Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek and Baishuitai

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May 23rd 2012
Published: May 23rd 2012
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I spent a total of 3 nights in Lijiang and for most of that time I just hung around the guesthouse talking to some of the other Chinese guests and enjoyed walking around the old town in the evening. The best bit for me was the range of food on offer which I made the most of and even had KFC a couple of times. The downside was the amount of tourists, by far the most I have seen in China, and how jampacked the small streets became in the nightime. I found that it didn't really hold much value for me as a tourist but it was a nice place to take it easy for a couple of days and recuperate. On my last full day in Lijiang I caught a bus about 10 km north to the small town of Baisha, which is mentioned in the Lonely Planet. The town itself was nice to walk around and they had a few tourist shops and cafes as well as a couple of guesthouses as well. After a couple of hours I jumped back on the bus and was glad that I made this little trip mainly to escape the crowds and tourism of Lijiang.
The following morning after wasting about 1 hour trying to find a bus station that no longer existed, I eventually, with a little help from the locals arrived at the long distance bus station where I caught a bus to Qiaotou, the starting point for the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek. I checked in and got a dorm bed at Janes Guesthouse in the early afternoon and then spent most of that evening just chatting to a few of people that had completed the trek to get some pointers. A couple from the Netherlands had gotten sick along the trek from the food and this had me a bit worried after my recent problems with diarrhoea.
Although there were a couple of groups setting off in the morning I decided that I would start the trek alone to have more of a chance to enjoy the scenery. It wasn't too difficult to find the high route which pretty much every foreigner does, and after an hour I had some nice views looking down on the river. The track itself was narrow but not too narrow and I didn't feel unsafe at any stage. About lunchtime I arrived at a Naxi village where I took my time and had quite a bit to eat and drink at the pretty guesthouse before continuing along the track. A little while later I came to the 24 bends a set of switchbacks going straight up the mountain, but fortunately they are only about 10 to 15 metres between each one. Before hiking up I sat and chatted with the lady from the little shop as well as a Chinese girl who had hired a horse for this part of the trek. A few minutes after the girl had started I tackled the 24 bends, and about 20 minutes later I was at the top fairly tired so I rested for a few minutes before continuing. I soon caught up with a Russian guy who was carrying his full pack, and we were also joined by the Chinese girl who didn't have the horse anymore, so the 3 of us decided to walk together. It took us a while to get to Tea Horse guesthouse and by this time we were all feeling a little tired but it was only about 4pm, and after seeing the staff of the guesthouse didn't really care too much about us we decided to keep going. After another hour and half and some nice views and scenery later, we arrived at Halfway Guesthouse ( which is more like 3/4 of the way), where I got a double room ($13) with a superb view of the mountains across the river which I shared with the Russian, Alexi. This guesthouse has a great location in a very small village high up with great views, a nice deck area, and a good restaurant, which meant most of the trekkers stay here.
The next morning Alexi and I headed off for the 2 hour trek to Walnut Garden Village and the end of the trek. This part of the track was also very nice being high up on some cliffs and also passing a nice waterfall, with the downside being a couple of waterpipes running along the track that were a bit of an eyesore. We then joined up with a French guy, Pierre, and descended down to the main road where we had a couple of drinks before walking about 25 minutes along the road to Walnut Garden Village. The village has a very nice setting above the middle gorge and we got a double room for $10 and Pierre a dorm bed at a fantastic place called Woody's Guesthouse. The guesthouse itself was nice and quiet, mainly due to the fact we were the only guests, the food was good, and the view was almost as good as at Halfway guesthouse. After relaxing a couple of hours we walked down through the village terraces to the gorge. We spent about half an hour just sitting on the rocks watching the powerful river wind its way through the gorge and then slowly walked back up the hill to the guesthouse.
