacation destination for Chinese tourists and that it was sort of like Disneyland in the middle of summer. Huh. 
Naxi Dance in the Town Square

We found it to be more the former, as long as we avoided the main street in town (which was a bit like a cattle shute). We spent a few days meandering the twisty streets (which is charming as long as you're not lugging all your bags around, desperately searching for your hotel, for a solid hour…), stopping in shops along the canals for a coffee or a beer, perusing the shops of local crafts and art (and on the whole skipping the ones filled with touristy crap). Yes, there were a lot of people. And yes, when it started raining, they all took out their umbrellas, making each person now 3 times wider. And yes, when the sun came out, they all took out their umbrellas, making each person again 3 times wider. But it was charming and romantic, and we thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was.

Our hotel was one part terrible, one part fabulous, as they spoke no English, but upgraded us to a huge room with a separate tea room and claw foot bath tub. We have been to many hotels where the staff don't speak English, and with some charades, a computer translator, and 2 willing parties, it works out every time. This hotel didn't have those luxuries. On one occasion, I went down to the front desk, with a clear bag of dirty laundry in one hand, and "laundry services?" written in Chinese in the other hand. I showed them to the girl at the desk, she looked at me, whined a bit, and then ran away. And didn't come back. So I put that claw foot tub to good use washing the laundry. 

After a few days of the romance of Lijiang, it was time for our next adventure: hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge. 

More photos from our trip to Lijiang:
P7260987Breakfast View in LijiangBuying local StrawberrysSo good!Taking photos in the canalYak meat Momos!
Lijiang Photos

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