On To Lijiang

30th August 2017

Always a sucker for a good reflectionToday we head north to Lijiang taking in sights and scenery en-route, though fortunately it is as shorter drive than the one to Dali. The first stop is a visit the small town of Xizhou to admire the local Bai architecture and also to visit their famous market, although we are not sure how this can be better than Dali.

Statue of a guardFirst stop is a small temple where we begin to learn a little about the religion of the local Bai people. In this region it is a mixture of a few religions combined with worshiping local revered people. The temples have different altars depending on who is being worshiped. Frequently there is a statue of a guard facing all the altars by way of protection. We are still in Dali prefecture which does not have the Tibetan influence which we will see later in Lijiang.

Tasty street foodOne of the houses in the Old Town has been turned into a souvenir shop, but gives us a chance to see the traditional interior. It comprises of several residences off the main courtyard, to house family members. It is usual practice for children to stay in the family home and look after their parents as they get older and no longer have income of their own. The local street food is inviting and we glimpse the food inside one oven as the top layer of coals is lifted to one side.

Poor little fishies at the marketBefore reaching the market Dave spots a quaint coffee shop, so we just have to stop. The coffee is freshly and carefully made, with a price to match the local branches of Starbucks. It is also a stopping place for an Australian couple and we can still count on one hand the number of westerners we have seen all week. Finally we reach the market, which was a typical market but did not inspire any great photos compared to yesterday.

Dancing without passionOn our way back to the car we detour to a small theatre for a tea drinking ceremony and traditional Bai dancing. We were given three small cups of different teas, all black and of varying degrees of sweetness. We did not understand a word but did note that the chaps did not look very happy at having to dance! A tour group appeared from nowhere to boost the numbers in the small audience. It is good that they are keeping the traditional dancing alive but this really was not our scene.

Keeping up the local traditionThere was one more stop before lunch and we had no idea where we were going as Teddy drove up an untarmacked road on the edge of a nearby town. We then continued on foot and entered what looked like a private house, which turned out to be a shop where they made the traditional blue and white batik fabrics.

Getting knottedWe watched the ladies making the fabric by firstly drawing a design onto white fabric before knotting threads around the designs to make the patterns. The resulting cloth looked like an octopus before it was dyed and then the threads which tied it up were all removed painstakingly by hand. We had seen the finished fabrics used as table clothes in Dali and now we know how it was made.

_DSF5619A two hour drive north finally brought us to Lijiang, where my blog officially starts. No cars are allowed into the Old Town so we loaded up with our backpacks and followed our new friend to the small guest house where we are staying for two nights.  Wending our way down paved streets past old wooden houses, now mainly tourist shops we found ourselves going through a small entrance into a small courtyard with half a dozen guest rooms. We do like staying in local traditional places and this certainly fitted that bill.

A nice cuppaBefore any formalities to check in we sat and had tea, ceremonially poured for us. The first hot water poured over the leaves is discarded and then replaced with more boiling water to make the tea. It is then strained into a second pot before serving in dainty cups. After the fourth or fifth refill we were ready to retire to our room and rest. A much more interesting and personal experience than the tea served this morning.

Old Town LijiangLijiang old town is a maze of little streets clustered around the river and as it says in Lonely Planet “you will get lost” which we did. It took us a few trips around town before we felt confident we could find our way back to our guest house unescorted, so we relied on our guide to lead us around. First stop was the Market Square, which is a large open area surrounded by yet more souvenir shops and restaurants.

Three pools for washingWe are curious about the three pools we keep seeing and Teddy explains they are divided up and the first is for drinking, the second for washing food, and the third for washing clothes. Glad to see it is equal opportunity washing!

Drum anyone?Why are there so many shops selling just drums where the store attendant sits playing and singing to recorded music? There is no history of drums in this region but the Chinese just like buying anything and so apparently after the first shop started doing a good trade others followed. Almost every building in town is either a shop, restaurant or food stall. A bit over the top, but that seems to be what the many Chinese tourists who fill the streets want.

Mr SmugAs the rain had stopped for a while we headed to a viewpoint overlooking town and get away from all the shops, but not the crowds. Being above the Old Town the view is of a mass of roof tops all close together. I expected Rowan Atkinson to appear any minute, as he does in the Snickers advert!

Mr Smug again!After an hour or so of just wandering around the streets we stop at a restaurant known to our guide for serving good fish and chips, as we had joked it would be our first meal on returning to the UK! The fish was delicious but the chips need more practice. We were quite chuffed that we deboned the fish just using chopsticks. Another delicious meal which we walked off by exploring the streets before heading back for a well deserved sleep.

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