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August 18th 2008
Published: August 23rd 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

Lhasa-Shangri-la-Tiger Leaping Gorge-Lijiang

The past few days have flown by as we are realizing we want to head on and see the rest of Asia. After Lhasa we flew to Shangri-la, this supposedly magical city near the Tibetan border. We arrived at the airport expecting to see many taxis or buses to take us into town, but instead the airport was desolate. We had met a young Tibetan man in the airport in Lhasa and luckily he was heading to Shangri-la as well. He offered to have his friend give us a ride into town and drop us off at a hostel he recommended. So we checked into our hostel (bathrooms outside with small walls between stall and no doors) and decided to walk around the city. The main attraction of Shangri-la is the Tibetan temple, but since we had just come from Tibet and were monastery-ied out we decided to skip it. We spent the afternoon walking around the old town, cobble stoned streets with no cars. At times we were the only ones walking through the streets and at other times, we were definitely the only white people. Since we were starving, I found a street vendor selling kebabs of some type of meet with bell peppers. I decided to have this along with potatoes and corn on the cob. It was delicious and the lady who made them put a ton of spice on it! Since there really wasn't a ton to do in Shangri-la, we decided one day was enough and we would take a bus the next day to Lijiang so we could eventually start the two day Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek. Then... we found out we could take a bus directly from Shangri-la to Qiatou (the city where you start the trek). This would save us some time and money so we went for it! We caught the bus to the small city, arriving around 4pm, and immediately headed to Gorged Tiger Cafe, run by a frantic Aussie named Margo. We had heard from Derek and Andy we could store our big bags there and she could give us advice on the trail. So we met her, she stored our bags and we began the first 8km's of the two day trek.

Now... the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek was amazing and definitely unlike anything we had done in China thus far. The first
Writing on the wall at Margo's Writing on the wall at Margo's Writing on the wall at Margo's

Before we leave for day #1 of the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
day was supposed to be pretty easy and we would arrive at our guesthouse for the night in two hours. Well... apparently Margo doesn't know us too well because we missed the start of the trail and walked about 1 hr too far down the road. So we had to turn back and ask a bunch of people who didn't speak English where the start of the trail was. We eventually found it, but we were off to a later start than expected. Plus, the first part of the trail kicked my butt. I was huffing and puffing and had to stop every few minutes to catch my breathe. And I thought I was in shape? We still arrived at the Naxi family guesthouse by sunset, just in time to eat our ramen noodles and grab a beer. We met an Aussie and kiwi at the guesthouse and spent the evening chatting with them. We planned to get up and on the train the next day by 7am.

That plan didn't go as planned and we began the 9 hour trek at around 8:30am. The first part of the morning was spent on what they call the 24 bends- a bunch of turns that climb up and up the mountain. Once again, I thought I was going to die and my heart was going to pop out of my chest. Somehow I managed and the rest of the hike was amazing. We found ourselves, alone in the wilderness, looking at gorgeous green mountains with the Yangtze River below us. We were able to trek through waterfalls and saw a ton of mountain goats and other wildlife. I think this trek is one of the best things China has to offer, especially if you want to get a way from the billions of people.

We finally arrived at another guesthouse around 2pm and had some food. We decided to end our trek by hiking the 2 hrs directly down the gorge to the river and back up. When you get down to the river you can see the rock that legend says a tiger jumped over, giving the gorge its name. I'm not sure this was a great way to end the already tiring day as we literally hiked down and up. My legs felt like they were going to fall off. When you got to the river the
The next morning... the clouds on the gorgeThe next morning... the clouds on the gorgeThe next morning... the clouds on the gorge

This is in the middle of the 24 bends. I am dying inside!!!!!!
rapids were HUGE and it was a pretty cool sight looking up at the green mountains on each side of you.

From there we hired a mini bus to take us back to Qiatou so we could pick up our luggage at Margo's and hopefully catch the last bus to Lijiang. When we arrived at Margo's she said the next bus was in 15 minutes and we could easily catch it to Lijiang. That was, until her key got stuck in the door of the luggage room and she couldn't get the door open. About a 1/2 hour passed and numerous Chinese people came to help with knives, drills and every other thing you could imagine. Finally, they got the door open and we got our luggage. We had missed the bus, so Margo said we could hire a mini bus to take us for about Y15 more per person. That sounded fine to us, we just wanted to get on the road. The problem with that was all the mini buses wanted about double what Margo told us it would be. We held our ground and worked our bargaining skills and got it down to the price we wanted. We left for the two hour drive to Lijiang around 6:30pm. We accepted the fact that we would be in Lijiang late and have to look for accommodation. We told our driver to drop us off in the old town because this is where we wanted to find a place to stay.

When we arrived in Lijiang the driver dropped us off and told us to walk "that way" pointing in a direction. We asked if it was the old town and she just kept pointing. It was raining so we just started walking in that direction. We were officially lost and I was officially pissed off. We finally found the old town and wanted to find a hostel. However, this is easier said than done. The old town is a bunch of pedestrian cobble stoned street that weave in and out making it super easy to get lost and super easy to hide hostels. After asking an information booth and yelling at each other we found a hostel and sucked it up to get a triple room with a bathroom and shower inside. We finally had a place to sleep and shower and our legs felt like they were mush.

Lijiang was a great city that we really enjoyed. We didn't venture far from the old town because we found this to be the best part of the city. Like I said, the old town is all pedestrian streets that run next to a number of canals with red lanterns and bridges. The whole old town is very scenic and very "old school" China. I enjoyed going up and down the streets looking at all the shops. There were tons of artists, which I hadn't found yet in China so I was excited. Jeff and I ended up going back and forth from two shops one day because we saw this huge dragon art piece that we loved. We finally got Chris for his opinion and it was set. We bargained the price down and Y1200 later we had it shipped to the US. I know Jeff can't wait to open it when he gets home and look at how freaking cool it is!

The middle of Lijiang has a giant water wheel welcoming you to the old town and you can also hike up to the top of the hill and overlook all the old Chinese roofs. One morning I had coffee on top of this hill over looking the town. It was super peaceful to be above all the Chinese crowds and looking down at such an amazing sight. It's moments like these that you take a deep breathe and say, "I'm in freaking China!"

Other than this, there was not a ton to do in Lijiang. We found the streets wonderful to wonder around, but refused to pay the Y88 to go into the central park so we found ourselves looking for some things to do. It also rained a majority of the time we were there which made our bike renting plan a no go. This just added to our frustrations. I think after 6 weeks we were getting a little tired of China. We found some travel agencies who found us a great flight deal to Guangzhou, where we could easily catch a train to Hong Kong, so we bought the tickets and decided to skip Guilin and Yangshou, two cities in southern China we had planned to go to. But... the rain was not expected to let up, so we assumed those places would not be much fun in the pouring rain. So it was settled Hong Kong it was!

Additional photos below
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2nd September 2008

omg omg how wonderful can you please sport some chinese hats in future pics - thanx... even my legs hurt after all that ;)

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