Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This is Tiger Leaping Gorge, Son

Tiger Leaping Gorge is awesome.

The blue river rushes between peaks on both sides, and the path runs high along the mountainside.  Villages and guesthouses dot the way, but it still feels like wilderness.

Somehow this beauty remains largely undiscovered by Chinese tourists, who prefer destinations with easy access, marble stairs, souvenir shops, and tour guides.  I cringe to think what will happen when Chinese tourists one day become interested in Tiger Leaping Gorge.  It will go from a dusty path that can be traveled almost in solitude to a paved road crammed with tourists who don't think twice about chucking trash by the roadside.  Chinese people are wonderful in many ways, but tourism does not bring out their best.

I digress.  Here is Tiger Leaping Gorge in all its current glory when I hiked it earlier this month.  Two days, one night, sore legs, and full hearts.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scenes from Lijiang

After Dali, another bus took us to a similar tourist town, Lijiang.  Like Dali, Lijiang has an old town, mountains, minorities (mostly Naxi in Lijiang), and tourists.

We mostly used the town as a base for our Tiger Leaping Gorge adventure, but we managed a few hours for exploring.

Night scenes...

A late night meal of Naxi baba bread, stir-fried veggies, and rice.

In Old Town

Wish lanterns that you can buy and float down the canals

Locals socializing over their fire

Morning Scenes...

View from our hostel: Sunrise over old town

Heating tea

Bar street (You'd never guess by looking at it)

One of many canals criss-crossing the town

More old town

Wishing bells

Wish you happy every day!

Water wheel
In the midst of our Lijiang time, we took off for a 2-day hike of Tiger Leaping Gorge.  Photos coming soon, assuming you're not tired of me yet. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Eighteen Hours in Dali, China

After Yangshuo, Sara and I headed for a 5-day tour of Yunnan, a southern province known for mild weather, lots of ethnic minorities, and tall mountains.  We traveled to the province by train, and traveled within the province by long-distance bus.  Since our time was short, we had just a day or two at each location.

In today's post, I plan to gush about our first destination: Dali.  After shivering our way through gray Yangshuo and enduring about 24 full hours of public transit, we arrived in a sparkling, sunshiny jewel of a town.  Dali sits between a range of mountains and a long lake.  It has a clean, touristy old town and is known for having many people from the Bai minority.

We were there for less than a day, but it was great!  Enjoy the photos.

First, the train ride.  We chatted with our fellow passengers, ate lots of fruit (most of it pressed on us by our berth-mates), got headaches from the cigarette smoke, and watched southern China roll by.

Mandarin oranges for breakfast in my top bunk

Views from the train window were increasingly beautiful as we entered the land of red dirt, terraced fields, and mountains.

After the train ride, we took a long bus ride from Kunming to Dali.  Here is Dali on the night we arrived:

Old town gate

Local restaurant

 The next day, we began by renting bikes and riding out of town to the lake:

Old town

On our bike ride:  Facing Dali with the mountains behind it

At Erhai Lake

At Erhai Lake -- so happy to see the sun!

Biking back to town

Then we enjoyed an afternoon in Old Town:

We stumbled on a Christian church and stopped for some conversation with this local believer.

Trying Dali fried cheese

Alley lined with souvenirs

We paid 2 RMB (30 cents) to climb the highest point in Old Town

Decorative panel on the little tower we climbed

Making candy sculptures from caramelized sugar

Food vendor

After Dali, we hopped on another long-distance bus to the next destination: Lijiang.