May 26 and 27 Lijiang

Finally I find myself in Lijiang early the 26th after that unexpected overnight in Kunming. I had been thinking about staying in a real hotel and given the circumstances of my arrival it seemed even more appealing. So here I am in the Grand Lijiang Hotel, 40 bucks agent rate. With a TV and room service and everything.

Lijiang is actually a fairly big place but it is famous for its spring-like climate and for its Old Town, all the building being as they were 800 years ago having survived many earthquakes entirely intact.

That seems true, that the buildings could very well be 800 years old but every single one of them is now filled top to bottom side to side front to back with stuff for sale. This picture does not do justice to anything about it but it is unlikely I'll venture back in there for another shot as the experience was terrifying.
So I just had to settle down and buy some food. Waaay too much food, all very very tasty and all new to me so that was a great delight.

The community around here is more than 60% Naxi people (pronounced Nashee) and their food, language, clothes, customs, etc. are all unique from 'main land' Chinese.

This is Naxi food including: a local stewed tofu specialty with a thick sauce and yummy ginger, then there is 'fried pea jelly salad', dark gelatinous bits with a flavorful tempura like coating, and then a 'Naxi pancake' with sheets of crisp oily tasty dough and a sweet and spicy filling that I have no idea what it was.
This pic definately needs brightening or new color or something which, bad as it is, he's still a dang cutie. He and the woman he was with were exchanging these photo-ops like they All do Everywhere.
I'll actually visit this place another day.
Dinner! Old Town is far too chic and touristified for street food. This place was just a block away, near the internet place.
So here I am in this fancy-pants hotel and their Business Center has a couple of internet computers neither of which has a cd reader.

Which means I'm wondering around this busy town late at night looking for an internet cafe/bar which everyone understood what I was looking for and each one would point off into space, where I would go, not see anything promising, and the next person would point in a different direction, and I would go there.

That's because, come to find out, these places are everywhere, are unrelated to anything resembling a cafe or a bar and you get to them by walking down some dark alley, up a barren flight of green-fluorescent-lit stairs and then you enter this unbelievable space. This is half of the room. There were easily 150 seats and all but a few of them were full. It was a staggering experience.
All of the Old Town streets run along a winding network of streams that fan out around the hills to create the water front-streets that give the place much of its character. This is just at the end, in the flat lands. My hotel is on the other side of the stream from this lively restaurant.
Now it's the next day, May 27th, and I've let the hotel people convince me to get a driver rather than try and do the main sightseeing on my own. I wasn't so hard to convince...

The big attraction outside town (and it's a five star spot in all the books) is Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Today it was more like Jade Dragon Cloud Mountain because not once was the Dragon visible. Oh well.
On the way we stopped off at a tourist-ride-a-yak place. Those yaks are something all right.
There are three different gondola rides to different heights on the mountain. Since the top was so clouded in I opted for the middle distance.

Not entirely off topic - I heard on tv this morning a commentary about super-models in China. I was listening to this story because it was on the only English language channel. It was mostly a pitch about how great is the fashion biz but then they also said that foreign models sometimes have a problem in China because the Chinese people like their models to have a smile on their face.

I'm not making this up. These are a cheery folk.
Once the photo thing got started Every Single One who passed me waved or smiled and then it seemed to me they would look disappointed if I didn't snap them because I had snapped the people before them so I ended up with maybe thirty shots of people waving and smiling.
More. It was really tough to choose which to put in so I basically just went for the ones that were most in focus.
It was a cloudy day!
Then there are all those pictures from up at the viewing locations which I am sparing you.
I decided to try and avoid eye contact going down, but no luck. People called out to me 'Helllooo' and 'Welcome to China' and 'How are youuu?!' So I ended up with twenty more cool pix.
We drove back through the countryside and climbed a small hill to see the lake in the distance and to admire all the crops - corn, wheat, rice, fruit trees, tomatoes, gorgeous watermelons, some plant that they turn into oil, and other things that I did not recognize.
My driver! We met up with a crowd of guys trying to get you to rent one of their horses for a nice run along the lake bed. He's just sitting there I think as a pitch for me, to show how much fun it is. I resisted and now I wonder why! Why!?! I love to ride horses and these were adorable and sweet, small, strong, healthy, and entirely different from trail horses back home.

Having returned to the hotel I messed with these pictures and then went to the internet emporium to load them up. This being my second time there the shock factor (mine And theirs!) was not in evidence and it all went very smoothly.

Tomorrow is another day!
May 28 Lijiang

ALL the ladies use umbrellas when they promenade the Old Town. It must be a giveaway with the tour groups. And it's not because of rain but rather the relentless sun.

And also I think because it has now become something stylish that Everyone does.
I did skirt the Old Town perimeter and thought I had solved my shopping-freak-out problem by enjoying one of these comfy low outside chairs where I intended to eat lunch and have a peaceful people-watching couple of hours.

But it was not to be. Twenty-five American tourists poured in just as I got settled and the noise of them was just too much. So I moved to the upstairs dining area...
...which looked down on their pantry.
This threesome then joined me - a guide in the middle and her two Aussie charges. They were all quite delightful and we shared a lovely lunch hour.
I then had to take a nice rest what from all that socializing afterwhich I spent the late afternoon here, at yet again another tourist attraction. I haven't even told about them all because it's all the same. You pay a bunch to look at re-created/re-furbished/re-concieved history in a park like setting.

This is as clear as Jade Dragon Snow Mountain has shown herself to me.
Although there were signs all over the place about don't mess with the environment there were crowds of people, some with big baskets of bottles on their backs, some with pails as these guys, all taking water from the lake.
Another one of those views.

