The minute I stepped in the Old Town of Lijiang, overwhelmed by the beauty of the buildings, the amount of people, the smell of the food, I felt I’d ended up in a different world, a sort of Chinese Disneyland where, between all those amazing buildings and attractions, all that could be found was shops, and where the crowds would be hard to avoid. I didn’t hate Lijiang though. The place is gorgeous and the vast majority of the tourists are actually from China. With such a big population trying to discover more and more about their own country, it’s easy to imagine how many come to visit this place !
While the town is expensive, staying for a couple of days is a must ! Get lost in the numerous alleys that leads to nowhere and enjoy some Naxi food on the square market, and if the crowds are too much for you then head to one of the nearby towns and villages that just might be quieter. Lijiang’s charm comes from the shape of its buildings and the beautiful scenery that surrounds it, mainly famous with couples that come to take their photos in traditional costumes and do some shopping while holding hands in the paved street, don’t be surprised if you become an attraction yourself for the visitors. While the famous snow mountain cannot always been seen (clouds can be a real pain), it shouldn’t stop you for paying a visit. Just keep in mind once again that it is not a cheap place to be : A fee of 80RMB will be asked to visit the Jade Dragon Park just for the scenic view. The Mu’s mansion also holds a price tag of 60RMB for entering.
What’s around Lijiang ?
As popular but maybe less crowded, Baisha follows a similar architecture than Lijiang Old Town and is the favourite for local merchants to sell relics they found in the area. You will also be able to visit the embroidery school where one of the top 10 masters of this art currently works. Funded by the government, this school is the perfect place if you have got the money and are looking for a new piece of art for your walls. Stroll in the town for a while and enjoy the calm and quiet. Naxi villages can also be found around Lijiang and are usually part of different tours (horse riding, bikes tour or bus tours all stop here) What is of interest here are the hieroglyphs that are still being used by the locals and can be found painted on most of the walls of their town. Interesting fact about the Naxi : Matriarchal, in this culture the woman is the boss and can decide to leave a man behind. Unfortunately it also means that the woman takes every single job. A couple of other minorities can be seen in the area such as the Yi. You can also visit a gorgeous monastery in the surrounding of the town. Home to around 37 monks, a second monastery is being build on the top of the first one, holding numerous paintings.
Can I keep it cheap in Lijiang ?
While this seems difficult, it’s not impossible. Due to the large amount of hotels in the area you will find nice and cosy hotels for 100RMB in the centre of town. If you want to not pay too much for your meals then go to the food market, you’ll get plenty of food for 20RMB. Your biggest expense will be the visits and tours. Keep it in mind and splurge on one day of visits while enjoying free walks the rest of the time. If what you want is cheap then you can do cheap !
How to get to Lijiang ?
From Kunming trains and buses are available. While many hostels seem to try to push people to take the bus, telling you it’s faster, we encourage you to take the train which really is faster than the bus (you’ll gain 2 hours!) If your concern is money, get a hard seat. While a bit uncomfortable, they aren’t that bad and should cost you around 89RMB while a soft sleeper will cost 250RMB !
Is it worth it ?
Yes, it is. I met incredible people in this town, had a very good time and I believe any UNESCO world heritage merit a visit. For more photos click on this link: Lijiang
Have you ever been to Lijiang or to some of China’s Ancient Towns? What did you think and would you visit again? Let us know in the comments!
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