Trip Start Aug 03, 2010
42Trip End Ongoing
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The next morning we flew to Dali, then it was a taxi to the bus station, another taxi to the right bus station, and a four hour bus ride to Lijiang. Despite all the travel time, we were awarded with amazing views from the window of the bus. It is time for rice to be harvested so the fields are bustling with activity. This was the first time for us seeing the rice at this stage, and it is the most beautiful time of the growing period. The stalks are tall, thin, and a bright green color, with yellow tips where the rice hangs heavy
Lijiang is a picture-perfect ancient Chinese city, the old town that is. Lijiang itself has grown large and modern, but within the walls of the old town the historical feel remains. We stayed at the Garden Inn hostel, just on the edge of all the hustle and bustle. The swarms of Chinese tourists were astonishing, but it was the national holiday so we were not surprised. In the evening it was hard to even walk down the main streets, and I was amazed that we did not see people falling into the canals that line nearly every alley. Old town is nothing but narrow, cobbled alleys
Like all regions in China, the cuisine is unique in Lijiang. The Naxi people are the predominant minority group, and they are of Tibetan decent. Lijiang's history dates back to around 400 BC, which is just astonishing to us. The Naxi used a different writing style, called Dongba, that looks more like hieroglyphics than the Chinese characters. Potatoes are a major part of their diet, and you can buy delicious shredded potato cakes, roasted potatoes, and many other styles from vendors all over the area. Baba is a flat bread that resembles a soft naan or pita bread and it is made into breakfast or lunch sandwiches with the traditionally made local goat cheese (that's right, Aaric, they do eat cheese in China!), potato, and/or egg turned into the base of an omelet. You will also see people buying bottles of yak milk to drink at every
Lijiang was the first city that we have come across where bugs were being sold for consumption on the streets and in the restaurants. We had our own bizarre foods experience when Peter ordered up a skewer of grasshoppers, grilled and spiced right in front of us
Anyways, four days of crowds and bugs in Lijiang was more than enough for us. It would have been great to go up some of the nearby mountains or take the bus up to Shangri La for a few nights, but we weren't up to several more hours on a bus, then several hours in a lift line, just to ride a tram up a mountain, and get off and look around with a thousand other Chinese in rented snow jackets huffing canisters of oxygen. You've got to believe me when I tell you that Chinese tourism is just weird.
From Lijiang it was back south to Dali on a five and a half hour bus ride that was supposed to be three
The Cang Shan mountain range, however, was much closer, and we were able to see it through the cloudy days and take a tram to the top. There we enjoyed a lovely, turquoise waterfall and about a 7 km hike. It felt good to finally get out of the city and soak up some of the nature that we miss so much. Even biking outside of Dali and Lijiang we had to fight the traffic and thick congestion from the cars, and tourist attractions everywhere we went. On top of this mountain range the tourists were fewer and the air was actually clean! Can you tell how much we miss that clean, Central Oregon air? The hostel we stayed at was also very nice, The Jade Emu, owned by Australians. We met many wandering travelers over a make-your-own dumplings party. Several young people were either departing or just returning from a stay at a nearby monastery where you learn kung fu, all day long. It was less than $50 to stay for a week, including food, bed, and everything
All in all, it was a nice, relaxing break from work and always an eye-opening experience everywhere we go. As we say in our classroom community circle on Monday mornings: Our high was eating bugs (or was that our low?) and our low was the difficulty in getting away from the people and off the beaten track.
Peter and Melissa