An Awesome town plus an Amazing trek
16.03.2010 - 21.03.2010 21 °C
So after settling into another dorm room just off a beautiful courtyard in the Panba Guesthouse I went for a walk around town... Before I start here is a bit of background info on Lijiang. Firstly it is split into two areas the old town and the new city. The old town as you can imagine is the original settled area by the Naxi (pronounced Nashi) people a minority group like a lot of the SW of China. The new town/city is where the city has grown out over the years with new buildings with no traditional value just urban growth with modern western life taking over. The old town has been made into a huge tourist town with bits being restored to their original beauty and having no modern building inside the town walls bar the odd few on the border to the new city. Inside the new town are restaurants of all prices and styles from traditional Naxi food (involving a lot of yak) served by street vendors to more common Chinese meals all the way to fine French cuisine and Indian Restaurants, the works. Along with all this food is stall after stall, shop after shop, of Gifts and souvenirs plus all the normal shops selling whatever. The last little bit is Lijiang makes the best Tea in China and is sold everywhere.
Anyway, like I was saying; settled in, beautiful courtyard I went for a walk around town... I walked for a few minutes before entering the old town through the rear gate as the hostel was just outside the main walls of the old town but still in the old town residential area. I passed along the cobbled streets passing all sorts of different shops and stalls, for the first time not being shouted at to buy things(later finding the shop workers are not allowed to as a rule for the town, it was bliss), soaking up the sun which I hadn’t seen or felt in almost 3 months of travelling. The only downside was the huge packs or Chinese tourists all wearing their tour hats, taking photos of absolutely everything, following the waving flag up ahead of them held by their tour leader shouting all sorts of information, which I’m sure is interesting, but in Chinese. Still, I was in an amazing old town surrounded by ancient buildings with a small river/ stream weaving all the way through it full of coi carp with little stone and wood bridges crossing to all sorts of shops and restaurants a really beautiful place that even with the hustle and bustle of tourism was peaceful and really enjoyable. Until, the sun goes down...
Where, vampires start to roam the streets hunting for blood... Nah I’m just messing I just thought it sounded like a movie sequence (I’m sorry it just did). Anyway back to the point when the sun does go down the town transforms. The river is lit up which casts golden rippling light on the walls of the surrounding building, red lanterns are lit up every street and the houses that over look the main square up the hill are illuminated and the town looks even more beautiful.
Back to my walk around town I saw a sign that said to “lion mountain view point” it sounded interesting so followed it up through some back streets that slowly climbed up, the shops started to fade out to homes and little local restaurants away from the main hub until it opened up out of the houses to a path overlooking the new city. With the old town wall on my left I followed the path up higher and came to a little kiosk to pay entry, which was about £1.50 (from what I remember) and kept on up the path now walking between trees. After a few minutes a huge 5 floored temple came into view. I went through its main gate into the grounds and was met by a Monk who led me to one side (speaking no English) to a massive bell and indicated to hit it, but with my knowledge of china, I refused knowing my wallet would get lighter if I did. The monk then led me into a chamber on one side with Buddha statues in it and started waving incense over me (at this point if it was reading this in a book I would have noted the inevitability that money would soon be passing my hands to the Monk but it didn’t click, not just yet) then indicated me to pray and bow which I did. Now, he ushered me over to a silk covered desk with a richly painted box next to it, with a slit in the top, and proceeded to indicate me to sit opposite him (CLICK!!!!!!) out came some fancy red beads that were placed in my open hand (CLICK!!!) then my other hand was closed around them and the monk bowed my head and started chanting (CLICK!, CLICK!, CLICK!, GULP!!) he then but the beads on my wrist and started writing something in Chinese which he handed to me and the only part I could read where three small numbers (that makes one, a lot bigger) 1...0...0... Yes, 100 Yuan. After trying to play the ignorant westerner my wallet became lighter, A WHOLE DAYS BUDGET!!!!! I will give him credit but now I don’t like or trust those, apparently, non materialistic nice kind peaceful people know as Monks. After that I wandered around the temples grounds, slightly annoyed and wary of more monks wanting me to buy incense etc, and into the tower which gave an amazing view across the whole new city and old town.
