23.01.2013 - 26.01.2013 15 °C
Wednesday 23rd January
We had to get up at 0500 to make the short journey from our hotel to the airport in Shanghai where we flew to Lijiang. The airport was relatively busy even this early in the morning and we joined the queue for our airline. I had to go and have my bag searched (they weren't happy with our electrical adaptor) but we were most surprised when the check in agent said "you are first class, please proceed to the lounge". So we happily strode to the lounge where we were able to help ourselves to the free food and drink. Everyone else was a business traveller so we stood out stocking our bags with European beer and playing on the (painful) massage chairs but it certainly made getting up at 5 more palatable! On the flight we were both able to sleep with our extra reclining seats, pillow and blanket. It was certainly a nice surprise to start the day! At the airport we waited for the bus to take us into Lijiang. We were offered lots of private taxi services but kindly refused and insisted we would take the bus. It soon became apparent the bus wasn't going anywhere and we had almost 30 locals round us laughing at us as I insisted we would wait for the bus. In the end a young Chinese couple begged us to share a taxi with them and eventually we relented, on the condition we paid the same fare as the bus AND we got dropped off at our hostel. Bit of a contrast from the first class flight to haggling over a taxi ride! In the afternoon, we chilled out in the sun at our hostel which had a lovely courtyard. We then wandered around the old part of Lijiang, which was very quaint and full of the local Naxi people. We both enjoyed being in a smaller town, and despite there being lots of Chinese tourists it still felt authentic with the old buildings, waterways and lack of traffic. At night we ate at the hostel, as Mama Naxi does a family meal everynight for guests so it was great to speak to other travellers and try lots of dishes (disadvantage of only being 2 people in restaurants).
Thursday 24th January
Another early start today as we were going to do a 2 day trek to see the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a trek along the river Yangzi where fables say a tiger leapt from a rock across the river to escape capture from hunters. It was a 2.5hrs journey from the hostel to the beginning of the trek in the mountains on a very bumpy, twisty road. Also starting with us was a Korean singer songwriter who was heading into the mountains for inspiration for songs, and Caitlin an American rock climbing guide working in China. The walk started off relatively easy as we started to ascend the mountain with glorious views down the river. After a couple of hours we stopped at a guesthouse for some lunch before doing the hardest part of the trek, the 28 bends, which were about an hours worth of steep, twisty ascents. After that ascent it was a steady walk over the back of the mountain where we stopped off for the night, spending the evening with a collection of Westerners who were studying / teaching English in China and listening to their weird and wonderful experiences in China. Throughout the day the views were incredible looking down the gorge but also across to the other side where huge rocky mountains rose up. We also enjoyed walking through mountain villages and seeing the rural lifestyle. The view from the bedroom (and toilet!) were the best we have ever had the pleasure of in a guest house.
Friday 25th January
The walk in the morning to our ending point was simple and only took about 2 hours. We stopped and had a break before descending the rocks to the stone where tiger is reported to have leapt. It was a very steep climb down and not a lot of horizontal distance gained. We took a vertical ladder part of the way down and we were both glad it was a welded metal one rather than the wooden one it replaced which was still hanging behind! The view from the river bed was impressive as the river roared past the rocks. The ascent was very steep but easier in some respects than going down as it was steps but we were both extremely glad to reach the top and have a cold beer! Once back at the pick up hostel, we relaxed before taking a coach back to Lijiang.
Saturday 26th January
After several days of early starts and exercise we had a proper lie in before going for a walk round Lijiang to witness the locals dancing in the square, see where the ponds where the locals do their washing and, most importantly, enjoy the sunshine. In the evening we witnessed the nightlife Lijiang has to offer: a lot of bars with not a lot of people in them (if any) listening and dancing to a live singer / band.
Large waterwheels in Lijiang old town
Naxi people dancing
Tiger leaping gorge
Scary 25m ladder we had to descend / climb (rather than take the "safe path")
By the rapids at the bottom of the gorge