Tomorrow will be a nice long travel day. If everything goes exactly as planned I'll be in Yangshuo tomorrow night, or I could be in Guilin if one thing goes wrong, or in Kunming again if another thing goes wrong, or even still here. I'm entertained just thinking about it!
May 29 and 30 travel to Yangshuo

The mighty Yangtse.

Everything went well as far as the travel connections and I arrived as scheduled except for the unfortunate circumstance that I was blowing my nose and coughing like a living fool.

I took the first place available just so I could lay me down to sleep and the next morning I looked at other options and changed, still sick like dog.
I took one picture in two days, the one above. This is a shot from Beijing but repeated all over, men at their games.

At the new place the manager was clearly distressed about my condition. He brought me packets of something that you drink with hot water and then after I had one he said 'ok, let's go see doctor.' No, no I replied, I'm fine, really. 'OK, let's go see doctor.' Really, I just need to sleep. 'OK, let's go see doctor.'

Then it occured to me that since SARS hotel people might be responsible to see that strange foreign women don't bring an epidemic to China so I said 'OK, let's go.' Off we went on his motorbike to the see the doctor.
I'm not going to tell about it now because I don't have any pictures and it would take the whole morning to describe without pictures. I'm going to walk back down there today and see if I can get any shots.

Suffice for now to say my back looks like the bark of a giant old growth Sequoia. Also, I am feeling better...
May 31 Yangshou

Those are called Karst mountains, they are fabulous, and you can't see squat. The weather reminds me of a rain forest in that the air (All of it) is filled with a hot wet mist that periodocially condenses into rain.

I was better this day but not well and the heat and humidity was pretty debilitating so I couldn't get around much but this is as good a place as any to just hang loose.
More of my ongoing efforts to make Chinese brush paintings without having to go to the bother of learning how.
Yangshou is a town for sure, but smaller than the others I've been to and the pace is much more leisurely.

One thing is that there is a much higher percentage of Western independent travelers and the streets are not overwhelmed with giant busloads of Chinese tourists pouring out enmasse.

They cater to Western style with the several streets devoted to hostels, cafes, and bars with Chinese and Western food.
Another view. I'm going to try and arrange a river ride as soon as I feel up to it.
This is an example of how the mountains look close up and climbing is a big attraction.

The hotel guy who took me to the doctor the first day took me to his house for dinner the second day. So now I have two big stories and need to get those PICS!
June 1 Yangshou

I met these Canadian guys at breakfast - Norm on the left, an animation designer working in Shanghai and his cousin Jim, a retired air traffic controller, and come to find out we were at the same hotel.

They had some cool plans for the afternoon and invited me to join them which I happily accepted.
But first, the torrential downpour. Waiting out the rain I just HadTa have my picture with this guy. No problem, 5 yuan.
The plan was to hit the countryside with motorscooters and a guide. First, not reeealy knowing how to start the thing I about took out the whole rank of scooters after which I instead of Jim rode with the guide...

Gorgeous, no? That's a bamboo grove in the middle distance.
This guy, like the fellow with the cormorants, are a bit like props, just hanging around waiting for tourists to happen-by and then get money for taking their picture.

Personal Capitalism at work.
An aquaduct.
Our lovely guide DongDong.
June 2 Yangshou

This picture is from yesterday. It's Moon Hill and a popular hiking destination. I did not hike. Basically, I haven't stopped sweating since I got here (from the Heat and Humidity, not from being sick!).
The fellow at the hotel who took me for the suction-cup treatment. My back still looks like a dragon's!

Then we went to what he called his building for dinner. There were many streets like his nestled among the karst hills with buildings like his all side by side and looking like they were put up individually by the residents.

They were very big inside and he lived there with his wife and 13 year old son. All the buildings had a similar design - big double doors on the first floor where the living area and kitchen opened onto the street, a social hall really, and people sat out visiting, eating, and playing cards. Then the next floor had a lounge and two large bedrooms. The next floor was the same, a lounge and two bedrooms, and the fourth floor had a big studio and an outdoor patio with a fantastic view.

Again, more photos for later.
I went to a great park today. A real People's Park. Despite all the tourists in town I didn't see another one here, Western looking ones anyway.

There were lively groups of card players, badminton games, these lawn bowlers...
...and folks just out for a stroll.
This is the path to a hike I did take up one of the karst hills to a small temple that overlooks the whole city. I have a nice panorama from up there and I'll put it together soon.

Sweat was the order of the day. Phew.

Also I didn't fall. I haven't fallen once yet and every every day many times I tell myself to be careful Be CAREFUL. Don't get all puffy about not having fallen YET!
You have to search far and wide to find any evidence at all that there ever was the Red China of our youth.
It rained about every night.

This night I enjoyed another huge massage. It is really such a fantastic treat. I'm now getting hooked on the 'no oil' style. There is nothing new-age-ie about it here!
June 3 Yangshou and travel to Shanghai

Today it's an outing on the river with the boys before the trip to Shanghai.
They had arranged in advance for a private guide and this boat, a barge-like thing with sliding windows and a sliding roof.

We took the public bus to a town about 30 minutes up river where a woman met us, walked us to her restaurant where her husband walked us to his nephew's boat, who did the trip and then took us to his parents ferryboat to return us back to the original woman's restaurant. Very all in the family!

We were the only guests on the boat, and travel aboard made us all recall fondly our expectations of The African Queen.
View view view.
We shared the river with a flotilla of tourboats. One after the other after the other they just kept coming, we hugging the banks or taking their wake.
Everybody's having fun!

Getting to Shanghai all worked tickety-boo and I'm sitting here now in my room with a/c, tv, a great shower and an internet connection. A little too cush maybe? To make up for the lux I do have to walk to the fourth floor as the building does not have an elevator!
HomeAsia • China • '05 Jun: Lijiang and Yangshuo

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