Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dali _Lijiang (China-Yunnan)

Reached Lijiang bus station at around 7pm. Through my research I only read about Lijiang and the old town being Shu He. However when we reached, we were told there was Lijiang ancient city as well. Before we made our way to the ancient city, we decided to not take the risk and check out the train tickets back to Kunming to catch our flight back to shanghai 3 days later.
But there was no public bus from the bus station to the train station so we had to sit a taxi who quoted us 30 RMB.

Fortunately we made the decision to do so. When we inquired at the train station, all the tickets were gone for the date and time that we wanted so we had to reschedule our plans to arrive in Kunming earlier. The train tickets for the soft sleeper were estimated 225 RMB per pax and the hard sleeper 180 RMB per pax and the hard seater 90 RMB per pax - we decide to go for the hard seater ( which was not too bad - elaborate in the later paragraphs) And when we reached our hostel, we were told that because it was the peak season, bookings for trains can only be done at the train station. At the train station to the ancient city, you can take bus #13 at 2RMB per pax which arrives at the door step or you can take the minivans around that leaves once its full at 10RMB per pax.

you can make a wish by lighting the lantern. Light it and let it flow on the small river that they have in the middle of the town.

And their huge entertainment cultural stage and singers.

We were forewarned that the place would be touristy, but we did not imagine it to be that extent. Everything there was so costly! Imagine a normal small plate of noodles to be 25RMB ($5) for street side stores. Imagine just a little of dried meat cost 35 RMB ($7). And they had lots of entertainment night life there with stages of performances and all. Not my cup of tea.
( In my mind, I was thinking: I should have stayed in Dali longer)

One of the good meal there! @ SHAANXI speciality

The famous Over the bridge noodles. Where they will put all the ingredients on a plate, then pour it in front of you. I find it a little salty. It is to be shared by 3 if not 4.

But the hostel that we stayed in was a comfort.
Garden Inn
They had a friendly boss and I spent the whole night talking to her. She also has very friendly and helpful staff.

Next day, we escaped the town life for the Tiger Leaping Gorge - which was really the highlight of the Lijiang trip. We booked with our hostel and left our hostel at 830 in the morning. ( our hostel was very kind to let us put our luggage with them while we took a set of clothes for our trek). ps: If you need breakfast, the hostel will also prepare it for you, just order it the night before.

We however only got to the bridge at 11am or so as there were jams due to many tour buses and tractors on the same roads and all traffic going in all directions. At the bridge, we had to change vans as the vans only with the R license plate could bring us into that part. (Tiger leaping Gorge belonged to the government of Shangri-la I think)

And we had to pass by the ticket counter. It is RMB 50 for Adult and RMB 25 for Student of any countries ( However! You need to be below the age of 24 so.. remember to bring your student card) They will verify your student ID with your passport.

Along the way we also met some locals who were catching cicadas for food!

Tiger leaping Gorge is one of the best treks I have done. The scenery and the trek was lovely. Personally I do not think a guide is necessary as they have arrows and signs to point you to the right direction ( as shown below).

Tiger Leaping Gorge is a canyon on the Yangtze River, between two snow mountains! The trek is about 20km long and you see some spectacular scenery! It is called Tiger Leaping Gorge because supposedly a tiger leapt across the roaring waters once while being chased by hunters.

We started the trail at Qiao Tou ( walk along the roads about 200m after they drop you off at Jane's Guesthouse and there will be a sign that says tiger leaping - if you have luggage, you can drop it off at Jane's guesthouse for a small fee - but the troublesome thing is you have to get a minivan to send you back to Jane's from Tina to collect your bags). We hiked 1.5 hours ( it felt like quite some time though) and our hunger set in so we stopped over at Naxi Family Guest House to have lunch and take a rest. I like its fried rice!

We then quickly continued on to Teahorse guest house ( where we considered if we should stay there or continue on to Halfway House) so the next day would be a more relaxing trek and we would have more time to catch the bus that goes back to Lijiang at 10am-1030am. There is only 2 buses back to Lijiang which is at 10am or 4pm. Along the way, you will meet a lot of locals who will offer you horse-back riding to Halfway or Teahorse ( imagine how hardworking, they follow up all the way up offering you horse back riding and if you do not take, they take another half of day going down the trek with their horses). But really, though it will be relaxing, to sit a horse on a cliff where the paths are so narrow and a misstep might led to the end of your life, not really keen on being so high up on the horse. - Pardon my fear of heights.
They will keep telling you how difficult the supposed famous 28 bends
二十八弯 (Er shi Ba Wan) will be. It is tiring but bearable. Push on!

