Day 47

Trip Start Sep 14, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Where I stayed
Mama's Naxi Guesthouse #2

Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

At 6.30am our train began to wake up and so did we. The conductor came and gave us back our tickets in return for the credit card things she'd given us the night before - a practice that still confuses me.

Our job was to get straight on a bus from Panzhihua to our final destination Lijiang. We didn't hang around either as we walked straight out of the station and were greeted by touts who knew we wanted to travel to Lijiang. The reason they knew that was probably because Panzhihua is described in my book as a "Grim, Bladerunner type town".

We had thought we were in for a nine hour bus journey but once the bus driver and a passenger had held up four fingers and said "Lijiang" we thought "Great only four hours". We got seats at the back of the bus and it filled up pretty quickly. A Tibetan family got on with heaps of bags and seemed intent on using the space behind our heads (where the rear window is) to store some of them. That was ok, there was enough space there, and another woman wanted her new PC to go there too.

I hate bus journeys, I can never fall asleep as I can on trains. The bad news is that this entire region is dependant on buses as the train tracks thin out greatly. I think Vietnam has a good train network but Laos and Cambodia certainly don't.

Our first convenience stop was at a delightfully picturesque spot. I grabbed a picture and went into the loo, again a hilarious set of wooden planks inside a shed. Not long after being on the road the woman next to me (there were five spaces on the back of the bus, Arjen, Audrey, Chinese woman, Me and then Steve) started rummaging in her bag and pulled out a tiny plastic bag. As soon as she put it to her face I thought "Oh no where can I run to!" She threw up into the pitifully small bag and over the sides onto her bag and the floor. We got all the windows opened and she began the clear-up operation. I didn't dare look down at my legs and feet, I just let her get on with it. She spent the next hour repeating but with larger bags the driver found for her from the front. With each filled bag she would lean across me and Steve and throw the bag out of the window. Each time me and Steve leaned back into our seats as far as we could to give her as much room as she needed! I did feel sorry for her, and eventually got the courage to look at my shoes - only a little splash, could have been worse I thought!

We stopped again at a roadside cafe, it was about 1pm and we were surprised not to be at our destination, after all it had been four hours. Everyone was eating the hot food in the cafe so we began to figure out that the four fingers held up by the driver and passenger meant 4pm and not 4 hours! We grabbed a tray each and got some food, I was disappointed and the food was rubbish too. Arjen and Steve were making fun of my lady-sick shoes but I picked myself up and readied for the next few hours of bus journey.

The sick Chinese woman took the seat nearest the window and I got some more leg room and sat in the middle. Once we arrived in Lijiang we realised we were at an altitude of 2500m! It's a medium sized town close to the Tibetan border. It's famous for it's Old Town area and the ethnic minority Naxi people that live here. The Naxi society is matriarchal, meaning that women are the boss. Men take a secondary role and get hen-pecked throughout their days. The women are the head of the family, in charge of the businesses and drive the cars!

We opted to stay at a little known guesthouse based on a recommendation Audrey and Arjen had from another Dutch traveller. They had a business card for it which read "Mama's Naxi Guesthouse In Old Town Lijiang - Your home away from home - call us and tell us where you are and we will definitely come find you" That sounded good so we called from the bus station. Half an hour later we were at Mama's #2 being shown around by Papa. Papa showed us our rooms and told us that dinner was at 6pm and pointed down the road to Mama's #1. We'd never been told at what time to eat before, normally you order at the hostel or go find a restaurant. It was 5.50pm so we headed down to Mama's #1 where all the residents were sitting outdoors in the courtyard ready to eat. The food came and we were treated to a variety of dishes all home cooked - waitresses were topping our bowls up with rice and Mama was running about making sure everyone was getting a good food. This place has a great family feel to it, and along with the free pick up felt great to a traveller arriving in a new place. I met another Dutch guy called Frank and he explained how Mama was really keen to give a great service and make sure everyone got what they needed to enjoy their stay in Lijiang. Mama arranges onward bus tickets, plane tickets, whatever you need all by calling the right people on her mobile phone. Papa gets ordered about like one of the waitresses but with more obedience! I love this place and would really recommend it to anyone.
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