The overnight train from Chengdu to Xichang in southern Sichuan was again a very easy and comfortable 9 hour trip, and I highly recommend using the trains for long trips. I booked a 2nd class sleeper for $24 and had about 7 hours sleep before arriving in Xichang at 7 am. I found a minivan going to the bus station, and when I arrived 15 minutes later I was lucky to catch the bus to Lugu Hu which was departing in 10 minutes. Lugu Hu is a large lake on the Yunnan/Sichuan border at an altitude of 2700 metres and as I found out attracts quite a few Chinese tourists, and as usual very few foreign ones. My original plan was not to come to Lugu Hu but because foreigners are not allowed into western Sichuan (which was going to be my route into Yunnan), this seemed the best way to the province.
After an interesting 6 and a half hour trip, and meeting a Chinese guy Yao, and his 2 friends on the bus we eventually arrived at the lake where we purchased the ticket for the lake and paid a couple more dollars to take us to Luoshui,
a big village on the other side. Our plan was to get transport from this village to Lige about 10kms away, which we did but the asking price was about $2.50 each which I thought was way too high for a short trip taking 6 passengers but we had no other choice. Once in Lige I was very dissappointed to see virtually the whole small village consisted of hotels and restaurants, and no real normal village life. We ended up getting 2 rooms, which I shared one with Yao, in a nice hotel in the centre of the village. Lige itself has a nice setting on the lake with a nice view to a small isthmus that the Chinese call an island which also contains a few hotels and restaurants. The other thing I found about the locals was that they seemed unfriendly and took the tourism for granted and most of them didn't give a damn about the tourists who were paying decent money for things. That afternoon we wandered about the lake taking photos and then had a very nice meal together at our hotel. The following day my friends left so I grabbed a cheap bed in
a dorm at the nearby youth hostel and just took some photos from a couple of the viewpoints above town. On sunday I hired a bicycle and rode the 65 kms around the lake which wasn't that difficult except for a few hills on either side of Lige. I really enjoyed the ride, especially the northern and northeast parts of the lake with traditional villages, friendly people, and some nice views. If I was to come again I would definately stay on the northern side because they seem to have a few guesthouses but still in traditional villages which is a lot more interesting for me. I also spent about an hour in the main town of Luoshui which was touristy but I would think of it as a better alternative to Lige if you do not have a lot of time as there is more transport available. That night after returning from my bike ride I went to book a bus ticket to Lijiang the next morning, but was told there were no seats left so I had to stay in Lige one more day which I pretty much spent on the computer watching movies and basketball games.
Tuesday morning I caught the bus for Lijiang which took about 8 hours due to the number of stops we made and how long we spent at each one. The ride itself was again very interesting winding our way around and up and down the mountains. The outskirts of Lijiang were quite ordinary but the old town in the center seems quite nice with many many traditional style buildings, some new some old. The town itself is very touristy with every shopfront selling souvenirs, tshirts, food, etc and the old cobblestone laneways are full of tourists. I found a cheap place to stay for a few nights and I will enjoy the luxury of having a large choice of food before heading north and tackling Tiger Leaping Gorge.
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