Just like riding a bike

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November 15th 2013
Published: August 29th 2017
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Geo: 26.8751, 100.238

Today I learnt how to use the gears on a bike after discovering that going up a hill in a high gear is generally not considered to be a good idea and results in nothing but painful (but more toned?!) legs. After yesterday's lazy day of recovering from a night of no sleep by sleeping in a park, I decided that today it was time to do some exploring. One rented bike and a map that was horribly inaccurate both in distance and direction later and I was on the way. I first headed towards 'BaiSha' - a fairly small town famous for its ancient dynasty murals. I read that most of these had been destroyed in the cultural revolution but decided to go check it out anyway. Yep, there were no murals! What I did find, after stalking a German tour group, was a house teaching silk embroidery. I chatted with some of the girls who worked there and they said that the masters have been working there for 27 years and still take one year to complete an A3 silk embroidery- the hard work showed, some of the details on these pictures were incredible. I figured that this went someway towards explaining the 27,000rmb price tag for some of their work! After this I decided to do some exploring, and after being chased by a dog, found the old town. There was just one road and many people selling scarves, bags, clothes and apples - I'm finding a lot of these in this area of the world!

Next stop was another village, 'ShuHe' or 'Tree River' village. Just a short 20 minute bike ride through villages with houses but no people, corn but no fields and roads but no street signs. I think a lot of the people here have left and moved to cities like Kunming for work. There are a few older people and small babies but I did not see any children or people of working age in these small villages. The landscape was beautiful- mountains, forests, corn fields, and pretty, almost alpine like, villages. The Lijiang area is famous in China for two things- it's clear blue skies and the amount of people who arrive single and leave with a boyfriend/girlfriend. I can definitely vouch for the former, I'll do some more research into the latter! Haha. ShuHe is very similar to Lijiang. Small, narrow streets full of wooden single or double story houses all selling some kind of snack food or hand made scarves/bags/clothes etc and horses roaming the streets.

Finally, I decided to make my way back towards Lijang. Many people say that Lijiang is too touristy and I could see how this would be true in summer. However, as now is the 'off season' it's fairly quiet. It's characterized by small, narrow lanes overlooked by mountains and is very similar to the hutongs in Beijing. Yesterday I spent the afternoon in a nice park reading a book/napping. It was all going well until I got woken up be a string quartet playing Katy Perry and Timberland- rather surreal I tell you! Lijiang is spread over quite a large area and so I've discovered that it's very easy to get lost. I thought that my sense of direction was pretty good but each time Its taken me at least an hour to find the hostel. A lot of other people are also walking around in circles, trying to consult the strange maps or attempting to use an incorrect google map too so I don't feel too bad about it! The hostel here is one of the best I have ever stayed in- right in the middle of the town, great food (their bacon and egg sandwiches are the best I've had in China!), wonderful people and a nice, traditional, atmosphere.

Right my self control has finally deserted me and I'm off to buy a scarf/bag or something. Tomorrow I go with a Korean girl to Tiger Leaping Gorge to do some hiking!

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