Yunnan: Exploring Lijiang

My Christmas Eve plans seem destined to go awry. Three years ago on Christmas Eve in the Philippines I missed my ferry to Boracay and ended up stranded in Manila with nowhere to go. Last year I spent the entire day stuck on a veeeery long sleeper bus from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang. This year I intended to visit the Jade Snow Mountain but soon had to change my plans.

Firstly there’s a surprising lack of snow on the mountain for this time of year. What should be a snow capped peak is an angry rocky spike. Still impressive for sure though. Despite the lack of snow, I still wanted to visit. To head to the mountain head for Hongtaiying Square to the North of the old town in Lijiang. The square is easy to find since it’s directly opposite a large statue of the revered Chairman Mao.

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The closest I would get to Jade Snow(less) Mountain…

On the square there are lots of Number 7 minibuses waiting to take you to the mountain for ¥20. That is, if they fill up. It seemed in the low December season, nobody wanted to visit the snowless mountain and I was the only one sat in the van, waiting for 6 more occupants. On top of that, it was a pretty cloudy day. You couldn’t see the mountain from the town like you usually could, so I was starting to debate how much I would see up there. Costs for the mountain do start to add up – it’s ¥130 to get in, then ¥60-100+ depending on which cable car you get plus the money for the bus, oxygen (if you need it for the high altitude) etc. The driver offered to take me alone for ¥80 but by this point I’d already started to rethink going at all and decided instead to head out of the minibus and go for a wander.

And boy, I wandered! A more sensible person would have taken it easy before a big hike the next day but in my infinite wisdom I decided I would walk from Lijiang to another old town close by, Shuhe, situated about 4km away. On the way there, I stopped by the fantastic Qingxi Park, sitting just above the Black Dragon Pool. This free to enter park is characterised by its large reservoir and makes for a great picnic spot. The stroll around the reservoir was very scenic.

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Qingxi Park

From here, I headed North to Shuhe. There is also a bus, number 11, that heads in that direction from the old town. It doesn’t go directly to Shuhe, stopping a couple of roundabouts before from which it’s a 15 minute walk in a straight line into Shuhe. I took this bus back into Lijiang later on.

I imagine Shuhe is what Lijiang used to be. It’s smaller (though still maze-like) and has a fantastic mountain backdrop. The streets are wider or maybe it just felt like that because there were far fewer people. Despite it being low season (I wasn’t charged the ¥50 entry fee), there were still performances going on and live music playing at most of the cafes and restaurants. Most of the performers looked like they’d rather be dead than doing what they were doing but it all added to the experience. If you want to experience a more chilled out old town, I’d definitely recommend venturing out to Shuhe.

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Shuhe town centre

I returned to my hostel to enjoy Mama Naxi’s delicious family dinner (if you’re staying there, try it – it’s delicious!) before I excitedly headed to bed.

It was like being transported back to my childhood, excitedly heading to bed on Christmas Eve. But it wasn’t Father Christmas or pigs in blankets that I was excited for…

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