Old Town of Lijiang

We took a Chinese bus up and over mountains from Shangri-La to Lijiang, also in Yunnan Province.  Lijiang is a very popular tourist attraction.  It attracts over 2 million tourists a year.  It is located on a plateau below beautiful mountains, with a large lake near the city.  It has a subtropical highland climate with mild winter days and nights that may fall below freezing.  Summers are rainy and warm. Lijiang has a population over 1 million.  The town is over 800 years old and was a major stop on the old “tea horse trading route.” (Wikipedia)  We bought some Yunnan tea while there.

Lijiang Old Town Wuyi Street

What people come to Lijiang to see is its Old Town, which is listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site.  The Old Town has countless cobblestone streets and alleys all intertwined with streams with moving water, beautiful stone bridges. The architecture is quite stunning, ornate wood structures,  with grey up-sloping tile roof-ends.

Old Town roof-lines

The Old Town is closed to cars, so it makes for good walking.  Since it was made a UNESCO site in 1997, the tourists have flocked to the Old Town, making its old quaint lanes become packed with tourist shops.

Where's Waldo in Lijiang Old Town (notice "The Yak Meat of Naxi Girl" Shop)?

This increase of tourists, in turn, led to the government developing more areas around this, as part of the Old Town, to accommodate more tourists.  This also led to more of the native people who lived in Old Town having to move away from there as it was too expensive to live there anymore…sort of like living on the coast of Maine!  China has no rules regarding tourist development, and it has a lot of Chinese tourists!

Barbara and Lijiang Old Town stream

We walked the cobbled lanes with the many tourists (including us) and sampled some of the local treats, such as roasted quail eggs on a stick (quite good).

quail eggs on a stick

We passed on the deep-fried chicken’s feet, and the ????!

chicken-feet, anyone?


One of the things about Yunnan, is that is has other ethnic groups, like the Naxi.  We ate some Naxi food both nights we were there.  The people were different looking.

Naxi tea horse trader? (Have your picture taken on his horse!)

Another Naxi horseman

After walking where all the tourists were, we took to looking for the more deserted lanes without tourist shops, and where people still lived their regular lives.  Surprisingly these were not far off.

A quiet lane

We found a woman doing her laundry with her daughter in one of the fast-moving streams that pass through the Old Town.  Her daughter was doing wash in a bucket copying her mother.

Doing wash in a stream

One of the places we enjoyed walking was on the outskirts of the Old Town, where we saw a Chinese primary school letting out.  We saw most kids being met by parents and being walked home.  With China’s one-child policy, we see these “little emperors and empresses” being well-taken care of.

Parents walking home kids after school near Old Town

The town’s countless canals and streams flow through the Old Town.  Many stores are built on their edge and have bridges leading across the stream to the shop’s door.

Bridges leading to shops

One of the wonders of Old Town is that, in fact, it is a place where people still live, unlike a preserved town with acting characters, like Sturbridge Village or Williamsburg.  Many of the parents and students heading home from school were going into the Old Town.  The Old Town has a population of 40.000.

Young Old Town resident

We saw a woman gathering some sort of green plant to eat that grew along the stone lanes.

Old Town woman gathering greens

We stayed in a nice guest house which was newly built with pine paneling, skylight, and modern bathroom-all for about RMB 150 (or about $21).  It was on the outskirts of the Old Town.  It was just one of the over 900 places the Old Town has to stay in.    We enjoyed our visit to Lijiang.  We will leave you with a few of the “Chinglish” signs we saw in the Old Town, and one more “Where’s Waldo?”  Next up:  Guilin & the Li River

Obviously from Emily Post!

Always be rational when shopping!

Stay civilized...

i.e. don't ride your bike or motorcyle!

Where's Waldo in Old Town Square?


10 thoughts on “Old Town of Lijiang

  1. The fried food you don’t know is silkworm chrysalis or some worm. it is famous that people in Yunnan eats worms/insects. did you see fried scorpion there?

  2. I like these photos of the old town.Reminds me of the hutongs in Beijing which were being torn down rapidly 6 years ago when I detoured thru them
    The Thais also post behavioral guidelines! At he Royal palace in Bangkok there are illustrated pictures of unacceptable clothing:shorts ,cullottes,bare-midriffs,etc.Most seem to target women.

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