Dragons pool

Trip Start Dec 25, 2011
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Trip End May 10, 2013


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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Thursday, March 7, 2013

Still feeling pretty knackered from yesterday, I had a leisurely morning. Doing laundry and enjoying some porridge! But I can't sit about all day, so went back out into the old town for a wander.

The Black Dragon Pool is set in a large park, just North of Lijiang Old City. Officially there is an £8 (!) ticket required to enter, (literally just to look at a pond!) but you can just walk around to the side of the park and pay £2 to some village people to enter by a different entrance. I suppose a bit cheeky!

The water to fill the pool comes from the snow melt from the Jade Snow Mountain. This mountain is usually visible towering over Lijiang - but sadly today was a bit cloudy, so it wasn't visible. The views in this park are said to be the 'best' in the whole Yunnan province. However, for the last couple of years the water level in the pool has been declining. This is apparently due to lower snow levels up in the mountains. Today, the pool was rather pitiful. A small puddle at the bottom of a muddy plain. The locals are trying to fill the pool back up artificially. I watched them laying a wall of sand bags to try and hold the small puddle in!

Despite having very little water, the view was still really pretty. A small pagoda sat in the middle of the 'water' and a white arched bridge across the 'water', with the mountains in the background. The cherry blossom had just started to bloom which have a lovely pink backdrop. In the park there was also a small temple that was cute, with colourful Buddhist flags hung up around all the trees and red lanterns hanging from the doors.

Today, I tried some more traditional food. Baba are flat, bread-like discs that are fried and either come in a sweet or savoury flavour. They are eaten as snacks. I opted for a sweet one, it had some paste running through it that was similar to marzipan. It was ok, quite oily.

Dotted around are many flower cake shops. These small pastries are filled with edible flowers - mostly roses. They seem to be incredibly popular with the Chinese tourists, the shops are always full and people walk out with big boxes full of the things! I tried one, again quite nice, but I suppose an acquired taste!

Along with the numerous flower cake shops, yak meat shops and trinket shops, there are many, many tea shops. At first I had no idea what these shops were actually selling. I recognised the baskets of dried green tea leaves in various shapes and many of them also sell flower tea (dried flowers that you add to hot water). But that's where my familiarity ended!

The shops all contained stacks of paper-wrapped discs. Some displayed prominently - and they are very expensive! They are known as tea cakes. The most famous tea of Yunnan province is Pu-erh tea - this is what the tea cakes are made of. It has recently become famous in Western countries (particularly the US) due to its apparent weight loss abilities. The tea is compressed into these tightly packed discs for efficiency of transportation. This traditionally from when the area was part of the tea horse trading roads. During transportation the tea fermented and gave its unique taste. I bought a couple of small discs, at the time with no clue what type of teathey actually were - I have since done a bit more research into them!

I was invited out for dinner by a few Chinese staying in the same hostel. Eating Chinese style is a bit different from how we would eat in England. There were 6 of us, so 6 different dishes were ordered to share, along with a big bowl of (white vegetable which they told me was carrot....certainly wasn't the type of carrot I know!) soup and bowl of rice. Typically in restaurants around here, you are given a set of bowls in a plastic wrap! So after unwrapping, you have a rice bowl, a small plate and a small cup. The cup is for the tea, the bowl is for the rice/other food and the plate seems to be for waste. We had several vegetable dishes, one meat and one fish - it was all good. Table manners are slightly different here. In England, where we would politely pass dishes around to place a serving on our plates, here, everyone just dives in with their chopsticks. Food doesn't even reach the bowl! Food seems to be eaten quite noisily, as well as shovelled as fast as possible into your mouth! It was quite interesting to be part of!

Friday 8 March 2013

I've been in China for a week now, time flies! And so far it's not as bad as I was imagining it would be. Although I have only been in fairly small places. Later today, I fly to one of the major cities, Chengdu.

One thing that has annoyed me so far is that fact that dorm rooms (well the two places that I've stayed at!) seem to be used exclusively by Chinese men. All of whom seem to have had no real contact with western people before. Therefore you are subject to a constant, never ending barrage of question asking - often very personal questions and things you definitely don't want to be telling a stranger!! Their english is poor, so questions are typed into a translator and its the translator that talks to you. They also assume because you have spoken with them, they are now your best friend, so start being terribly annoying and totally invasive on your private space. Not even reading a book/writing a diary/actually being on the phone stops them. They see you have an ipad and instantly want your Skype name, msn name, phone number, email address and QQ name (Chinese version of Facebook that I have never heard of before). I don't like giving out details to people who are essentially strangers - who I have met for a day. But if you give them a fake name, immediately they are trying to call/email you and ask why you aren't answering. Its terribly irritating. If this continues much longer, I am going to be upgrading to private rooms every night.

I had lunch in the main square at one of the popular 'cross-the-bridge' noodle restaurants. This dish is so called because a lady used to cross a bridge over to a remote island to bring her husband this food each day. You are given a bowl of hot water soup, which is a bit oily, then a bowl of noodles and a tray of mini dishes - coriander, chives, chicken, a quails egg and bean sprouts. You put all of these little dishes into the big bowl of soup yourself, then eat! So really, it's not any different from normal noodle soup!!

I walked up a part of the town I've not yet been to, towards Lion Hill. It's all up hill, up cobbled steps. The view is nice - all the grey roofs of the buildings across the old town. I didn't enter the park itself, being fed up of these silly entrance fees (this one £5), but had nice views from the entrance! I went into one of the little cafes which had a lovely open rooftop with great views over the town. The menu was just in Chinese, but she pointed at the coffee section, starting at £6!! Ridiculous!!!!!! I quickly left.

The price of train travel around China is surprisingly high. And the price of flights, surprisingly low as there seem to be random price reductions. After initially disregarding flights as too expensive, luckily a while ago I was doing one last check at the price and suddenly it had dropped by over half! So for £30 I'm flying to Chengdu. (Cheaper than the bus/train 24 hour journey alternative!)

The airport is 30km away from the city. But getting there was fairly simple. The hostel called me a taxi, which saved standing on the road for ages! Just a 10 minute drive to the airport bus. Then only had to wait 10 minutes until the next bus departed. The bus took about 40 minutes. I am far too early for my flight, I have 3 hours to wait! Better than being late.

Along with most Asians, Chinese have no concept of a queue. I was standing behind the yellow line waiting to check in and about 4 people just walked right infront of me! Ridiculous. Similar for security check, just one big jostling crowd. So annoying.

Having been shocked at the price of a cup of coffee in the town earlier, I was in disbelief at a cup of tea costing £8 here in the airport!!!! Obviously I had neither.

I waited, waited waited. Then delayed. Typical! we ended up leaving an hour late. So landed at 11.30pm. Chengdu airport is huge!!! I've haven't been in an airport this big in a long time. 15 baggage pick up carousels! It took about 20 minutes just to get from the plane to luggage it was so far to walk. By the time I reached the hostel, it was nearly 1am!
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