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Published: October 2nd 2012
Oh the shame of it! I filed Pingyao under Shaanxi Province, when as everyone knows it is in Shanxi Province. This is especially shameful because we had an entire lesson where the dialogue largely consisted of whether the speaker is referring to Shaanxi Province or Shanxi Province. I didn’t like that particular lesson, I found it irritating. I mean, what difference could it possible make? So just for the record, Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi and Taiyuan is the capital of Shanxi. Or is that the opposite? To make things a little more confusing, the two provinces are right next to each other and one means west mountain pass and the other means west mountain.
So we left Chongqing in heavy rain, keeping our fingers crossed for good weather, or at least not too much rain (we got the not too much rain option) for the rest of our trip. The weather forecast for Lijiang was rain, rain and more rain. I hoped for the best. The rain was so heavy the flight was delayed an hour and when we arrived in Lijiang it looked like they had also had a great deal of rain but although
it rained most nights, all night, it didn’t rain much in the day and we really enjoyed the nice fresh air as we walked around the town. So far we have seen very little of the famous Chinese pollution.
The weather was unrelentingly grey though, the sun never showed it’s face. Not so good for photos and we never even got a glimpse of the mountains, snowed-capped or otherwise. But it was lovely. It had a different sort of charm in the bad weather. We walked Lijiang’s streets every which way. There are quite a few very distinct areas of Lijiang. There are the tourist filled streets with their shops and cafes which although very commercialized are also very beautiful. The old town is criss-crossed with canals lined with weeping willows. The background is all green mountains with their heads up in the clouds.
The town is full of flowers, both the wild sort and the cultivated sort. We walked the back streets for quite a few hours. At one point we made our way up and ended up above the town, looking down into the valley. Another day, taking a different route through
the back streets, without a map or clue, we again found ourselves above the town but in a different area.
We also visited Black Dragon Pool Park. China does parks really well. There are parks everywhere. All are nice, some are great. Usually they are quite large and you can spend a good few hours there, even a whole day. Entrance fees for foreigners in China are usually very high. Although we didn’t get charged just for entering ancient towns, all building, parks and other sites have entrance fees. Sometimes we decided not to go in as we didn’t want to shell out another $40 for the two of us.
We did a complete circuit of the park which wasn’t so big compared to some of the other parks here. There are bridges, temples and a little island on the lake. The famous view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain was, of course, obscured by clouds, but it’s a very pretty place to stroll around in and we spent a few pleasant hours there. It seemed that many of the town’s older people also thought it was a nice place to hang out in as
there were lots of them sitting together singing, dancing and playing cards.
The Chinese are a busy lot. They don’t just sit around. They always seem to be doing something. We saw group dancing in practically all the towns we visited, including Beijing. People get together in the town square and follow the group leader’s moves. Sometimes they are folk dancing and in Beijing we saw them doing modern ballroom dancing. Every park is full of people exercising, everything from tai chi to ribbon twirling. Some people are just doing their own thing, sitting in a quiet corner, accompanied by their own recorded music singing Chinese opera, or playing a flute or other popular Chinese instrument.
The dog owners will also be out in force. Their dogs are extremely well groomed and coifed. Popular dogs have lots of hair that is styled into a sort of full body afro. Most dogs are white or golden colored. In the cities many elderly people have dogs. They really love their dogs. Maybe it is instead of the children that have moved away. There are also a lot of little dogs in Yunnan but they don’t look
particularly well cared for. In addition, there are also some very big dogs that seem to be a type of guard dog although it wasn’t always clear what they were guarding because none were tied up or confined to an area, they seemed to be free to come and go. I didn’t meet any aggressive dogs, no growling, teeth chomping dogs.
Lijiang was a gentle, charming sort of place. Almost impossible not to like it. It wasn’t overrun with tourists while we were there. But like all of the tourist spots in China that we visited, you can always get away from the crowds, by wandering the back streets or climbing the hills. There were many restaurants and guest houses in Lijiang, even on the deserted back streets, every building was either a hotel or was being converted into a hotel. Everything we saw looked quite appealing and attractive. But we didn’t eat or sleep in Lijiang. We stayed in Shuhe and that’s where we spent most of our time.
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