Evil Buddhist Monk
The next day I did a bit more exploring around town and generally chilling and planning my trip to Tiger leaping Gorge as Lijiang is the easiest town to access the trek. In the afternoon another guy moved into the dorm and was asking about town and what there was to do. I told him about the Buddhist temple on the hill and warned him about the Monks so he went to check that out with only enough money to pay for entry. Later after just chilling and spending my money on a train ticket and plane ticket to Dali and Laos respectively he returned bead free but hungry so we headed out for food and impressed with my use of the Chinese i have picked up to order food at a little side street restaurant which was good then headed out to see what else the town had to offer. Which turned out to be all sorts of crazy bars with sort of generation game style shows, karaoke, live music, dancing plus all sorts of Britain’s got talent style acts all playing loud music and everyone banging tables(neither of us worked out why everyone was banging them in every bar). But we went into one to see what was happening and paid ridiculous money for 6 beers (as we could only buy in bulk) and watched all this mayhem unfold on the stage from our seats upstairs.
The next day involved planning the Tiger leaping Gorge trek which was due to be fantastic while planning, a Japanese girl Akiyo arrived and we decided to go together as it made sense saving money and hassle. So during the day we shared notes with people at the Hostel and booked up our transport to the start of the trail. The following morning was an early start involving a big breakfast and climbing into a minivan to drop us off at the trek. Getting into the Minivan a third person joined me and Akiyo, Philippe a French guy, so we were off and away we went up and through the mountains.
Half way we stopped off at ‘a photo’ (as the diver put it) which turned out to be a Buddhist temple on the edge of the gorge surrounded by the mountains, at this point we realised the trek was going to have some fantastic views. Arriving at the village our driver passed us on to another minivan for a huge 5 minute journey closer to the start of the trek he then dumped us and pointed us in the right direction, so we headed off. We found the painted arrows that we had been told to look for and started up the trail, at this point a man on a horse started following us and try as we might to ditch him and tell him to leave we couldn’t so left him to follow. Here at the beginning the trail was not very steep until we ran into the gate (again we had been warned about this and told not to pay as the government has wavered the fee to do the trek due to building work on the road below the trail, so passed by it waving our hands saying “Mayo”=no over and over to the unscrupulous locals who had set up shop) as the morning went on it got steeper and we met up with and passed other people doing the trek. Stopping to take photos and admire the view we marched on. The walk did get harder and harder winding steeper and higher into the hills until we reached a little shop offering to sell everything from fresh fruit and water to Marijuana. We chilled here, with our own Water and trusty snickers, before the part of the trek we had been dreading ‘the 28 turns’, the steepest, windiest and narrowest part of the trek. Right I’m not going to bore you too much the walk went on with great views and tough climbing for another 4 hours or so with us having a few breaks and chilling to enjoy the view a few times. As the day went one the signs to where we were hoping to stay started to appear but after following them they wouldn’t give us the room we wanted instead trying to charge us about £10 each, way too much for a bed especially as there was another place less than an hour away so we went on, with the weather turning against us up ahead*gulp*. With this stage of the walk being downhill we flew down and made it to “Tina’s Guesthouse” (the next one on the path) in about 40 minutes and got a room ate and then crashed after watching the sunset behind the mountains.
The next day we woke up ate and headed out to head down to the river at the bottom of the Gorge, where the Tiger apparently leaped, we had to pay money this time to use the path, which was legit but slightly annoying, me and Philippe on getting to the bottom went climbing over the huge boulders and into sealed off areas to see what the reason was (there wasn’t one) and generally chilled. After chilling and playing around for a bit we started back up to “Tina’s” which i found very hard in the Heat, touching the 30’s. We made it after a few hours and chilled again that night at “Tina’s”.
The next morning we tried to arrange transport along the road to the village but wasn’t looking cheap so we hit the road on foot and agreed on hitchhiking if the opportunity arose, which it did after a mere 10 minutes. This ride only took us to a landslide (again we had been told about this) but wouldn’t take us any further so she got paid some small change as she had promised a lift to the village and hadn’t taking us even a third of the way.
After meeting a small tour group of Aussies, waiting at the Slide also heading to the village, we discovered we had to wait till they had finished the work at the top before crossing which, happened after about 20 minutes so after being waved across the rockslide by the supervisor we briskly moved across it and headed on down to the Next landslide which had been created that morning. After walking with these guys and speaking to their tour guide I managed to get us some cheap transport to the village and then onto Lijiang, after we had crossed the new rock slide. This slide was more interesting and after being waved across we had to scramble and climb across, some pretty big rocks, just getting over as more rocks started to fall. Safe, on the other side we climbed into the minivan arranged for us by the groups tour guide and rode it back to the village. Back in the Village we went to get food and played a bit of pool in a local market while the bus got ready. Here Akiyo and me left Philippe as he was heading to Shangri-la and boarded the bus back to Lijiang...