27 December 2016

A Place Like Lijiang

Back on the travelling hype I boarded another K train from Dali to Lijiang, Yunnan. I was excited to be staying within Lijiang Old Town, leaving Dali on Christmas Eve I was ready to spend Christmas in Lijiang. Not wanting to rush, Lijiang had to put up with me for four days! So, Christmas time by the Black Dragon Pool and Boxing Day at the Baisha Murals? Yes, please Lijiang!

Not speaking Chinese can be a right pain in the you know what! I was dropped off by a taxi at the South Gate of Lijiang Old Town with only a Chinese address on my phone to show, I hadn't the foggiest! Admitting that I have a knack of getting lost when trying to find accommodation I was spared the embarrassment as a woman from a hotel in the old town helped call the hotel. In my defense the Old Town of Lijiang is made up of a myriad of small winding alley like streets, totally lacking in proper signage I admitted defeat! Paying my eighty Yuan conversation fee I was escorted to my hotel, noting key landmarks I got settled in to my room. Located no more than thirty paces from a quiet section of Lijiang Old Town, I felt pleased with my hotel due to its outstanding views and location that it possessed. Feeling like I was in a bubble, I had a feeling Lijiang Old Town would show me a lovely Christmas weekend. Breathe J!

Clocking that I had chose to visit during a quiet time I relished in those unspoiled moments, taking a stroll down the cobbled paths had to be done before the Spring Festival holiday crowds flooded the place. It was a winner! I grabbed some Yunnan flower cakes because they seemed like a popular tourist find within the old town, I recognised pretty quickly that lots of the same things were being sold at several shops, I didn't care because I was in such a blessed location and state of mind it wasn't an issue. I took a random turn towards a waterway, it was lined with more ancient looking buildings, I had done the right thing by getting to Lijiang! Christmas Eve was shaping up pretty fine from where I was standing, it would be another Chinese Christmas for 2016! I felt very foreign, I didn't see but five Western looking tourists, it was a theme that followed me during my time in Yunnan. Calling upon my APP of choice I found a shady little bar that served me well into the small hours! Yass Liji!

Feeling slightly worse for wear on that Christmas Day morning I found no presents but a visit to Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool sounded good to me! Keeping my Lijiang Old Town Conversation card I gained free access into this Yunnan wonder! I embraced that alternative Christmas Day moment from a neutral perspective because Christmas isn't a big deal in China at all. Getting a glimpse of the pool itself was amazing, I was afforded such an opportunity to see such a sight during a special day. Home seemed like a million miles away but family were still living Christmas Eve during that Black Dragon Pool visit. Formed during the Qing Dynasty in 1737, I was totally transfixed by the views over the water, it wasn't like any other Christmas moment that I had ever experienced before! Taking some time I sat overlooking the waters of the Black Dragon Pool, messaging by best ones to wish them a Happy Christmas back in Wuhan. Get made with it!

Leaving the protected Old Town of Lijiang was nice for that part of Christmas Day, the calming scenes that Black Dragon Pool oasis was the perfect mix as the Old Town's close feel lulled me into thinking I didn't need to leave to explore more. I was proud of myself, I had tried to completely navigate my holiday independently with the odd day trip I wasn't doing too badly with what I had seen so far in Lijiang. Being in China for Christmas the previous year meant a sorry attempt for a Christmas Dinner, embracing the lack of Xmas feeling the air I had a McDonald's for my Christmas Dinner, I had been travelling from place to place and it wasn't the easiest to find cheap food within the Old Town, it had to be done! I wasn't rushing, I told myself that with three full days of sightseeing allocated in Lijiang I could take it easy! Returning to my hotel it was time to chill-out for the rest of the afternoon before I called England in the early evening Beijing Time. No worries for everyone at home was fine!

Boxing Day had me exploring for something new, heading towards Baisha I wanted to see those murals quick snap! Taxi for Joe, I got my Chinese skills on because that diver was trying to rip me off! Leaving the security of Lijiang Old Town took me close the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the landscape may have looked parched but the skies were a perfect shade of blue! The Baisha Murals should of cost me eighty Yuan but with my conservation paper I got a hefty discount! Part of a Naxi settlement the murals had a story to tell me, it felt a lot less manicured than the other places that I had seen in Lijiang, I appreciated seeing things from both sides of the tourist curtain. I took some time to take in the beautifully aged murals, I enjoyed the peacefulness of Wechang Palace especially for its tranquil energy. Did I want to discover Baisha Village? I was more than cool with what I saw within that Naxi settlement. Yes, Baisha sure slayed!

Taking my time within the Baisha Mural site there was no need to clock watch, I had caught a few glimpses of the magnificent mountain but with a fear of heights I wasn't entertaining going to the top of those snowy peaks! No! Leaving those murals behind me I took a little walk further into the village along the main road, it was so quiet aside from the occasional car and bus passing by. In the distance I saw the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain for myself from the bottom, as I mentioned before I wasn't going up there! From what I saw the mountain looked amazing, set within a sight that transported me back to another time I was living for that un-touristy view. Lijiang gave me everything and more, I loved the Old Town even though it was quite commercial but I definitely had a room with view! Spending Christmas within one of Yunnan's gems I felt blessed, departing for Kunming was a bitter pill to swallow but I was more than ready to get back to the city after all that fresh air. Bye Lijiang!

Lovely Lijiang!

Joseph Harrison 

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