China Travel Journal - Lijiang
Our second stop in Yunnan was the beautiful town of Lijiang, two hours away by train from Dali and 2400 meters above sea level (MAMSL).
Lijiang Old Town 丽江
I like to be surprised when I visit new places so I didn't know what to expect upon arriving because I hadn't seen pictures of the place. I'm not surprised that the old town is a UNESCO heritage site. Even though Lijiang is bigger and more touristy than Dali, it still has the charm and beauty of an old Chinese town - albeit more manicured - plus the added benefit that it has a bigger variety of restaurants, points of interest and a magnificent view of the mountains.
Since it was spring time, shops and cafes were decorated with a variety of colourful flowers and the streets were lined with the same kind of trees we saw in Dali (Willows, Cherry trees, and Plum trees, among others).
THINGS TO DO
As with any small town the best thing to do is to walk around and get lost. Most people tend to be around the same streets buying stuff but once you get outside that area you will find quaint shops and cafes and can appreciate the architecture and urban design. There's a small temple up the hill where you can get a view of the whole town; I loved seeing the grey roofs with the mountains as a backdrop. Around 6pm local people gather in the main square to dance to the rhythm of traditional music - they have choreographies for each song but you can join nonetheless and learn while you dance.
10 minutes walking from the old town is the Black Dragon Pool, which is a small lake with a marble bridge and a colourful pagoda where you can see the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which is the tallest mountain in the region.
Visiting that mountain is one of the main attractions outside the old town. With the help from our hotel, we hired a car to take us to the main entrance to buy the tickets for the cable car. The journey up the mountain was quite dizzying because it was very steep and we could hear the wind whistling and moving our cabin; next to the mountain it felt very small and fragile.
Up there the view is breathtaking. There's so much snow and the mountains look majestic and from the corner of my eye I saw what I thought was a big plush toy but it turned out to be an alpaca wearing sunglasses!
The mountain's elevation is 4500 MAMSL and I was surprised that the thin air wasn't a problem for me; I guess it was because I grew up in Bogota which is 2600 MAMSL and I'm kind of used to breathing thin air - however if you think the lack of oxygen might be a problem for you, don't worry because you can easily buy portable oxygen cans to take with you.
Included in the ticket was also a visit to the Blue Moon Lake, which has beautiful turquoise and green water and is surrounded by scenic mountains. There are electric carts to commute between the points of interest within the lake and you can see lots of brides and grooms having fancy photoshoots all along the shore. There are also yaks and alpacas available for photos.
MY FAVOURITE PART
Going to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain was without a doubt my favourite bit. I loved breathing the crisp and cold air and we were very lucky that it was sunny all the time. I liked that there were very well kept paths towards the summit and it was easy to get away from the crowds and enjoy the landscape more quietly - I'm told that this place gets super crowded in Chinese new year, the Golden week and summer, so I think we were very lucky.
As I mentioned in my previous post, finding vegetarian food in China can be a little challenging but not impossible. We had an amazing vegetable soup in a small restaurant on the main shopping street (sorry I don't remember the name, but it was next to a stream if that's of any help). If you're craving western food head down to N's Kitchen where you will find a selection of sandwiches, pizza, pasta and more in a cozy room overlooking a small and pretty square. If you want to try authentic Yunnan food go to V Sherry restaurant, where we had a delicious meal including dishes such as sautéed spinach, Naxi bread, fried rice with truffles, etc. The portions are really big so is best to order less to start with and see afterwards if you want more.
In my last Chinese travel journal post I'll be showing you around Shangri-La and I will share the wonderful surprise we had on our last day there.
All images © Gina Maldonado