An old city full of Chinese domestic tourists – don’t go …. this was what so many people told us but and in the end we were so pleased we didn’t listen to them as we loved our time in Lijiang!
After such a fantastic time in Dali we were a little sad to leave however we knew there was so much more to discover and Lijiang was calling our names. Lijiang Old Town is a UNESCO Heritage site with history going back more than 800 years. The old buildings and cobblestone alleyways are absolutely beautiful and there are some great hand-crafts to be found here.
Arriving at Lijiang Train Station after our worst train experience yet we discovered the bus we needed to catch to get to our guesthouse did not pass-by the train station – damn! We decided to get on the next bus that left towards the old town and at least wherever it left us we would be closer to the old town meaning the taxi would be cheaper. Turns out it’s not that easy and after walking around trying to hail a taxi for an hour we finally found someone willing to take us to our guesthouse. By the time we arrived it was dark and cold. We checked in, changed into our thermals and headed out to discover the old town.
The cobble-stone streets dully lit by lamps gave the town a real charmed feel. As we entered one of the main squares of the old town we could see the water-wheel and old houses lit up with lights; it was such a beautiful sight. We were exhausted and decided to leave further discovering until the following day so changed our focus to finding somewhere for dinner. We realised quickly that all the places we were walking past did not have english on their menus. We noticed a couple enjoying a delicious meal and …. they spoke a little bit of english – even better! Turns out they were on a holiday and were in Lijiang for 2 days. The lady offered to order their exact dinner for us and within 15 minutes dinner was served. We got dinner take-away as we were exhausted and headed back to our room. As we sat and ate we had our first taste of sichuan pepper – peppercorns (or sometimes in a powered form) that is added to the dish that makes your tongue go numb!
The following few days we wondered the streets and felt like we were on holiday. The prices were a little higher as it is a hugely popular chinese holiday destination however if you shopped around you could find some great handmade products. We made a couple of specialty purchases – a coffee setup for Duane like the one in the picture below – it makes the most delicious, strong coffee! And secondly a woven, warm scarf to go with the beautiful hand-knitted hat Kim purchased from an old lady in Dali.
We also made our way up to a roof-top bar and restaurant to get a view of the old city from above – it was such a beautiful sight. The old style roofs with the mountain backdrop – just gorgeous.
One highlight we must write about was the restaurant we discovered on day 2 which we then ate lunch and dinner at every day. It was a restaurant run by a family, Grandma, Mum, Dad and daughter who was 14 years old. There was no english on the menu however there were a few photos on the walls. With a combination of pointing at photos and pointing at ingredients in the kitchen we would order our meals. We became rather addicted to the corn dish which the grandma would pluck each kernel from the cob and the father would then fry off. We also loved the broccoli which was so fresh and covered in Garlic. The first day we ate at the restaurant we were halfway through our meal when a chinese man paid for his meal .. then proceeded to pay for ours! We couldn’t believe it – how generous of him to pay for complete strangers. We thanked him many times before he left and then sat there speechless. We had not had a conversation with the man other than flashed him a smile when we made eye contact yet for some reason this guy paid for our meal .. wanting nothing in return. China was continuing to surprise us!
The rest of our time was spent walking the streets finding all the quirky shops hidden down the alley-ways. There is a lot to see if you give your time to just relax and stroll. We visited food street where you can get all the local specialties and anything you can think of on a stick. We also tried the local desserts although they were not to our taste – yuck!
Our final day was spent dining at our favourite restaurant and visiting the water wheel complete with the beautiful ‘wishes’ people have made nearby.
The following morning we were up early and headed to Tiger Leaping Gorge … a place we had dreamed of visiting since deciding to add China to our itinerary – it was raining and grey but that was not going to dull our spirits – Tiger Leaping Gorge, here we come!