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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
We passed on the deep-fried chicken’s feet, and the ????!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We saw a woman gathering some sort of green plant to eat that grew along the stone lanes.
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