I will try to keep it brief today, as although we did lots of walking, we didn’t see very much.
Starting out in Lijiang Old town, we very quickly were intercepted by the Lijiang tourist police. We didn’t have a ticket! Apparently the old town is UNESCO listed (well, we knew that) and as a tourist, you need to buy a pass to enable you to walk around the city. There are checkpoints everywhere, and, as such, we ran into one just up from the hotel. Arriving at dark yesterday meant that there was nobody manning the booths to sell or check tickets, and we had walked straight in. Today, we needed to buy a ticket. 80 yuan each. Still, that is easier than trying to avoid all the road blocks and checks. Tickets in hand we walked further into the old town. It is very similar to Dali, to the extent that there are all the same tourist shops selling the same things. If you took the two towns and put them together you would be hard pressed to spot anything that would separate them from each other. Lijiang has a series of canals that run through old town with bridges linking the different sections together, this is the main difference.
Having said that, it is a winding series of low buildings and courtyards. Yes, it was overflowing with tourists and the shops were the same repeating pattern of drum shop (all playing the same music and some people halfheartedly playing on a set of bongos), jewelry shop, travel agency selling tours, scarf shop, tea shop, kids toy shop and back to drum shop. The architecture is very different to normal Chinese towns and cities now, as the latter usually is anything from a 4 story building to unending series of 35 story buildings. This is low, at two stories maximum, very little advertising by Chinese standards, and car free. Yes, there were bikes still whizzing around and people everywhere, but you can move on the streets.
In this fashion we came to the large central square (after a few more checkpoints). There was tourist information here, but it was useless, another pointless exercise in trying to get information on what to see and do in a region. A large waterwheel had also been set up on the stream to show how things were done back in the day.
As this was the northern part of old town, we decided to walk to the black dragon pools. This park area is almost due north, and an easy stroll. Paying for entry (It is China after all) and heading in. The first thing you see is a very beautiful lake with bridge and pavilion on it with the sacred Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as its backdrop. It is a beautiful sight, and the clouds were forming up and streaming off the peak. If the eternal haze of Chinese construction ever cleared up it would be a great place to sit, relax and compose poetry as they had done back in the day. As it was, the mountain barely 25km away had a haze over it that softened the outline against the sky.
The walk around the Black Dragon Pool is a pleasure on a bright sunny day. There are a few shops selling drinks and ice creams, and others doing food, but it is not overdone at all. Pavilions and buildings dot the park and some even have small exhibitions in them. Most however were closed or empty.
Back to town, we caught the traditional dancing in the main square. This is put on for tourists every evening and is an entertaining way to pass the time. We didn’t stay for all of it as the sound levels were atrocious. We were being deafened by the screeching of annoyed cats and fingernails being run down blackboards, whilst being crowded out by people taking incessant photos of themselves with the dancers somewhere in the background.
The dancing was good, the singing may have been ok if the audio equipment had been set up properly, and when the old “shaman” came out it was great to watch the energy in his dancing. We don’t think we missed much, but it was a pity that we just couldn’t stay there. As it is my ears are still ringing.