Lijiang - The Real Shangri-la
Nuar lala (hello in the Naxi language),
Our next stop after Tibet was Lijiang for a total of 4 nights and 3 full days. We entered the picturesque town by walking on the cobblestone streets surrounded by rickety old buildings, lots of street venders, and streaming canals. I believe the overall consensus was that we all fell in love with this city the moment we entered the old town.
On the first day we had a walking tour of the old town and a visit to the Black Dragon Pool and the Naxi Museum. Lijiang is separated into two areas, an “old” and “new town”. Luckily our hotel and the main shopping/walking area are centered in the old town, which has an authentic and homey feel. The walking tour was a great way to meet our new tour guide, learn about the old town and its history, and to also find our way around the maze of narrow streets.
After our walking tour we hopped on the bus and drove to the Black Dragon Pool Park. “Apart from strolling around the pool – its view of Yulong Xueshan (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain) is the most obligatory photo shoot in southwestern China.” Since Lijiang has a mild summer and a mild winter it provides ample sunlight and heat which we were pleased to finally see. We also thoroughly enjoyed the scenic view of the green grass, colorful flowers, and blossoming trees – they were a great backdrop for picture taking! In addition to the natural sights, we appreciated seeing the local’s playing cards, taking walks, playing jump rope, and enjoying the warm afternoon.
Our last stop was the Naxi Museum. This museum represented the 286,000 people who call themselves the Naxi and who have been a minority to China for almost 1,400 years. “The Naxi descend from ethnically Tibetan Qiang tribes and lived until recently in matrilineal families. Since local rulers were always male it wasn’t truly matriarchal, but women still seem to run the show, certainly in the old part of Lijiang.” At this museum we learned of the Naxi’s different language (both written and spoken), the traditional clothing that the men and women wear, the animals they do not eat and hold with high respect (frogs, dogs, horses), and many facts about their matriarchal society. We also had the opportunity to partake in having personalized scrolls made by the Dongba , “the Naxi shamans who were caretakers of the written language and mediators between the Naxi and the spirit world”.
The second day brought a full-day tour to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (the mountain we took photographs of at the Dragon Pool Park) with a grand uplift to the Glacier Park. Some of the students were nervous to ride the cable car to the top of the mountain, but we all decided to get over our fear and go to the top! The view going up the mountain was breathtaking; however, even the bold students felt a rush while riding in the small cable cars. Once at the top, some of the students took yet another challenge of hiking the many stairs to the tippy top of the mountain in order to see a bird’s eye view of the Glacier Park. Those students were very excited when making it to the top, an astounding 15,000 feet above sea level (without the use of Oxygen might I add)!
After the exhausting ride and hike, we loaded the bus to eat lunch and visit the Black Water River and the Baisha village. At the river some students decided to dress up in traditional Naxi attire and ride a yak! This experience was not only hilarious, but a once in a lifetime chance to ride a yak along with the bonus of the clothes and the mountains in the background. Once our laughs were complete, many pictures were taken, and our dreams of wearing costumes were accomplished, we made our trip to the Baisha village. Baisha, a very small village, is the capital of the Naxi kingdom. Here we studied the Naxi culture, viewed murals that were over 500 years old (encrusted with diamonds and gold), and had a walking tour of the traditional, yet dusty, village.
It’s apparent that we are very busy in this extraordinary city and are happy to spend many days here in order to absorb the wonders that this place has to offer. Until the next entry of the remainder adventures in Lijiang, we wish you warm wishes!