Published: May 28th 2009May 28th 2009
Our train arrived at 6.30am and we hopped straight in a taxi to the bus station. This was where we had our first encounter with what other travellers commonly refer to as 'the trough'. The Chinese toilet that is essentially a long gutter that runs the length of the bathroom, with screens to seperate each person, but no doors. Also the toilet will flush sporadically meaning that all the waste is flushed from one end right the way down the line to the drain - and you had better hope you are not in one of the end cubicles at the time as the stench is horrible. Xichang itself was also a pretty horrible looking town, full of factories belching out smoke & smog and so we were happy to leave Xichang behind and take the 7 hour bus ride up through the mountains to Lugu lake.
The bus would have dropped us off pretty much in the middle of nowhere, near the big expensive hotels that have sprung up by the lake but thanks to the recommendation of a friendly Chinese girl on the bus we paid a little extra and stayed on the bus till
the opposite end of the lake and a little village called Lige which was right on the waters edge. There is a lot of road development happening in China at the moment and the road around Lugu Lake was being tarmaced over to give it a smooth surface. Unfortunately this meant that the road was closed just by Lige village so we had to carry our backpacks down the hill and over the new tarmac, but thankfully managed to grab a lift with some Chinese backpackers the rest of the way down to the village. We found a nice hostel called Jazz Cafe, but as we had landed in Lige village rather than Luoshi the rooms were a little more expensive than we had been expecting.
Interesting Fact no 13 - When entering into 'the trough' just put your head down and get on with it. The other option is messy pants.
As we were paying more for the room & food than we expected and had had to lay down a sizable deposit on the room we decided to walk the 2 hour trek to Luoshi, the biggest village on the lake, as it
reportedly had a cash machine. It was a beautiful walk which took us high up to the mountain road and also walking right by the lake for certain stretches. The lake itself is stunning and we had some breathtaking views, we must have taken hundreds of photos here.
Unfortunately we were in for a rude shock when we got to the ATM in Luoshi - it wouldn't accept any one of our bank cards, a problem which we haven't encountered anywhere else in China. This led to a swift recount of the cash we had left and once we had bought our bus tickets from the lake to Lijiang we had about £5 between us to last the rest of the day until we could get our deposit back the following morning. Armed with our phrase book we approached one of the street stalls by the lake for lunch and managed to translate that we were vegetarians looking for a cheap meal to share. We actually were served a large bowl of rice and a huge plate of steaming chinese leaf that had been cooked & flavoured really nicely, it only cost £1 and was more than enough for
us to share.
In the evening we followed the same strategy of eating vegetarian meals and in the end we had both eaten plenty, all be it a rather random combination of food. We spent our last 40p on a bottle of beer from the local shop which we shared whilst sitting on the dock by the lake watching the sunset. Looking back there couldn't have been a nicer way to spend the evening.
Interesting Fact no.14 - When you're 8 hours from civilization and with no money, conversations about 'I could always sell my camera' might come around. It was very strange to have all the money you need and no way to get it.
Well although the Chinese had made a lot of progress with tarmacing the road it was still no use to us as they were now tarmacing on the Luoshi side of Lige village. We needed to get back to Loushi to catch the public bus to Lijiang but as the road was closed we could not get a taxi to take us there. Ultimately this meant that we needed to don our backpacks and hike 25 mins up
the steep hill until we could get a lift to town. We have never been so glad that we invested in good quality backpacks before we came! Sadly this also meant that we had to ruthlessley cull any unnecessary weight in the backpacks and Tracy's little strappy high heels got left behind.
Once at the top of the hill and past the road works we managed to hitchhike a lift to Loushi village with a bus full of Chinese backpackers, once in Loushi we treated ourselves to a huge breakfast as once we had our deposit back we felt like we were loaded! We stocked up with water, crisps, bisucits & muffins (no such thing as pre-packed sandwiches here) for the 8 hour bus to Lijiang and waved goodbye to Lugu lake.
After paying a swift & uplifiting visit to the cash machine in Lijiang we jumped in a taxi and headed straight for our next hostel Mama Naxi's guesthouse. As soon as we walked into the courtyard we spotted our Irish friends from Xi'an so we spent the evening catching up with them. They took us to this random Irish bar (well what other bar would they
take us to?) which was 3 floors up and had a stunning view of Lijiang which is all lit up at night.
Interesting fact no.15 - The entreprenurial spirit of the Chinese means that they'll charge you 5p to use a hole as a toilet during a toilet stop on the bus.
There are more photos below