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Published: August 6th 2007
The bus to Lijiang took us through some spectacular scenery and gave us our first glimpse of the mountains of western Yunnan. When we arrived at the bus station, we called Mama Naxi's (pronounced Nah'Shi) guest house and they agreed to send someone to get us. We made our way through the modern Chinese city and then into the old town. We were led down some small streets to the guest house, which was tucked down an alley. About five minutes after moving into our room we were hustled off around the corner to dinner at another of "Mama's" guest houses. There was a lot of chaos in getting everyone arranged at three tables, but eventually we were all seated and the food started arriving. Most of the food was excellent and it was amazing value for just 10 yuan ($1.30) per person. We had our fill and then returned to the room for a bit. After letting the food settled some, we went for a walk through the old town. The town is really beautiful, especially in the fading afternoon light. We got a bit of a feel for the area around the guest house before calling it a night.
We ended up spending a week in Lijiang hanging out and just enjoying the vibe of the old town. One of our first missions in Lijiang was a visit to the local PSB (that's Public Security Bureau) to try to get our visas extended. We went into two different compounds that were not the PSB before eventually finding it a bit further along the road than the map showed. We were led through a dodgy back door into the foreign affairs office. Once inside, a friendly officer examined our passports and asked what we wanted to do. We told him that we would like to extend our visas, but he said that we would have to wait until we had less than 10 days left on the current visa. I was surprised at how pleasant the visit was. I was expecting a lot of bureaucratic hassles, but the guy was personable and his english was quite good.
We had been in Lijiang for a few days when Maya returned from her trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge. We spent a couple hours catching up with her and picking her brain about her experience in the gorge. It turns out
that she had a really good time and despite a bit of recent rainfall the trail was dry and the hike was great. The day after Maya arrived the three of us went over to the Black Dragon Pool park. I was hesitant to pay the exorbitant 60 yuan entrance fee, but we all ended up getting in for the student rate of 30. As it turns out, the park was well worth the money. We spent some time exploring the main part of the park around the lake where we got some postcard shots of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (you have to love Chinese names for things). There is a large hill in the park which we decided to hike up. We had to register at the bottom after reading signs saying not to go with fewer than four people. According to the LP, some tourists were robbed on the hill, but it was in the late 90's so I wasn't too concerned. The hike up the hill gave us some breathtaking views of Lijiang, but the real treat was when we made it to the top and we had an unobstructed view of Jade Dragon mountain. Wow.
We hiked across a saddle to the other summit and we were rewarded with a view of the old town. We hung out on the hill for a bit before heading down since rain clouds were rolling in. When we got to the bottom, we were invited into the Dongba cultural center where we learned quite a bit about the Dongba culture. The Dongba are some of the native people in the area. One of the things that they're famous for is their long-lasting paper. Apparently, it is supposed to last for 1000 years due to the bitter bark that they include in it which makes it unattractive to insects. The resident elder (one of only eight left) wrote some stuff in the Dongba pictograph language for Jen and Maya. It was really interesting watching him do it and we learned a lot from one of the students about the meaning of the characters.
Jen and I celebrated one month together with a "date" at a "fancy" restaurant. We got dressed up in our fanciest clothes (I wore jeans and a collared shirt). It was a wonderful evening and the food was outstanding over at the Well Bistro. I
had some Guinness which was somewhat less expired than the stuff in Dali. Still, it's a bit annoying that I haven't been able to get decent Guinness outside of Shanghai.
We bought some souveniers in Lijiang and so we made a trip to the post office. It was certainly one of the more memorable post office experiences I've had on this trip. The woman behind the counter spoke absolutely no english so it took us almost 40 minutes to get everything worked out. The main problem was the rate they wanted to charge to send a parcel. The information posted on the wall was apparently wrong and so we were left trying to decipher a huge book of postal rates. Eventually we figured out that the postage wasn't too expensive, but the first kilogram cost quite a lot. So, instead of sending two packages we just combined everything into one and sent it "surface airlift" which we decided mean that it was taken by land and then flown across the ocean. It was Jen's first time in a Chinese post office, so hopefully our future experiences aren't quite so interesting.
We didn't do much else in Lijiang aside
from using the internet a bunch and shopping for warm clothes. I didn't end up getting anything, but Jen got a nice North Face (fake) down vest. Nonetheless, we had a very relaxing time and we were sad to leave Lijiang and Mama Naxi's behind.
Stay tuned for Tiger Leaping Gorge.
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