….. it was either that or “Livin’ it up in Lijiang”.
After our amazing adventure in Tiger Leaping Gorge we headed on the bus to Lijiang! Instead of boring you with bus ride stories here’s some awesome photos from a mountain-side rest stop! There wasn’t actually a toilet so I had to pee in the wilderness but it was worth it.
I hope you enjoyed my attempt at being “artsy”. Now onto JADE DRAGON SNOW.. I mean Lijiang
We arrived in Lijiang exhausted but ready to explore. Our hotel was in this little old-town catacomb of cute shops and restaurants. The first night we wandered around and explored all of the little shops. One interesting thing about Lijiang is that all of the shops have the same exact thing. There are a few that are pretty different, like the paper store where I bought an illustration of Lijiang and had my name written in Naxi characters- but those stores were the exception. It did make it easier to shop around for the best deal though! The majority of stores sold ridiculously cheap scarves (I bought more than I will admit publicly)- but other stores either sold cute lace-up traditional Chinese shoes (I bought a pair), compact mirrors, statue figurines, scarves and.. scarves. It was kind of sad they wouldn’t barter with us, but we did get a few deals by buying a ton of things at the same place. My most entertaining purchase was a beautiful cherry blossom scarf with the poem “How I Love Thee” but it was “How I Love Three”, and the poem literally makes NO SENSE. It is not in English. For your entertainment, here is the beautiful poem:
How I love Three
by Ehzsbrin Barren Browning
ther do ever ther for me and the way
I love three to the depth and breath and height
or could and vou are good friend and ofthighl
this unde of anything this toming
I love of there to the bag days
my picture and by an he you
I love three faetree and plese far heigh
I have three picture run are
in my aed three and turn from best
I have three pieture tun to love
in m best sainty have the three brnwen
I khat lean of all my all and all bnt
In my sainty have the three browen
Now that I have you all in tears over my beautiful scarf poem, here are some pictures from Lijiang
The next day we had to wake up early to hike Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. We were told it would be very cold and possibly snowy so we all wore multiple layers (leggings under the jeans etc. etc.). We woke up at the crack of dawn to go hike the mountain and… go figure… it was too windy and snowy to be let up to the mountain. To make it even better, we had tickets to see a cultural show at 2:00 that were un-refundable (just like everything else in China). So what do you do for countless hours when you’re waiting for a cultural show? Lean new card games! I learned how to place spades, which made the time fly. Will and I teamed up, and, having never played before, beat everyone. Dubbed “JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN TEAM” we were definitely the obvious winners. For any of you that know Marketus- he talks a lot of game but he is horrible at cards and never wins.
Eventually we were able to go to the cultural show! Walking to the cultural show was my first experience with the altitude. The altitude at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is very high and it is often times hard to breath if you exert yourself physically. A few times I stopped to take a picture and then ran to catch up with the group. Even a light jog for 20 feet left me winded. Walking into the cultural show we were all given red hats to wear during the performance. Why did we need hats? To look like real Chinese tourists of course. Actually, I don’t know, but what I DO know is that the cultural performance was amazing! They had probably at least 200 performers, amazing dances, elaborate costumes and mountain horses! The stage was beautiful too, with the mountain as a backdrop. At one point it started snowing which made the scenery even more beautiful. The most interesting part of the show was the ending. A voice came over the loudspeaker that said (in Chinese) “Although we are all of different ethnic minorities, we are all one people, we are all Chinese”, and immediately every person in the massive audience sprang to their feet- cheering and screaming! It was just very interesting to hear this after learning a lot about how China treats ethnic minorities. Since these ethnic minorities are the colorful, happy, dancing minorities (not the “scary” Uighers or Tibetans), Chinese people are proud to show off their minority culture. The whole notion of “we are all Chinese, we are all one people” was so apparent. I can’t imagine watching a Native American performance back home and having the same situation occur. It was definitely an interesting experience to say the least.
Sea of red hats
The next day we all woke up at the crack of dawn (again) to try and go to JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN (I’m saying this in a Temple of Doom voice if you weren’t already reading it that way). This time Marketus called ahead during breakfast to check and see if they were open. I think now would be a good time to discuss Chinese breakfast. Chinese people eat very weird things for breakfast including: spicy noodles, little bland “buns”, spicy cabbage, warm milk, watery porridge and an egg-tomato mixture which sounds good but was actually disgusting. Most days I ate spicy noodles with the little bland buns, which was a decent breakfast. No coffee though, unfortunately.. or green tea- which works just as well. Back to the story- we weren’t able to go to JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN because it was closed, so we continued onto the later destination of the day- another “old town” outside Lijiang.
