China Day 13: Xi’an and The Terracotta Army

Not the best night sleep but an experience nevertheless. Our Chengdu to Xi’an sleeper train had lights out at just after 23.00 and then back on at 6.30 with food sellers and drink sellers passing through, calling out and generally making a lot of noise. It was time to wake up!

We arrived in a cold, grey, drizzly Xi’an at 8.05 as scheduled where we transferred onto a private coach to take us to the HNA Business Hotel in downtown Xi’an. The lobby is nice, the room is good, the bathroom is good and the towels are white and fluffy – at last! We were able to check in when we arrived at 9.30 and have a shower and change of clothes before meeting up in the lobby at 10.30. It was then back on our coach and off to see The Terracotta Army, a journey that took an hour through amazingly heavy traffic in all directions. We had a dedicated guide, Roger, who travelled with us to give us the history of this amazing discovery.

The site of The Terracotta Army was discovered by a group of peasants who uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby to the royal tomb in 1974. It caught the attention of archeologists who immediately came to Xi’an in droves to study and extend the digs and established beyond doubt that these artifacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty.

The Terracotta Army is a large collection of terracotta sculptures reproducing the imperial guard troops of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210BC), the first emperor of the first unified dynasty of Imperial China. Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13, Emperor Qin Shi Huang began to prepare for his mausoleum and it took 11 years to finish. The Terracotta Army was constructed to accompany the tomb of the Emperor as an afterlife guard. The thousands of detailed life-size models were molded in parts, fired, then assembled and painted.

The State Council authorised the building of a museum on the site in 1975. The museum covers an area of 16,300 square meters and is divided into three sections: No. 1 Pit, No. 2 Pit, and No. 3 Pit respectively. They were tagged in the order of their discoveries. No. 1 Pit is the largest and first opened to the public on China’s National Day, October 1st, 1979.

The museum buildings and surrounding park are all done extremely well (as is everything here in China) and is incredible. The scale of the find and the detail of the Terracotta Army figures is unbelievable with no two figures being the same.

Once we got back we had a couple of hours of much needed downtime as we were all feeling a bit weary from the less than perfect nights sleep the previous night. We all met up once again in the lobby at 18.30 to go on a brief orientation walk with Ricky before being taken to a famous Xi’an restaurant for a Dumpling Banquet, dumplings being the local specialty of Xi’an. Our Dumpling Banquet was fantastic and we were served with a total of 16 different types of dumplings during the course of the meal – all of which were deliciously tasty. Apparently they eat very little rice in this part of China as they can’t grow rice here due to the lack of water so eat noodles and dumplings instead.

Xi’an is a busy vibrant city and is the capital of Shaanxi Province, located in the centre of the Guanzhong Plain in Northwest China. Xi’an has a population of nearly 9 million and is the most populous city in Northwest China. The majority of Xi’an residents are Han Chinese, who make up 99.1 percent of the city’s total population. It is one of the oldest cities in China and Xi’an is a beginning and end of the Silk Road. Since the 1990s, as part of the economic revival of inland China, Xi’an has re-emerged as an important cultural, industrial and educational centre of the central-northwest region, with facilities for research and development, national security and China’s space exploration program.

After dinner Mr L and I spent an hour or so wandering around the bright, busy, frenetic Muslim Market in the Muslim Quarter which has been the home of the city’s Hui community, non-Uighur Chinese Muslims, for centuries.

The narrow lanes are full of all sorts of shops and food stalls. The Muslim community in Xi’an is home to over 20,000 Muslims. There are about ten mosques in the area of the Muslim Quarter, among which the Great Mosque in the Huajue Lane is the most famous and popular. We plan to go back and visit the Mosque on Sunday morning and if we have time to also go and see the city wall. Xi’an City Wall is the most complete city wall that has survived in China and is 8.5 miles to walk or cycle along.

There are two major landmarks visible on the Xi’an skyline – the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower. The Drum Tower is located northwest of the Bell Tower of Xi’an, across the Bell Tower and Drum Tower Square. Both of them are called the ‘sister buildings’ or ‘morning bell and dark drum’; the Bell Tower used to have a bell that was rung at dawn and the Drum Tower was used to marked nightfall. In ancient China, especially from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the drums were also used as an alarm in emergency situations.

