Lijiang Old Town is one of the big tourist draw-cards in Yunnan Province and one of the must-see places in China. Lijiang city is a small city of 150,000 people at 2,400m above sea level. We had chosen to stay away from the old town area, a taxi ride away on the edge of the city near Shuhe Old Town. We always booked on location, sometimes aiming for the middle of things and other times aiming for a place nice and quiet. The Belgian couple we met the day before had the same approach but were on the opposite oscillation. Back in Shaxi they were out of town and in Lijiang were heading for the middle of the old town. Our Lijiang guesthouse was definitely on the edge of town. The Bruce Chalet is well away from the hustle and bustle and a lovely relaxing place to stay.
We arrived in the evening and next morning took a taxi back to the middle of Lijiang to see the Black Dragon Pool. The view from there to nearby Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is the most iconic Yunnan picture; a bit like our Mt Cook or Mitre Peak views. We never saw the whole view while we were there – too much cloud. Same as our mountains in New Zealand, there are no guarantees.
One of the first things we did was photograph the information board. These usually gave us the best idea of what was where, coupled with our Maps.me map on the tablet.
It is a lovely park, even without the mountain view. We enjoyed wandering along the paths, usually looking for the ones less traveled.
We were impressed with the number of rubbish bins throughout China, most twinned with a bin for recycling. We were intrigued by the variety of names for the two options; particularly the “Rubbish”/”Garbage”/”Trash”/”Unrecycle”! etc labels for the non-recyclable stuff.
The park was hot and crowded and we thought a walk in the forest would be nice. I suggested a path up the hill would reward us with some views and thought (incorrectly) that there would be a path traversing halfway up the hill. We had to register our details at the checkpoint before starting up. This was a bit of a worry as we hoped to descend further along and we wondered whether they co-ordinated checkpoints.
Lijiang city is in a basin ringed by hills and mountains – which doesn’t help much with air quality.
The city is generally grey and white with the occasional splash of a blue roof. So this outbreak of colour for some sort of apartment complex fascinated me. It even had a circle theme going on; spot the red one on the white apartment in front of the colourful ones.
Paths/tracks in China don’t zigzag much to gain and lose height. They just have hundreds and thousands of steps more-or-less straight up or down. I eventually had to concede that our route was taking us to the top of the hill but it was rewarding us with wonderful views of the city and valley.The old town area is a traffic-free maze of streets and alleys. It looks shaded in photos mostly because of its standard gray roofs. It looks a bit like it has swept up an adjoining hill, and it probably did.
Our path finally descended via a long ridge to where we started at the Black Dragon Pool. Officially we are still up there. The checkpoint at that end wasn’t manned so we never figured out if there was a real system or not. The day was running out so we headed downstream to the entrance to Lijiang Old Town. There were zillions of tourists including lots of tour groups. Only a very small proportion of the tourists were foreigners – we were vastly outnumbered by domestic tourists.
The old town really is a maze. Our map app coupled with GPS was a huge help. Particularly when we wanted to find the Prague Cafe – well spoken of in Lonely Planet. It was a lovely escape from the rivers of people passing below.
Later, buoyed by our success finding the cafe, we headed further into the maze orienteering towards the restaurant recommended by our Lonely Planet. Many eating places had touts outside which we usually ignored. We thought we were getting closer and then I realised that a tout was calling out the name we were looking for; it was just up a short alley.
We were the only foreign tourists there and got a wonderful reception. And enjoyed a wonderful meal.
As we were leaving the old town area we saw that the mountain had cleared a bit. So we scooted back up to the Black Dragon Pool to view the view.
It was an fitting end to an energetic and interesting day. The Black Dragon Pool was nice and the exercise was good and the restaurant was memorable in a good way. Equally memorable was the rivers of tourists, particularly in the old town area. This was taking a bit of getting used to.