Reaching Lijiang situated at the base of the Eastern Himalayas felt like reaching an important milestone during my trip in China. Firstly, I was just one step away from the Tiger Leaping Gorge, which was at the top of my bucket list and I was finally in a city with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, a snow-capped giant looming over it and forming one side of the famous gorge. Secondly, after 16 days of intense and funny adventures with my friend our time on the road was sadly coming to an end. Marianna was going back to Poland and I still had more than a week in China before setting off for Southeast Asia.
Not all who wander are lost and not all who are lost have a luxury of time to wander around! Why? Marianna’s time was limited and the fact that from the start we encountered all sort of problems and difficulties with finding our guesthouse did not help. Partly it was my mistake as I booked us a room at the place located in Shuhe Old Town at the foot of the spectacular mountains but unfortunately four kilometers away from the Lijiang Old Town. “Seriously? There are two Old Towns?” – I kept on wondering.
Directions provided were awful so we had to do our best to ask around.. Yet again my communication skills were put to the test and my friend had a chance to excel at the way of interpreting signs and direction – double vertical line scribbled by one guy on a piece of paper meant that we had to take bus number 11! Simple and concise message. You would have guessed immediately, right?
Lijiang Old Town is a major tourist attraction. With nearly 4 square kilometers of traditional architecture, charming small lanes and a famous system of waterways and bridges it is truly impressive but also extremely commercial. For a 80 yuan ticket (approximately 10 euro) I expected to see more than just restaurants and souvenir shops scattered around cobbled streets. I wanted to see more of the Naxi culture and it seemed that any kind of authenticity was present at the local market, Zhongyi Market, were I could stay closer to the beating heart of Lijiang.
Mama Naxi’s Guesthouse was an excellent choice but it was almost impossible to find it, even though it was round the corner from the bus station and only a walking distance from the Old Town. This place had a homely feel, fantastic views of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from my dorm and a huge terrace so I would highly recommend it. An option of joining the owner and her family for dinner was one of my highlights. She is a brilliant cook and all the food was heavenly delicious, even her spicy dishes. She also helped me with organising my Tiger Leaping Gorge hike.