Definitely feeling weary now so time to head back to the hotel and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Distance walked: 20,145 steps / 8.69 miles

 

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China Day 12: Chengdu and the Pandas

We were up packed, checked out and luggage stored at reception by 7.50 this morning and then on our coach to take us to the Chengdu Panda Base. Travelling at morning rush hour was an interesting experience. There was a phenomenal amount of traffic and a layer of smog covered the city. Ricky informed us that car number plates ending in certain numbers cannot drive on fixed days each week as a way to try and reduce traffic. There is a similar scheme in Beijing. Cars share the road with innumerable scooters and cycles.
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There are also many cycle hire schemes in Chengdu to encourage people to cycle rather than drive. Scooters seem to be mostly electric, but it is difficult to know what percentage of cars are electric or hybrid here in Chengdu as compared to the high number we have noted in the previous cities we have visited.

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, or simply Chengdu Panda Base, is a non-profit research and breeding facility for giant pandas and other rare animals. It was founded in 1987 and started with 6 sick and starving giant pandas that were rescued from the wild. Currently, it has now had 116 panda births resulting in 172 newborn pandas, and the captive panda population has grown to 113.

Giant pandas are found only in the Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces of China.  They have been around for 8 million years and evolved during the last Ice Age to eat a diet of bamboo as this is a fast growing crop. They have to eat huge quantities each day and spend the time in between sleeping. Female pandas in the wild who give birth to twins will pick the fittest baby and rear that one leaving the other one to die.  The advantage of the Panda Base is that it hand rears the other twin for twin births in captivity thus increasing the giant panda population.

As a result of farming, deforestation and other development the giant panda has been driven from the lowland areas in which it once lived. There are approximately 1,186 remaining in the wild, of which 70% are distributed within the territory of Sichuan Province.  In 2016 the giant panda was reclassified from endangered to vulnerable.

The majority of the giant pandas were already dozing in the trees by the time we got there at about 9.30. We got some good photos of sleepy pandas but then did get to see some who were still munching on bamboo and wandering around. They do look big and cuddly and gorgeous!

We then had to queue to go into the Sunshine Nursery House where there were 3 little cubs in a pen sleeping with a heat lamp on then. 

Chris and I went back a bit later on when the queue was shorter, there was only 1 in the pen who then obligingly turned over for us so I got a good photo of his face.

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The Chengdu Research Base also houses and breeds Red Pandas too. Red pandas are also known as red cat-bears, red bear-cats, or lesser pandas, but are not closely related to the giant panda. The red panda is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It has reddish-brown fur, a long shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs and is slightly larger than a domestic cat. It feeds mainly on bamboo, but also eats eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, mainly active from dusk to dawn, and is largely sedentary during the day. The red pandas we saw were still very active and it was fascinating to watch them running around and climbing up and down trees. They are cute little things with amazing ear markings and splendid dark and light colour distribution on their fur pelts.

The red panda has been classified as endangered because its wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 mature individuals and continues to decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression.

Ricky had booked us to have a early Chinese banquet lunch at 11.30 in the posh Panda Base restaurant…….somewhat early for a Louch lunch. A few of us did begin to intimate that a) we didn’t want lunch yet and b) coffee and snack would do……but Ricky was clearly mortified as he had gone to the trouble to book a table and order the food for us all in this highly popular restaurant. We acquiesced and had lunch as arranged, and despite the early hour, it was once again a very good meal especially with the spicier Sichuan flavours.

After lunch we had time to wander around the Swan Lake and admire the black swans before heading back to our coach for the return trip to Chengdu.

We were dropped off in the very old part of Chengdu with buildings of 150 years plus. We wandered the lanes which were reminiscent of a Chinese Convent Garden. I spent my birthday money on a gorgeous maroon and brown handbag made of lovely soft leather which was an excellent bargain in a sale. 

Ricky was then going to take everyone to the local park but Mr L and I wanted to see the more modern urban architecture of Chengdu so we walked to Tianfu Square admiring the impressive buildings on our way. The overlying smog sadly blurs some of the skyline but it was nevertheless quite impressive. We also found our first statue of Chairman Mao who was overlooking Tianfu Square.

 We went to the top floor of the Yuan Dong department store to get a scenic view across the square before walking back to the hotel through the People’s Park.

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Once again this is a well used and beautifully maintained park where there were groups of people dancing; families out walking, people playing kicky-uppy with a shuttlecock, people playing badminton, and groups of men playing mahjong.

Once again, at 20.00, we were back on the coach – this time to Chengdu Railway Station. I was expecting a bright, modern, spacious station but this was the oldest, scruffiest and grubbiest public place we have seen yet.

