Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Into Lijiang

Into Lijiang, another old town with cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, stone bridges and countless canals. Horrendous for getting lost in, despite lots of maps. At least I had my trust compass to point me North. In the hotel a classic sign in Chinglish, "Please don't worry if fire is occuring we hotel superior facilities to ansure you transmitted safely" Great! Keeping that in mind I set off for Black Dragon Pool, a large park which contained Elephant Hill. Quickly figuring out the prices in the guidebook are often useless for tourist attractions. Entrance price is listed at 20yuan, it has tripled to 60yuan. 4 quid to get into a park, sheesh! Don't think I'll be falling for that one again. Anyway inside there was a temple/school where scholars were learning about Naxi culture. The Naxi are one of the minority cultures around Lijiang. A Dongba is a head teacher, but this title is genealogical, only if your father, grandfather were Dongba, can you be a Donga. The teaching seemed to focus on preserving the culture. Naxi writing is interesting, the only heiroglyphic language still in use. A young student eplained this to me, and suggested he could get his teacher to write my name in the writing for free? but the paper was expensive!

After strolling through the mouth of a dragon, not a real one, I headed up a set of seemingly never-ending steps, slowly climbing Elephant Hill. The occasional pagoda, provide shelter from the sun and a welcome rest. It was getting cooler up here, but the sun still burns! Eventually I made it to the top for some great views over the old town and the new city. A sweaty Chinese made it to the top also panting something along the lines of Oh Baba!? By the time I got back down I was all jellied legged.

Back at the North of the old town, a couple of waterwheels provides what seems to be the obligatory photo-shoot in Lijiang. Chances are that my arms, back of my head is in several pictures. Try and slip past the hundreds of tourists taking pictures. Umbrellas, to block the sun provide a dangerous obstacle. Next to the waterwheels is a large cobbled town square, where there are some people in traditonal dress having a song and dance. They seem to be practising, there a bit hit and miss with the dance steps, but seem to be enjoying it, faces full of concentration.

Inside the old town the streets are lined with shops selling all sorts. Lots of tourists memorabilia and knick-knacks. Shops titled such as the nine meter sunshine camel bell shop?are there for all your one meter sunshine camel bell needs. If you have any money left in your wallet you can snack on some dried yak meat, which seems popular. Or maybe purchase a kitten. On past the three wells, not exactly wells in the traditional senses as the are interlinked with the current washing through them. The highest is for drinking water, the next if for washing vegetables and the third for clothes. Interestingly the are still used in the traditonal ways, as they would have been for centuries before.

Stopping for a drink at a cafe overlooking the square, there was some intriguing choices for the brave. You could feast on five kinds of chicken stomach, some deep fried milk flakes, throw in some silk worm and finish with the "delicious water animal"
At night as darkness fell, there was more music and dance in Sifang square. People danced in a large circle round a small bonfire, well until the police came along and saw people enjoying themselves and broke it up. A handful of people were sending candles down the canals. Buy a candle boat and make a wish!

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