I hate to say this, but I found Yunnan to be one of the more overrated travel destinations I’ve been to (another one being Venice, Italy). I was incredibly looking forward for this trip as I heard many good things about the scenery and I have a passion for spicy food, but Yunnan did not live up to its expectations. I must make a disclaimer though that the time spent for this trip was relatively short, and I would suggest at least a week to visit all the scenery provinces in Yunnan. Instead, we ended up spending 5 days (4 days of sightseeing, the last day was just getting to the airport) at Lijiang and Shangri-La.
Booked through ctrip.com. ctrip.com is a travel booking website good for booking flights and hotels, especially for China (family told me good for Japan as well).
The host was incredibly nice towards us. He had an extremely caring attitude and was also very helpful in giving us directions and suggesting us places to eat and places to go. He even told us that if we ever got lost in Old Town of Lijiang, he would be more than willing to guide us back to the hotel. It’s a small hotel and very cozy. Location is a bit hidden. It however does not have an air con in the room, but it wasn’t a problem even in September. If I were to go to Lijiang again, I would definitely choose to come back here. Newly opened in July.
We arrived to Kunming Changshui International Airport. This wasn’t our final stop however. We waited a couple of hours before boarding the next plane that took us to Lijiang.
Taxis in Lijiang
Arrived in the evening at Lijiang. We managed to grab a bus from the airport that took us near Old Town and switched from a Taxi to get there. We weren’t able to get off directly in front of Xinhua street as Old Town is pretty much a pedestrian area, so we had to get off nearby Old Town and walked about 10 minutes to get to our destination.
After dropping off our baggages at the hotel, we walked around Old Town. At first, I was pretty thrilled as there were many local street eateries, and I am a big fan of street food. As we walked street after street, we noticed that the foods and shops in each street was pretty much the same. Walking down one street at Old Town pretty much felt like you’ve walked the entire district.
What I was impressed though was that the architecture of the Old Town really felt like China during the ancient times; I can completely imagine the architecture to be similar to what would have been many centuries ago. Amongst many old architectures, Old Town was one of the more unique and memorable ones.
One of these skewer stores tried to deceive us. We asked for a lamb and chicken skewer. A woman grabs two skewers from the same plate. I asked if it was chicken and lamb, she said yes. Tasted it, turns out both were chicken. We started arguing. They said they will give us a discount (so they can shoo us away). I was pissed! Be careful of what you are getting.
What shocked me the most in Lijiang was that the bars there were playing EDM music… some of which weren’t even as commercial as the ones playing in Hong Kong. It felt like the city’s nightlife was just as modern as any, but this only extends to its musical tastes. Its nightlife consists of mainly bars and night “clubs”. Not the clubs with a huge dance floor and a DJ spinning at the booth, but wooden restaurant tables where you sit down and there are performers on the stage singing Chinese music. Later at night, some bars turn to a DJ set and start playing EDM stuff.
Also, like most tourist areas, Old Town of Lijiang prices were incredibly expensive in relation to what you can buy from outside of it. The same snack found in supermarkets cost 3 times as much in Old Town, and food prices are doubled of that compared to local areas. In what is considered a second tier city, it is really expensive (more expensive than Seoul, slightly more expensive than Hong Kong).
We booked a one day tour to visit the scenery of Lijiang’s through this website: http://trip.taobao.com/. You can book many trips in China via this website.
Our first stop was going to see the Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture. As the name suggests, the museum provided some of its artwork, its winery, and some beautiful scenery to accompany the area.
Then, we went to see the Naxi Impression Show. Don’t worry if it rains by the way – special rain coats are provided as well. By the way, the show’s director is Zhang Yimou, who also directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics 2008.
The show was quite impressive and the choreography of the show was well thought out for the scale of the production. For those interested in learning about the Naxi culture and traditions (Naxi – minority group in China), this show is well worth watching. Of course, I would recommend that you also read up about this culture first so that the show would be more fulfilling.
Next, we went to the infamous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. If you are reading this, please note that if you can, do try to go before 2014 as they are planning to increase the price upwards to RMB 5,000 – RMB 10,000 in 2015. The reason for this is because they want to reduce the number of tourists visiting the area to protect this attraction.
Briefly speaking, you get driven up to about 3,300m high in altitude, then you take a cable car that brings you all the way up to 4,500m in about 15 minutes time. And during that trip, there may be times where you see nothing but clouds and fog and it can be a little terrifying if you are scared of heights. Upon reaching the end of the cable car, you are then welcomed by snow. But it doesn’t end there… you can walk up an additional 700 metres of height (trust me, it’s much more difficult than it reads, especially in high altitude) to get to the top point (not of the mountain, but of the allowed area). It’s very nice, but I can’t say it’s one of the more beautiful snow areas I’ve observed. When finished, you take the cable car for the descent.
Please note that this trip may not be suitable if you have altitude sickness, heart problems, high blood pressure, or if you are pregnant (list is not exhaustive). We were given oxygen canisters as the air can become thin the higher up we go. I also felt not very well on the descent down from the cable car. There have been people who tested their body limits and have resulted in severe sickness and sometimes even death from attempting this trip. Do know your limits!
After this attraction, we were then taken to the Blue Moon Valley. Actually, this was one of the attractions that actually lived up to its name. During olden days, marriages between the young Lijiang Naxi people were arranged by their parents. Of course, not all youths will agree to this and end up courting somebody else that they love. Should this couple get the approval of their parents, they will then marry. If not, these couples will resort to suicide. Usually, they will come to this beautiful place called Blue Moon Valley for this suicide ritual. Instead of calling this the place where couples suicide (which I mistakenly did), the Lijiang people refer to this place as (The Lovers’ Tears).
Surprisingly, this beautiful area was less than 20 mins drive from the Snow Mountain. Now from looking at these pictures, you may be asking whether this is natural. From talking to the locals, they say that the water is natural (yes that sky light blue is natural!) but the water terraces are refurbished to make them prettier.
Lijiang is also famous for its salmon, although I must say it wasn’t the most pleasant sight to see how the salmon was treated. They are also famous for black mountain goat meat as well. We had both food items for hot pot.
*Originally published on Sept. 16, 2014