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We boarded our night train to Xi’an and left Chengdu promptly at 22.16. We will arrive in Xi’an at 8.05 Saturday morning. The 11 of us are in coach 11 spread between 2 open sleeper compartments – each compartment has 2 sets of 3 bunks……..not convinced how much sleep we are going to get. I have got my earplugs!

Distance walked: 23,810 steps / 10.37 miles

China Day 11: Goodbye Lijiang, Hello Chengdu

Word has spread and both Bob and Sue, and Wendy and Chris were already at N’s Kitchen when we arrived for our final Lijiang breakfast this morning. Conversation centred around the musical rubbish collection lorry which arrived in the square below us mid breakfast – its like an ice cream van! No one leaves any rubbish out but as soon as the rubbish collection van arrives playing it’s catchy little tune everyone appears with rubbish which goes straight into the van. We surmised that this is one way of keeping the streets clear of rubbish and avoiding feeding the rat population which must exist because of all the water everywhere.

Bags were packed and loaded onto 2 minibuses at 11am prompt and we were off to Lijiang Airport for our final internal flight, this one taking us to Chengdu.

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Much to Ricky’s surprise, he was informed by Lucky Airways that the maximum baggage allowance for checked in luggage is 10kg – you are having a laugh!!! It was only Huns that came in at 10kg with his rucksack, the rest of us were between 16-18kg except Chefi who weighed in at a hefty 21kg. Ricky made a call and discussed the matter with G Adventures who agreed to pick up the cost of the excess baggage charges. It was an uneventful 70 minute meal-free flight and we arrived in a cloudy but mild Chengdu at 14.50. We had a private bus transfer us to the Chengdu Flower Hotel – again it has a reasonable lobby, clean functional bedroom and a ‘shabby seen better days’ bathroom.

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Chengdu is the capital of China’s Sichuan province. It has a population of about 12 million and is one of the three most populous cities in Western China. It is one of the most important economic, financial, commercial, cultural, transportation, and communication centres in Western China. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is one of the 30 busiest airports in the world, and Chengdu Railway Station is one of the six biggest in China. Chengdu also hosts many international companies and more than 12 consulates.

We met in the hotel lobby at 17.30 to go for an early dinner as we hadn’t had lunch and then we were booked to see a Sichuan Opera at 20.00. Dinner was the famous Sichuan hot pot at the nearby Dingdingdalong restaurant. Hot pot is a Chinese soup containing a variety of foodstuffs and ingredients. It is prepared with a simmering double pot of soup stock at the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. The inner pot contained a VERY spicy cooking liquid whilst the outer area was a milder cooking stock. We had thinly sliced meat, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms of all sorts, bean sprouts, bamboo, courgette etc. to cook in the boiling liquids and then eat, as always, with chopsticks – knives, forks, spoons are never provided. We had a can of sesame oil each and coriander and spring onions to make a dipping sauce, plus a bowl of egg fried rice. All washed down by a bottle of very pleasant local beer. Sichuan food is much more spicy than the Chinese food we have had to date and certainly much preferred by Mr L and I. It was an excellent meal, albeit a bit messy. I probably shouldn’t have worn a cream coloured top!

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The opera house was next door to the restaurant so very convenient.

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Sichuanese opera is a type of Chinese opera which originated in China’s Sichuan province around 1700; Chengdu is the main home of Sichuanese opera. A Sichuan opera is more like a play than other forms of Chinese opera, and the acting is highly polished. The music accompanying Sichuanese opera utilises a small gong and an instrument called a mugin. The traditional formula is quite systematic with a combination of stunts like face-changing, sword-hiding, fire-spitting and beard-changing with the plot and different characters. It was very bright and colourful and very entertaining even though it was all in Chinese. In front of our seats we all had tables set up and were served jasmine tea throughout the show.  I thought the jasmine tea very nice but it wasn’t to Mr L’s liking!

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We have the alarm set for 7.00 as we are up and out at 8.00 tomorrow to go and see the pandas 🐼

Distance walked: 9,656 steps / 4.16 miles

China Day 10: Lijiang – Wangu Pavilion & Black Dragon Pool

The day started with taking Mr L for breakfast at N’s Kitchen.

IMG_1467Sadly a very rainy day so our anticipated plan to go to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and take a cable car to the glacier had to be abandoned as a pointless exercise if there was going to be no view to see.

