Lijiang - 丽江

by - June 01, 2014

Black Dragon Pool Park 
Lijang’s garish Old Town
We arrived on our sleeper train (the K9610) from Kunming at 7am and got a taxi to our hotel - the Panba Lakeside Hostel, on the northern edge of the town.  Lijiang was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1997 as the cultural home of the Naxi people.  Since then, it has become a major domestic tourist attraction and some would argue, lost a lot of its charm as it sought to cater for the influx of visitors.  Sitting in the shadow of the enormous 5600m tall Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijang sits in a valley along with a tapestry of small, picturesque villages which have done a better job of escaping the tourist hordes and remain a little truer to their roots.  As a result of this we decided to head to these villages first, hiring pedal bikes from our hostel and making our way about 15km north to the villages of Baisha and Shuhe.

The road north from Lijang towards Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
10000 Camellia Blossom Temple
The whole area around Lijiang appears to be undergoing quite a transformation and the skyline is dotted with tower cranes.  The rate of change is so fast that maps that were published a few years ago are often now hopelessly out of date, with vast new highways slicing across the valleys and facilitating a tourist industry that is set to keep on expanding.  The advantage of this for cyclists is that these highways are smooth, have dedicated cycle lanes and are relatively quiet.  Our first stop, beyond the village of Baisha would be the “10000 Camellia Blossom Temple”, home to an ancient tree that survived the cultural revolution (thanks to a brave monk).  The temple itself was not PARTICULARLY impressive, it must be said, but the journey was worthwhile as we cycled up the valley sides and got great views back towards the city.  The way up had been extremely hard work, but the way back down was very straight forward, downhill back to Baisha itself.  It was clear on arrival in the village that tourist commercialism was beginning to creep in, but it seemed nice and genuine enough for a brief stroll and lunch at a very authentic seeming restaurant.  This was soon followed by a visit to Shuhe, essentially a suburb of Lijiang itself which had retained the essential characteristics of the city (picturesque traditional streets etc) without absorbing quite so many tourists.

Shuhe Village
The food court in Lijiang
After returning from the outlying villages we made our way into the city centre via the Black Dragon Pool Park, a pleasant Chinese garden that was included in the price of a ticket we had bought earlier in the day.  The old town of Lijiang has been heavily renovated and, while probably being the liveliest place we would visit in Yunnan, felt like it had lost a bit of its character.  While retaining traditional architecture and narrow pedestrianised streets, the buildings were full of brightly lit shops and restaurants - as well as a few bars and clubs with loud music blaring.  It was still worth seeing however and there were a few gems - quiet temples, traditional shops and a large food court full of some of the best food I had tasted in all of my travels in China.  Lijiang is an excellent base to the surrounding villages and mountains and is also more comfortable and exciting than your average Chinese town - well worth a visit.

You May Also Like