The old town was very similar to Lijiang, except a little smaller. We had free time to wander around- but most of the shops were closed since we arrived so early! We waited out the shops by going to a cafe and getting some coffee (very necessary at this point in the trip) while we discussed spring break plans (spoiler alert: Hong Kong, Macau and Hainan!!!). After coffee we wandered around the old town and even saw a couple getting their wedding photos taken. Apparently Chinese people have their wedding photos taken before the wedding at the scenic location. Convenient, but I still live by the tradition that the groom shouldn’t see your dress before the wedding. We also scared Katora half to death by having her pose with a “statue” that was actually a painted man. He jumped at her and they caught her on film. The picture was so priceless we made her buy it- after bartering it down to a reasonable price of course. Since we couldn’t climb JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN, we decided to climb a giant hill that looked over the old town instead. After our mountain climbing we ate lunch (including yak) and headed back to Lijiang.
For the rest of the day we had a lot of spare time so Tiffany, Anthony, Yoko, Seijin, Courtney and I decided to rent two-person bikes and ride them around Black Lake. I thought that we would be renting bikes at the lake, but apparently we were renting bikes right outside our hotel and riding them to the lake. Obviously Seijin was steering one bike because he biked across the country right before he came here. Anthony volunteered to steer the other one and we were left needing one more driver… and it was me. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to ride a bike, but riding a two person bike is HARD. Tiffany agreed to ride on the back with me (sorry Tiffany) and we exited the old town onto the main street?! I did not sign up for this! Within the first 5 minutes we were almost run over by a bus.. not wearing helmets because they don’t exist in China. On the way to the Black Lake Tiffany and I almost died 5 times- and when I say we almost died, we literally almost died. Chinese people are so used to hearing bike bells and honking cars that they pay almost no attention, but since our two person bike skills were very below-par, we discovered the best way to get people to move was to SCREAM in high pitched, panicked English. That got people moving. At one point a cab pulled over to the side of the road literally right in front of our bike. Sine I didn’t want to cut in front of a car and kill us, I attempted to steer our bike between the cab and the sidewalk, however, a girl ran out in front of us and threw open the cab door as we were about 10 feet from her. All three of us SCREAMED (the cab driver probably screamed too- my car!!!) and we literally jumped off our moving bicycle and fell to the ground saving all four of our lives (the car is included). The other four were so far ahead they had no idea what had happened until we got to the park. I was near tears and Tiffany was pissed. Seijin spent about a good 10 minutes apologizing for almost getting us killed, and we locked our bikes and went to the park.
It turns out the park was 50 kuai to enter (what?!), so we decided to sneak in. I know, we’re criminals. We tried to blend into a Chinese tour group and sneak through (poor decision, I know). Tifany is Chinese, Yoko is Japanese and Seijin is half-Japanese so they had no problem getting in, but Anthony, Courtney and I are white as snow, so we were a different story. Apparently I blended in enough to get through (miracle, right?) but Anthony and Courtney were caught.. so we had to leave. We decided to take the bikes to a different park- Tiffany and I, being the awesome team that we are, had barely any problems getting to the second park. The second park wasn’t much of a “park” per say, it was more of a fountain and a temple on a hill. We had fun wandering around for a good hour, exploring the area, and then started the ride back. On the way back Seijin and Yoko’s chain broke on their bike. While Seijin is great at fixing bikes, he spent about 20 minutes trying to fix it, but the two person bike was too complicated so we had to walk all of the bikes back. It was kind of unfortunate that Tiffany and I had to walk right as we were starting to get the hang of our bike situation, but at least we weren’t dead, or in jail from trying to sneak into a park (that’s when pretending to be a dumb laowai comes in handy. Oh we have to pay? I don’t speak Chinese?!)
On our last night in Lijiang, Marketus took us to KTV to make up for not being able to go to JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN. Normally I’m not a fan of Karaoke- you have to stand in front of a group of people and awkwardly sing a song by yourself. But Chinese KTV is very different. You get a room to yourself with a tv that plays the music video with the lyrics underneath. While US karaoke normally only has very old songs, KTV has all of the newest hits! You receive multiple microphones and as many people can sing as you want! You can even decide whether or not you want the singers voice to play underneath you! That night at KTV was one of the best times I have had in China thus far. All of us were in a room belting out our favorite songs, dancing, and having a great time. It was actually very exhausting at that altitude to be singing and dancing, but it was so much fun!
Next stop: Shaxi!