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Published: October 3rd 2007
Ni Hao from Lijiang. Have had a couple of days hard cycling to get here from Dali. Scenery is beautiful, with high, wooded mountains and cultivated terraces, mainly of rice and corn, but some tobacco. Chilli pepper plants are slipped into every available space (and chilli peppers into every dish). Passed a Bai (local people) market place on the way - several acres of sheer pandemonium. Passed brick yards on the way, where oxen were used to squish up a pit full of wet clay. Nearby were smoking kilns. On the second day riding from Eryuan to Lijiang we bit off more than we could chew: At 4 pm, having already covered about 100Km and with dusk nearing, we were 45 km from Lijiang and the wrong side of a very steep 15 km climb. Undeterred, and with true British grit and determination, we started immediately. Thumbing a lift, that is. The first chap who stopped had the perfect little trailer, and understood that we wanted a lift to the top of the pass, but by dint of waving a sweetcorn around managed to convey that he was supposed to collect the maize that afternoon, and the wife would kill him
if he didn't get it done. She certainly will kill him when she finds out that the chap who did stop earned himself 50 yuan (3 pnd). And find out she will, because everyone around here knows our every move. I like to think that we have encouraged a little free enterprise to the economy (as well as introduce the 'two foreigners on heavenly bicycles' luncheon range).
Holed up in 3* luxury in Lijiang in order to take advantage of the laundry and e-mail facilities. Took a trip in a minibus to see Tiger Leaping Gorge and the First Bend of the Yangse (where river does a U turn). Gorge pretty spectacular (deepest in the world - 3900m), although everywhere around here is heavily commercialised and very expensive. Had a close shave in the evening trying to order dinner. Started the process by reviewing the menu. As usual, it was incomprehensible, so began the phrase book technique of pointing out potential ingredients. All indications of known meat and veggies drew a blank. A kitchen tour wasn't forthcoming, so Richard used the last resort phrase "Your local speciality". At this the waitress' face lit up; she indicated some hieroglyphics on
the menu and motioned us to look at the meal being taken by some nearby diners. Richard went over and the chap lifted a blackened object out of his hotpot for inspection. The man made appreciative noises - this was obviously considered pretty good food. Richard unfortunately couldn't identify the mystery ingredient, so I went over. Once again the man hoisted out the prime morsel and gave it a twirl. At first I thought it was a mussel shell; then some kind of black, spiny fish, perhaps. Then the penny dropped - it was a cockeral's head! At this point we had to call it a day and retreat to another restaurant, where we negotiated a straightforward stir fry (after skillfully avoiding the ox penis, frog and boneless chicken feet delicacies).
Today we have walked around the old town of Lijiang. Very attractive, but again commercialised for the chinese tourist. Will be on our way again tomorrow, heading for Panzihua (Jinjiang) which should take us four days. Did manage to upload photos onto the PC, but couldn't resize them to get them to our blog as all the instructions were in Chinese. Next time, perhaps.
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