We wandered around the peripheral part of the Old Town as this is where some of the more unusual shops are. We made it to Square Street and aimed to go to Mu’s Mansion but somehow went a bit wrong and ended up at the entrance to the Wangu Pavilion which sits on top of the Lion Mountain, the highest point in the Old Town. We had to pay 50CN¥ each to get in but it was well worth the fee.img_6752Wangu Pavilion is a five-storey structure and one of the signature landmarks of the Old Town. The purpose of the pavilion is not quite clear, but it is believed that it was constructed during the Qing Dynasty by the Mu family. The Mu family had been the governor of the Lijiang vicinity for nearly five centuries. The Mu Mansion, sprawling along the foot of the Lion Mountain, is connected with the pavilion with one lengthy pathway along the mountain. The Pavilion’s 5 storeys are accessed by an interior stairway that opens out on each floor. We were only able to get to the third floor as the top 2 floors were closed to access. Even so, the views from here (even on a cloudy day) were impressive – the Lijiang Old Town, Lijiang New Town and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

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We explored the grounds with its smaller pavilions and gardens and then took a circular walk around the grounds when the rain again started. We sheltered awhile to wait for the worst to pass over before walking back down into town.

Mr L experienced another of my favoured venues with lunch at the Prague Cafe. The rain finally lessened and we decided we ought to go to Black Dragon Pool this afternoon as there will not be time in the morning as we are back travelling again tomorrow and need to check out by 11.00.

 

 

Black Dragon Pool is a famous pond in the scenic Jade Spring Park located at the foot of Elephant Hill, a 5 minute walk north of the Old Town. It was built in 1737 during the Qing dynasty and offers a spectacular view of the region’s tallest mountain, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, over the white marble bridge.

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The park features several smaller temples and pavilions: the Moon-Embracing Pavilion; the Dragon God Temple; the One Penny Pavilion; and the Five Phoenix Tower Pavilion; the Longevity Pavilion (ironically now used as the smoking area!). The park is also home to the Dongba Culture Research Institute and the Dongba Culture Museum.

We enjoyed looking at the different levels of the ponds with the very picturesque scenery. There was a brief break in the clouds when we were able to see the peak of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Most of the temples were closed but we were able to go into one which had several small art exhibitions on display where we particularly liked some of the traditional style Chinese painting.

As we were walking out we saw a coffee shop in a pavilion structure overlooking the water so stopped for a Yunnan coffee and to take in the spectacular view. Just as we were ordering coffee, Doreen came by and so she stopped and joined us which was great.

We went out as a group of 7 to eat out tonight. We dithered about where and what to eat finally settling on a restaurant in the middle of the Old Town. However, once we had sat down and started looking at the menu which had culinary delights such as fried insects, bullfrog and a ‘something’ enema…….we decided to hot foot it out of there and go for pizza at N’s Kitchen! It was a good choice and we all shared a selection of excellent pizzas washed down with beers for some and a Tibetan red wine made with barley for Wendy and I.

Feeling weary tonight after another day of walking, climbing stairs and generally exploring.

Distance walked: 23,650 steps / 10.2 miles

 

 

 

China Days 8 and 9: Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek – Mr L’s Story

This blog entry is Mr L’s story of his Tiger Leaping Gorge trek as told by the texts and photos he has sent me.

Trek Day 1:

After an uneventful 2 hour bus journey in mist and drizzle, we reached the starting point. Altitude 1875m and 10.45am.

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The track was fairly straightforward, steep but you would have done ok.

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On the other side of the gorge is a huge construction project, they are building a road and rail  viaduct, impressive but spoils the view.

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At around 12 we reached Naxi guesthouse, a lovely farm. A good lunch of rice and vegetables. Altitude 2200, so a good climb already.

After lunch is was a fairly steep climb up to the start of the 28 bends. It took about 40 minutes

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There was a resting point at the start where we all got our breath before the bends

The bends were very steep, very rocky but with spectacular views. Struggled towards the top and very relieved to get there

At the top! Hard work and very relieved. Altitude 2680 so a big climb. Down hill from here.

Very steep dirt track on the way down but easy after the climb. I did most of the route with the 3 youngsters which was nice. We ended up finishing about 40 minutes in front of the others so not too shabby

Arrived at the guesthouse around 3.40. Amazing setting. Rooms basic but I don’t think I will have a problem sleeping! Altogether an amazing day. Dinner soon here.

Made it! Hard work up the 28 steps but overall feeling good surprisingly. Finished, showered in a freezing cold shower and now enjoying a beer. No way would you have made it.

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Trek Day 2:

A good nights sleep and ready for day 2. A cool morning with the mountains shrouded in mist. A breakfast of fruit yoghurt and muesli and a surprisingly good cup of coffee. 9am and we are off.