The following morning I had decided to continue on by bus to the town of Baishuitai to see some limestone terraces. My only problem was my big backpack was at Janes Guesthouse, so my plan was to go back to have a look at the gorge near Tina's and then catch a bus from there to Janes and hopefully have time to catch the Baishuitai bus heading back through the gorge. I walked about 20 minutes back towards Tina's and then paid my $1.50 to take the small village made track down to the gorge. After about 10 minutes the track got quite narrow and steep but had some poles and wire to hold onto. I then descended a short ladder and a few minutes later came to a ladder where it looked like it went down vertically for about 15 metres. I was a bit apprehensive about going down it, so I decided to take the alternative easier path down and climb up the ladder on the way back. Once down in the gorge I took some photos of the raging river and had a drink at a little shop before deciding to go back and try to be in time for the bus to Janes. By the time I arrived back at the long vertical ladder my legs were pretty sore and I was pretty tired so I decided to give the ladder a miss ( call me a wimp if you want). I was really tired by the time I made it to the main road and I also found out that I had missed the morning bus. I walked the few minutes to Tina's had a drink and then ordered some food. I told the staff about my failed plan, and they told me no problem, if I book the ticket to Baishuitai with them they will call bus driver and he can pick up my bag from Jane's on the way whilst I can just stay at Tina's and relax. Sweet.
The bus arrived about 1.30pm with my backpack, I hopped on, and then Alexi hopped on at Walnut Grove, and we made our way through some nice countryside for a couple of hours before arriving at Baishuitai which is more or less a village. We arrived with another large group outside a guesthouse and we all got rooms but I was a bit confused how we would all fit. After having a coffee Alexi and I walked up to the entrance of the small park paid our $5 and then walked up to the limestone terraces. There weren't a lot of terraces and they were a little small but I definately I enjoyed them and the different colour of the water, and was very glad that I had taken this detour on the way to Shangri La. I took photos and wandered around for an hour or so before asking one of the other foreign tourists how many rooms they booked, and it turned out there wasn't enough room for me. On the way back to get my backpack from the guesthouse I asked at another one if they had any rooms free and how much. They showed me an upstairs room which had 3 beds but it looked like it was used as a storeroom with some old clothes, a tv on one of the bed and an ashtray half full. It had a shared toilet and shower downstairs. When I asked about the shower the owner became a little animated and was saying chicken but I didn't understand until he opened the door a little. It turns that is where a chicken has been kept for what seems a couple of weeks by the amount shit on the floor. The wife was saying to me "chicken go home" and pointing to a mop which I presumed she was telling me she was going to clean it. The husband then grabbed the chicken by the legs and removed it from the shower whilst the wife removed a couple of bits of cardboard they had on the floor and saying to me "ok,ok". I told them I would take the room, I guess I have slept in worse in the past, and what did I expect for $3. That night there were quite a few flies in my room and I had a bit of trouble sleeping and in the morning when I went to have a shower I made sure I wore my flipflops. The floor was still pretty dirty and there were a few flies around and when I turned the water on there was only a trickle so I decided to just wash my face in the dirty basin nearby. I was thinking maybe this is where bird flu originated. The whole time I was staying there the wife kept asking me if I wanted something to eat but I just looked at the flies around the tables, and her filthy daughter in dirty clothes, and was just too scared to say yes to the offer. I checked out at midday and hung around the middle of the town playing pool with Alexi and the locals until the bus for Shangri La arrived.

Additional photos below
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25th May 2012

Wonderful to read your adventures in Lijiang & environs...Tiger Leaping Gorge...Baisha...Baishutai...stunning pics of one of my favourite environs...yet you do not mention the legendry Dr Ho at Baisha. I've stayed in Lijiang twice. The difference due to progress in the old town between visits was staggering...the Jade Corridor of restaurants was not there on my first trip, but was built to look as if they had been there for yonks...and the walls around the town on my first visit were gone by my second...the price of progress. Do you know if the damming of Tiger Leaping Gorge is still proceeding???
29th May 2012

Hi Dave
I remember reading about Dr Ho but it slipped my mind when visiting Baisha. The old town? of Lijiang was quite disappointing for me, especially in the evening when the streets were full of tourists and every shop is like a chain store. They might even have to expand the old town even more with the growing number of Chinese tourists.
29th May 2012

Hi Dave
Sorry but I didn't hear anything about whether the gorge will be damned or not in the future

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