Lijiang, China

Trip Start Dec 25, 2008
Trip End Dec 25, 2009

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Where I stayed
Pure Faith Innh

Flag of China  , Hunan,
Monday, May 18, 2009

Had somewhat of a communication problem at the Bus terminal where they kept wanting to put me on this dirty, old rickety bus when I had paid for an Express bus from Dali to Lijiang (another 5 hr bus ride or longer!) A young lady who could speak english finally could explain to me that the bus was only to the main highway where I would be transferred to the Express bus to Lijiang. Not knowing if this would actually happen, I got on the bus and sure enough once on the main highway the bus pulls to the side and there we wait another 15 minutes for the Express Bus to arrive and we all get transferred to it!!!!! Again, spectacular views along the way and a lunch break where every bus along this route stops.  Everyone gets off for a toilet break and lunch. Lunch is either in  a restaurant like all the others at bus stops or a picnic lunch that most seem to have brought along including myself!!! I have learnt never to get on a bus without plenty of water and snacks because I never know how long the trip will actually last and if I will actually get to where I am going  at a decent hour!!!!  So far I have been soooooo lucky and everything has just worked like magic!!!!  So off I go to find a little shade to have my snack and out of the blue appears this lady that had helped me out in Dali.  I found out that she was going to Shangri-La to visit her friend.  So we chatted, exchanged some lunch and then on the bus again to our different destinations.  Another little encounter that would mark my trip in Yunnan province.  

I had not prebooked any accomodations in Lijiang so I get a taxi and ask to go to the Youth hostel that is recommended in Lonely Planet.  It is in the Old City so no cars are allowed on the cobble streets.  I am dropped off at a gate and then try to find the Youth Hostel which of course I can't.  So I stop at a hotel and they phone and someone comes to get me whereever I am and brings me to the Hostel.  Once there I found out that the least expensive single rooms are all booked and the only rooms left are the one's for 190y!!!!! So I leave my baggage and go walking the streets to find something a little less expensive!!!  I finally find this great little guesthouse called Pure Faith Inn  (and yes it was pure faith that I did find it!!!)  although at the door they have Naxi Inn!!!!  So I am not sure what the story is as Naxi Inn is highly recommended in the tour books.  Is this a scam to have passerby's think that this is the Naxi Inn? Is it really the Naxi Inn!!! Couldn't find that out but whatever it is  a great little place in general!!!! for 80y per night( Pure Faith Inn, No. 59, JishanLane Xinyi Street, Old Town District, Lijiang City, China - - phone 0888-5128873) I really don't get The Youth Hostels in Asia.  Unless you are wanting a dorm which are at very reasonable prices anywhere from 20y to 40 y it is defnitely not worth staying here if you want a single or double room as I have found out that they are usually twice the price of other guesthouses and the shape they are in leave alot to be desired.  The room that I had at Pure Faith Inn was large (2 beds!!)  I used the comforter from one bed to pad the mattress of the other.  That is a trick that I have learnt in Asia.  The mattresses are so hard and the prices of rooms with a double bed or twin beds are the same!!!  I always ask for twin beds and then take the bedding from one bed to pad the mattress of the bed that I will be sleeping in!!!! Works so well and improves the sleeping conditions 100%.   There was also plenty of hot water and wifi from the room.  What else could I ask for!!! The only thing with sleeping in guesthouses or inns is that most of these are still homes to families and the extra rooms have been converted to  rooms for tourists.  In this one I had to deal with a male spitting, burping, gagging and emitting any other kind of noise you can think of at any time of day or night but especially so in the early morning!!!!!!!! So if you get grossed out easily you need to find a hotel and there are plenty of them in the Old City as well as the new part.

Also if you are looking for off the beaten track do not go to Lijiang because I don't think that there is any city more touristy then the Old City of Lijiang.  Streets are filled with Chinese Tourist Groups and their group leader with microphone marching along and stopping along every little cobble street or monument taking as many photos as possible and always thinking that their photo is more important than yours!!!!! This being said I still did enjoy Lijiang very much as well as day trips out of Lijiang. Lijiang also has so much to offer to all those looking for both culture and trecking or nature walks.

Something to know when you are in the Old City is that you will have to pay a maintenance fee which is around 80 y.  What they don't explain to you and someone was kind enough to tell me is that you need to sign the back of the ticket and keep it because you will be asked to pay the fee at every sight you visit but if you show them the ticket you do not need to pay the 80 y more than once (they also ask to see your passport. Contrary to Vietnam there is no problem with showing your passport in China.  They either look at it and give it back or hotels and banks will make a copy and give it right back.  In Vietnam they want to keep it during your stay at the hotel and then if there is a problem they hold it until they get their way!!!!! that usually means more money!!!!) I also went a couple of times to the Black Dragon Pool Park.  It is a lovely park with a beautiful pool, some interesting buildings to visit as well as a nice hike to the Xiang Shan (Elephant Hill) The Lonely Plant as well as a sign at the Office at the bottom of the Hill indicate not to climb alone.  Being that I do not want to push my luck, the first time I went I kind of hung about to see if anyone would climb and I would just climb right behind them but noone was climbing so I went on to other sights.  The second time there were a couple of young ladies about to climb so I signed in and kind of stayed behing but I think they were a little worried that they were being followed!! It also started raining and just as we started the climb this neat looking 40-50 type of guy was coming down and greeted me in excellent english but I kept climbing.  About half way up the hill there is a resting place and as it was raining we all stopped there. There were also two middle aged women resting there and they were on their way down.  Being that I think the younger girls were a bit spooked by having me behing then I decided I would go back down at the same time as the other ladies.  Just as we were at the bottom of the hill I saw the same man (I had completely forgotten about him) that had greeted me on my way up emerge from a side trail.  I do not know if it was a coincidence but I am happy I heeded to the Danger signs!!!!