We managed to reach Teahorse at 5:30pm and we were worried if it would become dark soon however we decide to just continue on (1.5 hours more of trekking to reach Halfway) and boy was it worthwhile. The balcony that Halfway hostel had was breathtaking. The rooms in Tiger leaping Gorge are also very cheap ( 60RMB for a room with 2 beds). If I had more time, I would have stayed there for another day.
Note: The sun only sets around 8pm so no worries about the dark.

We woke up early the next day to catch the sun rise. Look at the picturesque scene in front of my window that greeted me when I opened my eyes. Splendid! Despite the beautiful scenery, we had to pack our bag and try and make it back down for the 1030am bus.

Crossing waterfalls and slippery narrow steep paths and numerous cicadas that flew to my face; hat and clothes - we finally made it to Tina's guesthouse for the bus at 1024am. Alas! Guess what. The bus just left at 1020am. Why did it not wait for us? I was so frustrated. So I begin to ask what other ways could we make it down. But the lady at counter of Tina keep telling me wait for 4pm - I had heard good reviews of the owner of Tina, so I was wondering why she was so unfriendly to me. So I asked the other locals that were in the guesthouse ; after probing, they finally told me there is 2 ways:
(i) Transport in the minivan for RMB 350 from Tina's to Lijiang (where they will arrange the transport from the bridge back to lijiang) or
(ii) I can have the Transport to the bridge for RMB 120 and later wait and try and get my own transport back to Lijiang
( the latter would be a cheaper way but I did not want to take the risk of getting stranded at the bridge for hours - however when we got there, I realise there were many minivans back to Lijiang there).
Anyway I decided with the former, however to make it less costly, I waited for more people to share the minivan with me. Thankfully, 2 korean guys and 2 germans came down the gorge after I had waiting for around 1.5 hours and we decide to share the cost and take the minivan directly to Lijiang.
Note: The bus costs 50RMB per pax so if you miss the bus, gather the people and get the minivan. Its faster too.

The jams had cleared and we got to Lijiang within 3 hours. We decided we had enough of Lijiang ancient city so we made our way to Shu He ( which guidebooks said was less touristy.)
And it was a good choice! Shu He had a very relaxing feel.

When we arrived in Shu He, we were in the new town of Shu He but we did not know that. we searched around for a hostel and decided to go with Mapleleaf Inn that had very nice rooms but cost us RMB 160 for a room with 2 beds, own toilet and TV. It was worth it though.

And we started walking round but realised that after walking for an hour, we had covered the whole town but could not see the food places we saw on lonely planet.
So I told my brother, lets explore outside. And just 5 minutes walk away, we found Shu He old town. It was in the same compound but you had to go out the new town walk past the hotel and you will see it. The feeling there was so peaceful. It felt a little like Dali except a bit more cosmopolitan.
And we found a very good hotel with good environment and atmosphere - I will stay there if I go there again! And its about RM230.

Oh! Before I forget. Remember to go and eat at Naxi Snowflower restaurant- recommended by Lonely planet.
They have very good food at reasonable price! Delicious!

The next day we had to catch our train from Lijiang to Kunming early in the morning. So we woke up early and wanted to take a cab but the cabs were charging us above the supposed price. And I saw the minivan that could take me to bus #13 bus stop to take to the bus station at 2 RMB ( or was it 5RMB - I forgot) for each pax. So we boarded the minivan and after took the public bus to the train station.

Here's us at the hard sleeper seats. Its good!! Much better than the India ones I had sat. The india one that I had sat, had other people legs dangling in front of my face and beggars grabbing my feet all the way. But if you are a person that is really particular with cleanliness and noise, it might not be suitable for you - as the Chinese has a habit of eating guazi that they eat and throw on the ground and there are also people selling and showcasing items on the train for purchase such as toys and portable dining utensils set.

Bye Bye Lijiang!

Here are some of the famous to-gos in Lijiang - taken from the hostel where you can go with guides or tour groups there.

Lugu Lake! I want to go there the next time!! I heard its nice!

Gorge river and Tiger leaping Gorge
Jade dragon snow mountain

Horse-riding at the plains
And eat their local food
at a cost of RM15. And it is very spicy!

Cheers. Hope the trip in Lijiang has been informative!

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