The Old Town of Lijiang

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September 19th 2018
Published: September 21st 2018
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We arrived in Shuhe, which is one of the three old towns which make up the Old Town of Lijiang, about 2 hours after leaving Tiger Leaping Gorge. The Old Town of Lijian is located at an elevation of 2400m.

The Old Town of Lijiang was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997 in recognition of the towns role as the intersection between the Silk Road and the Tea Horse Road; the architecture (including housing influenced by Han, Bai, Tibetan and Naxi) which is well preserved and urban planning and landscaping (including impressive water distribution system which conveys water throughout the town in a series of engineered channels among other things.

The Old Town of Lijiang is one of the most popular tourist attractions in China. Apparently 80 million tourists visited last year. At times the number of tourists outnumbers the number of locals (approximately 200 million). It's also an incredibly popular destination to visit to have wedding photos taken.

After checking into our hotel (no door or curtain to the bathroom this time, just a strategically positioned wardrobe) we set off with William to get a brief introduction to Shuhe. It began raining just as we left the hotel, likely due to the last remnants of the Typhoon which hit the Philippines, Hong Kong and south eastern China a few days earlier.

We walked from the hotel to the central square of Shuhe in about 20 minutes. After assuring William that we wouldn't get hopelessly lost (he had no faith in our ability to navigate) we set off to explore by ourselves. We wandered around for an hour or so without getting lost before choosing a restaurant for dinner. With the help of Google Translate and its Chinese equivalent we managed to order from the Chinese menu. After dinner we headed back to the hotel to relax.

The following rainy morning we met William at 9am and hopped into a taxi to Danyan Old Town. Danyan is the largest of the three old cities which are included within the UNESCO listing. We entered via one of the lesser known gates and wandered through the quiet streets until we reached one of the pools which are scattered around the city. The pools are divided into three sections; the first (at the inlet) is intended to provide drinking water, the second is for washing vegetables and the third is for washing clothes.

From the pool we continued wandering. As we got closer to the centre the crowds increased. We made our way through the pretty streets towards the central square. They used to clean the square by blocking the rivers either side so that it flooded and washed away the the mess from the day of trading.

After making our way to the main entrance we then walked up a hill to check out the view. We visited a Daoist temple which had a small exhibition about Joesph Rock who was an Austrian botanist turned Anthropologist who studied and photographed China, Tibet and the Himalayas in the early 1900s which included photographs of Danyan from that time.

In total we spend a little under three hours wandering around the streets of Danyan. It's a really pretty town; it's clear that the government invests a lot in Danyan as it was incredibly clean and well maintained.

From Danyan we caught a bus to Baishaitai which is the least touristy of the three towns that make up the Old Town of Lijiang. We walked through the residential streets before we reached the central area where, among the shops targeting tourists, there were local women selling vegetables (who apparently complained that tourists just want to take photos they never buy their vegetables). We stopped to have a chat William on a bridge on the outskirts of the town before we continued wandering through the main street.

After a little under an hour at Baishatai we caught a bus to Shuhe. We stopped for lunch (a mutton dish, fried potato dish and a weird green vegetable dish) before continuing our walk. William took us to a tea store to taste some Pu'er tea which had been packed inside the skin of a small orange (but not to buy tea, they had overcharged one of his previous groups so now he was intent on drinking back the difference between what they charged and what they should have charged).

After wandering around the pretty streets of Shuhe a little longer we said farewell to William (who, despite the tour ending, was still worried we might get lost) and then headed back to the hotel to relax until dinner time.

For dinner we went to a restaurant with a French name which actually served Chinese food. We ordered scrambled egg with jasmine flowers, Chinese broccoli, a pork dish and a Dali beer. The egg was not that great (but good to try), but the other dishes were delicious.

After dinner we made our way back to our hotel to pack our bags in preparation for the next stage of our trip. We really enjoyed Yunnan; the scenery was spectacular and the food was delicious (except the chicken feet...).

Additional photos below
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21st September 2018
Danyan Old Town

Lovely towns.

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