Old Town Lijiang

Trip Start Oct 22, 2007
Trip End Dec 12, 2007

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Arriving in the Yunnan northwest province town of Lijiang, I could already feel myself breathing easier, leaving the polluted environ of Chengdu.
Old town Lijiang is home to the Naxi culture, an ethnic minority group that migrated here from neighboring Tibet over a thousand years ago. It's one of only several traditional Chinese villages left in China that still retains its cultural and architectural identity, albeit with a sense of Disneyesque sequestered control. Han Chinese tourist flock here by the thousands to enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere of China's past as well as shop through the incredible selection of creative, aristic products the talented artisans of Lijiang produce.
For me, with its winding, narrow cobblestone streets and stone bridges that serpentine along the numerous water canals that heighten this town's charm, old town Lijiang is the Prague and Venice of the Orient.
The Chinese seem to really enjoy themselves here. Everybody is very relaxed and friendly. Several Chinese school girls were eager to talk to me and ask me questions in English. A middle-age group of Chinese wanted their picture taken with me. Do you think they recognized me from my Irish drinking team role in Beerfest?

Though several street sections are very commercial-oriented, each side lined with oodles of shops and restaurants, you can easily wander down quieter streets and discover village community life activites flowing through the course of day like they have here for centuries; people doing household chores, grandma weaving a basket, somebody washing their street corner with a buckets of water, goofy kids doing goofy things, and the pretty bird in its wooden cage chirping a tune.    
Artisans remain busy at work creating weavings on a loom, or detailed wood, silver, and jade carving. I'd never seen such a busy creative buzz since Bali.
And these visitng Chinese tourists are no couch potatoes when it comes to living the nightlife either. Deep into the night, the streets are still filled with people enjoying the town, the streets now illuminated by red lanterns.  One section of town must be lined with thirty different restaurant/bars, music ranging from kaoroke to disco to numerous off-key balladeer duets.

Mama Naxi's Guesthouse, where I'm staying, is buzzing with travelers as well, the most I've seen in my China travels so far. We exchange fun stories of our past and present travels while eating an ample supply of food and drinking mass quantities of tea.

I'm also enjoying the ease in which I can take people's pictures here in China. Talk about great character faces. Nepal was also brilliant for people photography.

The journey continues southward and east, hoping to find some warmer temperatures in Yangshou, China, land of the famous limestone karst peaks along the Li River. December is getting chilly in China. It must be December; I know because they're putting up Christmas ornaments here!

To see more of my travel photos, please visit www.michaelmcguerty.com

To view more of my travel writings, please visit www.pecoskid.com
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