Greetings to one and all and an especial welcome if this is your first time visiting “Bajan,” Chinese Style! Here we embark on a journey of jovial memories accentuated by stunning photography and practical tips all focused around one of the most mysterious and ancient nations in the world, China. Over the pass few weeks, we have gained basic knowledge of the geographical and ethnic regions of China ( Refer:Travel Exposé: Regions of China), as well as the type of cuisine you can expect to find in these areas ( Refer: Travel Exposé: Food travel around China).
We have also taken the more personal in depth approach and have explored the nooks and crannies of Beijing, as well of some of the most magnificent natural attractions of Guizhou Province. In keeping with our journey throughout the South west, we then turned our attention to the Mecca of diversity, Yunnan province and over the previous weeks explored life in Shangri-La and Lugu Lake. We’ve come a long way haven’t we, but trust me, this trip is only now getting started. This week, we continue with one of the most beautifully maintained UNESCO World Heritage ancient towns in China, Lijiang, the lovely!
Lijiang is undoubtedly the largest and most meticulously maintained Naxi (Pronounced: Nah She) village in Yunnan province. As we have learnt before, Yunnan is home to over 40 different ethnicities, with each ethnicity boasting its own unique culture, language, architecture and cuisine. Lijiang,and it’s environs, are the traditional home of the Naxi people, and thus, the style of the city reflects such. Built within a large mountain valley, Lijiang Ancient Town actually refers to two distinct towns, each with their own unique “feel.”
The larger and more well known of the two is Da Yan town, which is the travel hub of Lijiang. Booming discoteches and dance clubs, deafening K-TV’s, upscale restaurants and cafes pervade every corner of this ancient Metropolis. Almost every inch of the town has been singly repurposed for tourism, thus making Lijiang ( Da Yan Town) one of the most tourist oriented areas in the province. Depending on your tastes, if you enjoy the full range of modern amenities and nightlife placed in an idyllic mountain plateau setting, then Lijiang (Da Yan Town) is certainly for you. However, if you do not enjoy this party scene, don’t lose hope and don’t write Lijiang off just yet, because it has so much more to offer.
The Second and smaller of the two towns is Su He (Pronounced: Soo Huh) Town, which is on the quieter, more laid back side of the spectrum. Ancient cobblestone streets with a backdrop of the awe-inspiring Yu Long Snowy Mountain and large plains of scented grass being traversed by lazily grazing yaks and their vigilant care takers. Yes, Su He Town is a lazy boy’s paradise and coupled with the natural beauty of the area, really brings a new meaning to the phrase “soul food.”
However, worthy of note is that, especially if you wish to get a taste of the local Naxi culture, then I highly recommend attending the nightly orchestral performance of the Naxi ethnic orchestra, which plays musical renditions that have been passed down through the generations and date back to the mid-Tang Dynasty. I won’t bore you with the details, but what cannot be overstated is that these musical pieces and the instruments on which they are played are truly living artefacts and can only be seen and heard in Lijiang. Early Tang music of this authenticity exists no where else in China or the world.
The Ancient towns themselves are impressive in their scale and level of preservation, but they only form part of the beauty that is Lijiang. If you really want to experience Lijiang, then you must take to the mountains and valleys of the area.Excited yet? Trust me you should be and next week we will continue with exploring the Yulong Snowy Mountain,The Dragon Glaciers, Black pool 5A Park, La sa Hai and Lion Hill. Thanks for reading and come prepared next week, for our adventure in Lijiang has only just begun!
N.B: As of 2015, in order to enter the ancient town, you must pay a one time “preservation fee” of 80 RNB. This fee is payable upon entrance to the town or as part of the entrance fee for any attraction which falls under Lijiang prefecture. This fee must only be paid ONCE, but it is paramount that you DO NOT lose the small yellow bill which signifies that you have paid the fee. If you lose it, then you must either pay the fee again or sneak in through a back alley. Innovative local entrepreneurs have seen this market and now offer secret local entrances into the towns for prices ranging from 10-50 RNB. If you want a bit of 007 excitement then have at it, however, since you essentially want to enjoy the beauty of the area, paying the preservation fee is more or less a fair trade off.