Also in the park there is a temple (on the second floor!!! kind of odd but did not dawn on me at the time)  There is a shop on the main floor and I asked what was on the second floor and they said a Temple so I went up and before I knew it was sucked into another scam.  So many tourists know this one well.  Starts out with a monk giving you 3 incense sticks to offer and of course you give a few pennies or a yen or two (Chinese usually only give 50 cents) and then he gives you a gift of a wood beads bracelet and then all of a sudden you are brought over to a corner, the monk goes behind the desk, takes your hand and starts palm reading  . . .  and all of a sudden out comes the book and he is asking for a hefty donation!!!!!!!  Of course he shows that everybody else gave 15,000 or more yuan!!!!  Well on that day they picked the wrong person!!! and because of that they were entitled to a whole earful about  honesty  etc. I'm sure you get the picture!!!! (Especially those who know me!!!!)

I also visited  the Mu Family Mansion which I really enjoyed.  This was followed with a lovely walk in the forest of Lion Mountain  right behind and I think still part of the Mu Family property.  There were also great views of Lijiang City.  As the Lonely Planet says not to miss the evening performance of the Naxi Orchestra I booked the most expensive ticket to be in the front row!!! The hall was just about empty and in China if the seats are not filled you can move to whichever one you want so definitely did not need to spend the extra money on the ticket.  Turns out that the performance was not as great as I though it would be but I still enjoyed it and especially enjoyed just being in the old theatre, watching 70 to 90 year old men playing original antique musical instruments. Check out the photos and see what I mean.  The best momos (Tibetan dumplings) that I have tasted throughout China and Lhasa were here in Lijiang at Lamu's House of Tibet which just happened to be around the corner from my guesthouse.  They also had great western breakfasts!!! Also tried Blue Papaya (recommended by Lonely Planet) but found it to be expensive and the food not very tasty.  If you are looking for clean toilets, cheap coffee and soft ice cream KFC just beside the main square has it all!!!!

Lijiang is about the only place where I found that the different Tour Offices cooperated or collaberated in getting individual travellors  together to form a group to go on day trips.  So I finally paid for a tour (200y, I think some may be cheaper) to go on a 1-day trecking trip in the Tiger Leaping Gorge.  Wow!! Simply amazing!  I also met a lovely couple a Canadian born Chinese and his Chinese girlfriend both working in Shanghai. Had a nice conversation with them on the way to the Gorge. If I was going to do this part over I would definitely want to spend a week just in the gorge doing different treks.  It is really a spectacular area.  However, I really would not want to do it in the rain as it could become very dangerous.  The pathways, mainly rocks, slippery stones and so narrow that falling could definitely mean serious problems if not DEATH!!!!  We did the middle trail which , I am told,  tends to be a little harder than the others with at one point having to climb a vertical ladder.  (Check out the photo).  I would do it again in a heart beat and again would definitely do a 3 to 4 day trek.

I also booked a taxi for one day (100Y) to take me to monastaries and villages outside of Lijiang as well as driving me to the Jade  Dragon Snow Mountain for the amazing "Impressions Lijiang" which was also strongly recommended by the Chinese Couple. It was probably the performance that I enjoyed the most so far during my travels  in Asia.  Briefly, there are 24 minority groups represented  (a total of 500 performers) and each group doing songs and dances representing their cultural group. Everyone participating were and are farmers or local people who have come together to improve their living conditions. It seems like they touched everybody in the audiance and the foreigner beside me was actually moved to tears.  It is really that extraordinary to see 500 people perform together on an Open-Air stage.  This is another one of those performances that you can only really appreciate once you have seen it. To really top it off, I was standing beside t wo foreigners and their guide who had VIP tickets and did not have to queue up and of course were in the VIP section.  The fellow taking the tickets thought I was with them and asked for my ticket.  He noticed that my ticket wasn't the same so he went and had it changed to a VIP so I had one of the best seats of the house (first row, middle section!!!!)  It is always these little surprises that add so much to an already great adventure.

Before the spectacular performance I visited the village of Baisha where frescoes dating back to the 15th and 16th century can still be seen in the Dabaoji Palace and the Liuli Temple.  I also visited the Jade Peak Monastery which is a small lamasery (1756) with nice courtyards.
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