The second stop in our Yunnan tour was Lijiang. The road from Dali to Lijiang was quite scenic, but it was a two lane highway that took our bus about five hours to reach its destination. We reached our hotel in the evening, just in time for dinner and an art auction was also held in the dinning hall for our ‘benefits’..
Before the recent tourism boom, Lijiang was a poor region like much of hilly areas in the interior of China. Tourism has brought in considerable wealth to many locals, and the boom has translated into many new houses and apartments being all over Lijiang. Many traders from other part of China have also moved in, renting shops and houses from the Naxi owners.
The main tourist attractions are the Lijiang old town and the Jade Snow mountain. The old town is still very popular, and even during the night on week days, there are hordes of tourist coming from all over China. The old city is criss-crossed with water channels that add charm to this place.
Small shops, eateries and little pubs line up the streets. During the night, booming music from noisy live shows and bars can be heard in some stretches. There must have been at least 20 such outlets along one entertainment street. It seemed that part of the place has been transformed into an entertainment mecca, where young and trendy middle aged people from all over China congregate and let themselves loose.
Our hotel was 20 minutes walk from the entance of old town. The stretch of sidewalk leading to old city was lined up with petty pedlars selling traditional scarves and oter traditional wares. It seems to me that Lijiang is already attracting many migrants from adjoining areas, hoping to make money from selling their products to tourists. If I had stayed longer, I would have time to chat and find out more about them – about their villages, their ethnic groups and what really driving them there.
The Black Dragon pool is just a short walk north of the old town. On clear day, the majestic Snow Jade Dragon mountain is visible from there. However, we had no luck on that day. According to the guide, the best time to view is in month of Marchor April.
The foot of the Snow Jade mountain is about 20 minutes drive away. The live show ‘Impression Lijiang’ is held here, using a giant stage with the mountain as a back prop. It was drizzling when we were there, and the snow mountain remained obscured by clouds. All the audiences wore raincoats provided by theatre, as the use of umbrella during performance was prohibited. Zhang Yimou was supposed to be the main director of the show, but I came away feeling dissapointed. The storyline could have been much better. However, I have to take my hats off to the hundreds of ethnic minorities performers who are real farmers and herders from the areas, for giving their best in their performances.
- We stayed two nights in Lijiang. It was fairly crowded even though it was only week day. We had a drink at a small bar that is beside a canal and the singer was not bad. Beer was not cheap though, and I only had a small bottle of Tsingtao.
- It is much more economical to buy beer by the dozen. I think a dozen of small bottle will cost around 200 Yuan, while a small bottle will cost almost 50 Yuan.
- There are many guest houses or inns that take tourists in the old town. Such inns will be more convenient stay for tourists that have one too many drinks.
- In China, drinking in Chinese music bars are usually accompanied by playing dice game. One could have many drinks without realising it though – however, I have yet to see a drunk person that night in Lijiang.
- It was a great dissapointment for me that the organised tour did not bring us further up the Snow Jade mountain via cable car. I would really love to see the glazier and walk on the snow ridge.
- The other attractions that have been left out but shall be itenaries in future visits: Tiger Leaping gorge, Musuo Lake and Shangrila.