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A reasonable trail to start with and spectacular scenery.

The trail soon narrows and we are walking along the side of the gorge. The views just keep getting better and better and with level ground we can really appreciate them

After 1.5 hours we reach the half way house guesthouse for a drink and rest. The guest houses are all attractive and offer a range of refreshments. Snickers has become my regular choice.

Setting off we see farmers bringing the corn up the hill on their mules. Corn does seem to be the staple crop, it is grown everywhere, regardless of the slope. The path gets narrower and the views even more spectacular.

We meet some very tame goats, they don’t get out of the way!

We have to navigate a waterfall which flows over the path

The waterfall

Some of our fellow travellers. We passed a small temple perched on the side of the mountain

 After a couple of hours we had a relatively short ascent, only 8 bends, nothing after yesterday!

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Then came the very steep descent. Fortunately the ground was dry, if it had been wet it would have been treacherous. Not many photos as phone was securely put away and the walk needed full concentration.

So we finally made it to Tina’s guest house, a functional youth hostel which was quite crowded. Surprising as we had seen very few people on the hike. Finished at 12.40 so a short day. Legs and knees sore from the descent but felt pretty good considering.

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2040m, 6700ft was the finishing altitude. I passed on the yak cheese dumplings and made do with a beer and a bacon and egg sandwich from Tina’s.

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Our bus which brought us back to Lijiang. The road back was interesting, hairpin bends and in places narrow because of land slips. Back in Lijiang a definite sense of achievement, which hike next!

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China Day 9: Baisha

Not only do you get meals at N’s Kitchen, but also help and advice regarding travel and sightseeing. The staff have a reasonable grasp of English which is certainly a rarity here in Lijiang. Their suggestion was to visit the Baisha Village and the Baisha Frescos (UNESCO World Heritage site) by catching the number 6 bus from the main road behind the Old Town water wheel…..so this is what I did today. The man at N’s Kitchen wrote Baisha in Chinese on a piece of paper for me, I also asked him to write the address for Lijiang Old Town in Chinese as well to ensure I could get back okay. I then headed off to find the bus stop and catch the number 6 bus. The 30 minute journey cost me 1CN¥ (12p) and the bus driver helpfully indicated where I needed to get off the bus.

Baisha Village lies at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain about 8km to the north of Lijiang Old Town. It is the earliest settlement of the Naxi people and is the birthplace of ‘Tusi’, chief of the Mu clan. It was the political, economic and cultural centre of Lijiang prior to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Its construction started during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and it became prosperous during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) Dynasties. From the Ming Dynasty, the governors moved their families to Lijiang Ancient Town but still built temples in Baisha Village, making this village a religious centre during the early Ming Dynasty. The existing Dabaoji, Liuli and Wenchang Palaces and the famous Baisha Frescos were completed during that period. Most of the paintings are about religious stories of Taoism, Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism and embody the artistic characteristics of the Naxi, Tibetan, Han and Bai ethnic groups. The majority of the existing Frescos are preserved in Dabaoji Palace.

My first stop was to visit the temples and Baisha Frescos; a very quiet and tranquil place.

On leaving the temple complex the path took me onto the main street through Baisha Village. The buildings are clearly very old and have not been restored to the Disneyesque appearance of Lijiang Old Town. There were less tourists and the pace of life seems much slower. I stopped in one cafe for a Sprite and service was definitely slow, but the Sprite was the cheapest yet!

I continued on down the street and then turned off to the left and came upon the Naxi Embroidery Institute. I had a look around their display room and then visited the Institute next door and ended up having a one to one tour and shown the intricate work of their embroiderers. They also give lessons, although none today. The quality, fineness and intricateness of the work being done was phenomenal. The finished pieces look like watercolours due to the delicate nature of the stitching……..amazing, and an unexpected treat to see this. My guide explained that the mission of the institute is to save, protect, inherit and promote the Naxi traditional hand-made embroidery.

I found the bus station (bus stop) in the village without too much difficulty and was soon back on the number 6 bus to Lijiang. I then had a late lunch snack at a cafe by the river before heading back to the hotel to await the arrival of the Tiger Leaping Gorge trekkers.

Word was out about the excellent LaMu’s meal last night so there was an enthusiasm amongst some of the group to go there tonight. I was certainly happy to go back again. Mr L and I were joined by Doreen, Julia, Wendy and Chris – everyone agreed it was a good venue and good food. Wendy and I both tried the Great Wall of China red wine  and very good it was too. It was great to hear their stories and see their photos; definitely reinforced that my decision to stay behind was the correct one for me. I then took a weary Mr L on a brief orientation walk before heading home to bed.

