Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Streets of Lijiang

Visit to Lijiang
August 2008

The south-western Chinese province of Yunnan is by all accounts pretty spectacular. Natural wonders like Shangri-La County and Tiger Leaping Gorge jostle with man-made marvels like Lijiang's Old Town; whose winding, cobbled streets and original wooden houses helped it achieve UNESCO World Heritage listing in 1997. Popular with Chinese tourists the area is also home to the distinctive Naxi people who contribute to the area's exotic feel. Lijiang is also famous for its mountainous views but we unfortunately arrived in the wet season and didn't even catch a glimpse of the supposedly inspiring Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. I still had a great time and enjoyed strolling the hauntingly beautiful streets of Lijiang's Old Town, wandering the beautiful Black Dragon Pool Park and hiring bicycles to explore the nearby countryside.

Lijiang's restaurants seem to be very much in the backpacker cafe style that offer a mediocre mix of local and western food. We tried a number of places and were never really satisfied or disappointed, just underwhelmed. Street side stalls did however offer a little more excitement. I specifically enjoyed freshly cooked egg based pancake eaten in the pouring rain; a slightly bizarre potato on a stick and pile of delicious grilled skewers from a small shop that only seemed to open to cater for the post pub trade.
Lijiang truly is a marvellous spot. It's a long way from Hong Kong and Beijing and this is perhaps part of its charm. The couple of days I spent there have inspired me to return and I'm looking forward to exploring more of Yunnan Provence in the future. I'd definitely recommend Lijiang to those interested in a visit to a spectacular and unique part of China.

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