4.1.4: Lijiang and Tiger Leaping Gorge

Day 156: Dali to Lijiang

I was up early this morning and saw a beautiful sunrise over Dali and the Cangshan Mountains from the roof of the hostel before checking out. I waited at the hostel and got a minibus to Lijiang. We drove along the lakeside road that I had cycled along a couple of days ago. The driver was pretty crazy and seemed to spend most of his time on the wrong side of the road, though this seems fairly normal in China. When I arrived in Lijiang I wasn’t really sure where I was so I headed towards the hill that separates the old and new towns. When I reached the old town it took a while to get my bearings since the Lonely Planet’s map was crap and only showed a very small part of the town. I eventually found the old market square which was on the map and from here it was easy enough to get to my hostel. It was very nice and had a large courtyard with several dogs there including a pair of mischievous husky puppies with bizarre eye colouring. I checked in and afterwards went for a walk around town. It is very picturesque though there is not much to do in town. In the evening I went to a Tibetan restaurant and had momos and a Tendlik, which is a spicy soup with meat and pasta.

156.1. Pictures from my first day in Lijiang.

Day 157: Lijiang to Tiger Leaping Gorge

It was another early start this morning as I got a minibus to Qiaotao, the starting point for a two day trek through the Tiger Leaping Gorge. It was the first transport I’d taken in China with other foreigners. In fact everyone in the minibus was English except the driver. On the journey I chatted with Hadyn who is from Guildford and works developing computer systems in the banking industry. He has taken 7 months out to travel and has followed an unusual route visiting India, Borneo, Bhutan and then China where he spent a couple of weeks in Shanghai learning Mandarin. When we arrived in Qiaotao we went for some breakfast at Jane’s Tibetan guesthouse. There were five of us in total. As well as Hadyn and myself there was a couple called James and Holly and a girl called Olivia. We began the walk and at first the scenery was pretty but unspectacular but after climbing a little we turned into the gorge proper and the views were very impressive. The walk reminded me a little of the stretch from Phakding to Namche in the Khumbu with the river far below and huge peaks rising up on the opposite side.

153.1. Two of the gates to Dali old town.

We stopped for a drink at a guesthouse along the way before beginning the toughest part of the days hike; the 28 bends, a series of switchbacks ascending 400 m or so to a height of about 2,700m. We then began to gradually descend until we reached the guesthouse were we would spend the night. We had a well earned beer and watched the sun set against the peaks. The lodge was surprisingly well developed and I discovered I’d lugged my sleeping bag up for no good reason. The evening was enjoyable and we had dinner and played cards with the other trekkers who were also staying here.

157.2. Photo opportunity on the trek, Olivia, Holly, Hadyn and James and the sunset from the lodge.

Day 158: Tiger Leaping Gorge

This morning we had breakfast and took some photos of the mountains on the opposite side of the gorge as the sun was rising above them. We set out on the days walk and I walked ahead with Hadyn until we reached the Halfway Guesthouse where Michael Palin stayed during the filming of ‘Himalaya’. We wanted to see the article that he had written about the place but they had apparently removed it. The rest of the walk to the guesthouse by the road which marks the end of the gorge trek was shorter than expected and we were there in time for lunch.

158.1. A waterfall that crossed our path and a lone tree in the valley.

We booked some minibus tickets for the return trip to Lijiang and in the afternoon we went to explore the path to the bottom of the gorge. The path was very steep but we all got down safely and saw the river and the rock that the mythical tiger leapt from. The cliffs were sheer on the other side so we weren’t entirely sure where the tiger would have gone once it reached the other side. We then realized that we were quite pushed for time if we were going to make it back in time for the minibus so we headed back fairly shortly. I pushed on ahead to make so that I could hold the minibus if need be while Hadyn stayed back with the others. On the way up we came across the ladder that Dan, who I met in Malaysia, had warned me about. It was about 20-30 m in length and pretty much vertical. It was quite nerve wracking climbing up it. In the end we reached the top with plenty of time to spare and took a group photo by the road. We got back to Lijiang and I went back to my hostel in checked in. In the evening I met up with Hadyn and we went out for dinner at the Tibetan restaurant that I had gone to previously.

158.2. The walk to the bottom of Tiger Leaping Gorge and the ‘dangerous ladder’.

158.3. End of trek photo before getting the minibus back to Lijiang.

Day 159: Lijiang

I met up with Hadyn this morning and we got a bus out to Yulong Xueshan, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. We had intended to get a cable car up to a glacier at about 4,800 m but we found it was far too expensive on our relatively modest budgets. We settled for taking a few photos from where the bus dropped us off and sat by the roadside until we could get some transport back to Lijiang. As an alternative we decided to hire bicycles and cycle out to the village of Baisha, which back out on the road which we had just been on in the bus. Hadyn is a very experienced cyclist so I expected him to be a dot in the distance soon after we set off but he was courteous and we went together at modest pace.

159.1. Yulong Xueshan from the roadside and a street in Baisha.

The village was quite pretty and we stopped there for lunch before cycling back and visiting the lake just outside of town. We stopped for a beer at a bar with a courtyard which had a huge Great Dane, a Rottweiler, a Collie and very frightened cat. The Collie was playing with an empty coke bottle and kept wailing each time he knocked it out of the reach of his lead. In the evening we went out for a pizza and Hadyn mentioned that he was friends with a friend of mine from my first year at Cranfield University. It is a small world!

159.2. Working the fields outside of Lijiang and an example of Chinese local transport.

Day 160: Lijiang

Hadyn was leaving this afternoon for Beijing but we met in the morning and went over to his hostel. While I was there I saw James and Holly who were still about and arranged to meet with them later in the evening for a beer. Hadyn and I went in to the new town so that he could collect his plane tickets. While we were there we investigated a market and saw some chickens that weren’t having a particularly good time. The woman would take a chicken by the legs, weigh it and if it was OK would then kill it and place it in a machine which would remove all its feathers.

160.1. At a poultry market in Lijiang new town.

We decided to leave before we caught avian flu and headed back to the old town where we went for lunch at a small local place that was considerably cheaper than most of the other places we had been to so far in Lijiang. After lunch we headed back and Hadyn collected his bag before getting a taxi to the airport. In the evening I went for a walk to the hill overlooking the town and had a beer whilst the sun was setting. I later met James and Holly at the waterwheel on the outskirts of town and we went for a couple of drinks at the place Hadyn and I had discovered earlier.

160.2. Lijiang at sunset.

160.3. Lijiang at night.

Day 161: Lijiang to Jinghong

I was at a bit of a loose end this morning as my flight wasn’t until the evening but I was content to wander around town. When I came to the old market square I met James and Holly and we decided to wander together. We ended up at a bar and drank strawberry smoothies on the roof. Afterwards I went back to prepare for my trip.

161.1. A walk around Lijiang.

I got a bus from the new town to the airport and then got a flight to Jinghong, the main city in the Xishuangbanna region in the south of Yunnan. I arrived at about 21:00 and got a taxi to my hostel which was attached to a college.

161.2. Signs offering friendly advice with bizarre English translations that are dotted around Lijiang.

161.3. Left and Right, the husky puppies with strange eye colouring at the hostel in Lijiang.

The Xishuangbanna region is populated by the minority Dai people who are more closely related to the Thais than the Chinese. The region is much more hot and humid than the north of Yunnan due to the lower altitude and the place feels more like South East Asia than China. I went out for dinner and tried the Dai lemon chicken. It was a bit like the Lao laap salad. It was nice but incredibly spicy and I was unable to finish it. Afterwards I walked back to the hostel. There were a lot of development works going on in Jinghong and walking about can be quite a treacherous experience.