There is something to be said about small quiet sleepy places that are nestled away in a corner of the world. The fact that there’s a degree of difficulty to get there even adds to the charm and appeal of these places. All these can most definitely be said about Lijiang, China.
Lijiang is considered an ancient city and is a protected cultural and heritage site by the UNESCO. This is most definitely prevalent when you roam the cobbled streets of the town. Though the hotels and other more modern establishments seem to have sprouted along the major roads, you can still see the tribes people in their traditional clothes, hats and shoes. Amusingly enough, the patterns, colors and even the jewelry have a lot of similarities with our Ifugaos.
To get to Lijiang you would have to take a couple of plane rides and a bus or car ride. Our route was Manila – HongKong – Kumin and finally Lijiang. Then it was a 30 minute ride to our hotel and the only reason why it was 30 minutes was because we arrived dead at night. If you arrived during the day, it would be safe to have a 45 minute travel time. Lijiang is pretty much like the last frontier of China, said to be one of the last places in China that welcomed foreign tourists.
I had a couple of places I wrote down as my “must-see” and lucky for me, the smaller Old Town of Shuhue was walking distance from my hotel. There’s a larger Old Town but you would have to take a 15 minute cab ride. Walking through the streets was like a walk back in time. Sure, there were shops that sold tourist bric-a-bracks but the magic was still there. I loved the small photo studios there that rented out traditional costumes and took photos of you at the most scenic spots in the Old Town. My suggestion is that you skip the usual pasalubongs and go deeper into the town and get the unusual items like the ox horn combs, drums and blankets. They also have real leather pouches, bags and belts. On that note, pasalubongs should not be the usual “I heart [insert place here]”. Pasalubong should be something that is unique and appropriate for the recipient.
You can take home a good luck charm as pasalubong instead. Right in the middle of the old town near the water wheel is an area where they sell wooden painted good luck charms. Luck can be “added” or enhanced on a specific area of your life – health, wealth, family, career and love. You write your wish down and hang it on the trellis and hope that the gods smile upon your wish and grant your favor.
There are several tribes that live symbiotically in Lijiang but the most prominent tribe is the Naxi tribe. Their food is primarily vegetarian but a must try is their ox meat jerky – like our tapa but more spicy. Also try their deep friend goat cheese – like chicharon but creamier and light. Fresh fruits are also a must eat. it’s best to snack on that than the junk food, trust me. If you’re feeling adventurous, go ahead and try the friend insects. Trust me, they’re more delicious than you think.
A trip to Lijiang isn’t complete until you’ve gone to the fabled Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It’s a life milestone to be able to go up the peak, so go if you can; like physically able because believe me, the air gets really thin up there but they do have oxygen cans. Oh, and make sure you’re bundled up because cold doesn’t even begin to describe the temperature there.
Communicating in English may be a bit of a difficulty there so I would suggest you download Google Translate for your iPhone or Android phone. It’ll be very helpful especially if you’re kind of lost and in dire need of a bathroom.
Plan your trip to Lijiang if you’re one for adventure and culture. Enjoy!