Distance walked: 15,407 steps / 6.65 miles

China Day 8: ‘Lost’ in Lijiang

The early alarm call hastened Mr L from his bed and off on his trekking adventure. Meanwhile, I was off to explore the Old Town of Lijiang…….

The Old Town of Lijiang, located in the Lijiang Autonomous County of the Naxi Ethnic Minority, lies in the northwest of Yunnan Province at an altitude of 2,418m. It is listed as one of the four best preserved ancient cities in China; the others are Langzhong Ancient City in Sichuang, Pingyao Ancient City in Shanxi, and Shexian Ancient City. Lijiang and two villages to the north, Baisha and Shuhe, were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1997. Since then, the local government has taken more responsibility for the development and protection of the old city and Lijiang’s tourism has increased over the past twenty years. Travellers from around the world visit but most tourists are still Han Chinese (majority ethnic group) from other parts of China.

The Old Town occupies an area of 3.8 square kilometers (912 acres), was originally built in the late Song Dynasty and the early Yuan Dynasty, and has a history of more than 800 years. It is built along the lie of mountains and the flow of rivers and is the only old city built without a city wall. The story goes that Lijiang had been under the reign of the hereditary Mu family for more than 500 years. If the Chinese character ‘Mu’, representing the governor of Lijiang, is put into a frame representing a city wall, you have the character ‘Kun’ which means ‘siege’ or ‘predicament’. This would mean that the governing Mu family and their descendants would always be trapped. Because of this symbolism, Old Town Lijiang was never given a city wall.

The centre of the Old Town is Square Street (Sifangjie) and 4 main streets radiate from this point extending in 4 different directions. Countless lanes which extend in all directions form a network and connect every corner of the town. Streets in the Old Town are paved by the local bluestones which are neither muddy in the rainy season nor dusty in the dry season, and add a sense of antiquity to the Old Town. The sluice at the centre of town is opened late in the night and the resulting current of water flushes and washes all the streets to keep the town clean. This practical use of water is part of the daily life of the residents in Old Town. Again the town is spotless at all times with no rubbish seen on the ground irrespective of how big the crowds are.

All water flows into streams from the 2 big water wheels in the Jade River Square so as long as you find one of the many streams and follow the water upstream you always end up back at the water wheels meaning it is impossible to get lost (thanks to Mr L for imparting this gem).

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After an excellent breakfast of Yunnan coffee and toast at the wonderful N’s Kitchen, I spent many a happy hour meandering the streets and working out how the multitude of lanes intersect and meet up.

I watched locals dancing in Square Street, and later on dancing in the Jade River Square park near the water wheels. A tuk-tuk with a huge speaker played the music whilst locals, some in traditional costume, danced a sort of line dance. Later in the afternoon when I returned they were still dancing with numbers significantly increased, and by the evening the dancing was all finished.

The afternoon was interspersed with a rest and sustenance at the delightful Prague Cafe. My wanderings took me out to the perimeter of the Old Town where I was looking for an indication of where to catch a bus for tomorrow’s adventure.  There were some escalators going down so I gave them a go and cane upon a huge brightly lit shopping centre that sits underneath the Old Town – not what I expected to find at all!

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My evening meal was at LaMu’s House of Tibet restaurant and an excellent meal it was too – vegetable curry momos, Tibetan sliced potatoes in tomato and garlic with a glass of Yunnan red wine (a bit sweet for my liking, but pleasant enough).

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I then had a ticket to go to the Naxi Ancient Music concert, a daily occurrence at 20.00 every evening and lasting about 75 minutes. The orchestra of 18 included 6 octogenarians and outnumbered the audience of 11! The music was very different to my western ear, played on very unusual looking instruments. Some was very pleasant and melodic whilst other pieces sounded harsh and discordant. As for the singing – not to my liking as high pitched and screechy! A good experience nevertheless to experience a small part of Naxi culture.

The people of the Naxi ethnic minority mostly live in Lijiang and form the majority of the population here, while the rest live in Sichuan and Tibet. The Naxi are famous for their Ancient Music, the traditional Naxi classical music that is regarded as a ‘living fossil of Chinese music.’

All in all a good day although a bit strange not having Mr L to share the experience with.

Distance walked: 20,338 steps / 8.79 miles