Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lijiang and surrounds - what we did and how we did it

Well the first thing we did was decide not to stay in Lijiang. It just seemed too big. Shuhe looked like a great alternative and on arrival we knew straight away we'd made the right choice.

We stayed at the Bivou Shuhe, a delightful boutique hotel at that edge of the old town surrounded by market gardens.  http://www.bivou.com

Our itinerary (only slightly kaboshed by a 5 hour plane delay) was:

Day one: arrive and mooch around Shuhe. Shuhe is a very moochable town...lots of pretty trees, canals, laneways.

Day two: we headed to Shaxi, two hours drive towards Dali, for market day (every Friday). I had wanted to visit Shaxi since my first few months in China and if I were to do this trip again, I would have stayed in Shaxi and spent four days reading a book under a willow tree. The market is a wonderful experience, full of colour, crowds and wonderful locals.  Once you've finished with the markets you can escape the noise to a beautiful laneway that leads to a quiet square and temple. Totally dreamy and great for people watching.

We then headed back home and stopped at Baisha, which would be a great alternative place to stay if you did want to be close to Lijiang but away from the crowds. This is a dusty simple village with a handful of shops (and a great place for coffee...but more on that in another post)

Our last stop was Lijiang. Beautiful, but big and geared for the local tourist. I'm glad we opted for some time in Baisha instead.

Day three: In the car for about 90 minutes to Shigu Old town and a view of the first bend of the Yangtze river. Market day for Shigu today, (a Saturday) which we probably could have passed on, but it was nice to wander through a completely tourist free town and mingle with the locals.

We then drove to Tiger Leaping Gorge which was a busy, but fun and an obvious must see. If I were to do that again, I'd allow more time and get off the beaten track and do the proper hike - though this was a great compromise given my travelling companion and our limited time.

Day four: Our last day was a relaxing day in Shuhe. We walked around the old town and then relaxed at the Bivou. I spent the last hour walking through a small forest of prayer flags in complete isolation, with all the busy tourists 500 meters below me in Bivou town. It was the perfect farewell to the beautiful open skies of Yunnan.

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