Plunging gorges, soaring snowy peaks, alpine lakes, and an ancient old town. 5 days in Lijiang, where there is much to do, and as many tourists to match.
I continue on my overland journey from Singapore to Moscow, now well through the heart of Yunnan in Lijiang, before heading east to Beijing, for the Trans-Siberian Railway, to Siberia and beyond.
Day 0: Dali to Lijiang by Bus
Another 200km further up north from Dali, some 2,400m above sea level, lies Lijiang. I hadn’t realised how high up I’ve travelled (it was 1,900m above sea level at Kunming and 2,000m at Dali) until i found something almost long lost in my bag:
Got this from one of the bus legs in Thailand earlier on the trip before Kunming, pretty much deflated. Glad it hadn’t exploded in my bag, but I finished in anyway just to be sure. I try to travel cheap, but travel chips aren’t really my thing.
I arrived in Lijiang late in the afternoon and managed to find the hostel (~100Y for 5 nights) booked a few days before. It was probably one of the more run down ones in the entire trip but one of those where I had the most fun, making lots of friends and exploring the area together.
Seems like the Chinese really love their hotpots and so I had my second communal steamboat (~36Y) (since arriving in China) with other folks at the hostel (mostly from other parts of China this time) and drank more ‘Wind Flower Snow Moon’ beer. The folks were really friendly, and if it were in Singapore anyone else would have thought they had been friends for years when in fact, most of them probably met for the first time that night. I was kind of apprehensive in joining in, being in a new environment, but they were really nice and inclusive, so it was hard not to feel at home (apart from the fact that the hostel was not really in great shape)
Day 1: Hiking around the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulong Xueshan)
Most people head directly to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and take the cable car up to its snowy peak, but as my hostel offered a group hiker around the mountain, I decided to try that instead. If you prefer/ intend to go up the mountain on your own, this information might come in handy.
The next morning, I joined a hike organised by the hostel (180Y) to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain area (玉龙雪山). Although we weren’t going to the summit, the hike would take us to the areas surrounding the summit seldom frequented by tourists. There were no clearly demarcated paths, meaning that the hike could only be lead by people experienced in the area. First, getting to the start point, a short distance out of town, via a minivan.
Start of the hike around Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yu Long Xue Shan)
Soon we were in deep vegetation, hiking through narrow passes, and the scenery changed dramatically every few moments.
Cooked lunch was included in the package so that was great, going out on a hiking trip without having to plan or carry anything, yet having a nice lunch along the way, all prepared for by the organisers. I’m lazy.
Leaving the mountains
As the clouds cleared a little, we managed to catch a glimpse of the majestic peaks, a magnificent sight to behold. Each was unique, yet dramatic, as we stood in awe with every step while the peaks were still in view.
Throughout the hike there was almost no one else other than our hiking group, maybe one or two hikers who somehow made it on their own, and some touristy horse riding stuff near the exit of the hike. The area’s called ‘无人区’ (no persons area) for good reason and I would definitely advise not going there alone. Just did a quick google of area while writing this and apparently tourists get lost in the area often, while one died in the area just this Feb after getting injured and not being able to get help in time.
Back in Lijiang
Having survived a full day hike, we headed back to the city for a well deserved feast! (~73Y/pax) After dinner, a little exploration of the newer parts of town, and stocking up on some supplies.
Day 2: Tiger Leaping Gorge
So it seemed I hadn’t got myself enough hiking the day before, and got myself into another hike the next day, to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. This time, it wasn’t one organised by the hostel but by other guests planning to head there and had invited anyone else who might be interested. The path was well frequented by tourists and there wasn’t a need for a guide. However, the hostel did help us to reserve tickets on the bus to and from the Tiger Leaping Gorge (110Y for transport, 65Y for admission paid at entrance).
Entering the gorge, the road to the starting point of the hike can be quite unnerving, with steep overhanging rocks on one side of the road and a drop off on the other side that seemed to extend forever to the bottom. Portions of the road were missing from heavy rockfall, and the fact that the driver was on the phone with a hand on the wheel did not help calm passengers down.
To the bottom of Tiger Leaping Gorge
At Tina’s Guesthouse, everyone got off the bus (some were leaving their bags at Tina’s or staying the night there), while those on the day hike (like us) proceeded with a smaller vehicle to the start of the hike a little further down the road.
There were a couple of ‘checkpoints’ where people collected ‘tolls’ from tourists. Not sure if they were legal or not but we paid anyway, didn’t amount to too much in the end I think.
How the place got its name
Tiger Leaping Gorge is so called courtesy of a legend, where a tiger, escaping a hunter, jumped from a huge rock at the narrowest point of the gorge over to the other side. And the huge rock above is the aforementioned rock.
Climbing back up
We were a little late for the bus back, but the driver was kind enough to wait. There was only one bus a day from the Tiger Leaping Gorge back to Lijiang. There are also buses to nearby cities such as Shangri-la (Zhongdian), and a couple other routes. If you’re intending to spend more days hiking at Tiger Leaping Gorge, you can get more details here.
Back in Lijiang
Lijiang Old Town at night
Day 3: Lijiang Old Town
Decided to take it a little easier this day. Started much later and spent most of the day wandering around the streets. The Old Town of Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage site. These days it is getting crowded in the old town and there seems to be an entrance fee in place some time after my visit.
Exploring Lijiang Old Town
View over Lijiang Old Town from the top of a hill
Slow and easy. A nice change from the previous two days. And a good rest for more adventures to come.
Day 4: Lijiang Old Town revisited
A good friend of mine joined flew over from Singapore and was to join me for the next two weeks. Was excited to finally have someone over (Yay!). We had an easy day today too, exploring the nooks and crannies of the old town.
Lunch and another stroll around Lijiang Old Town
Then it was time for lunch! Writing about it is making me hungry. My memory is failing me but I think the restaurant is called Gu Lou Xiao Chi (古楼小吃). I liked the grilled fish (烤鱼) (covered in garnish here), and the nice view from the alfresco dining on the roof (refer to the breakfast view picture 2 days above, it’s the same place). The other dishes are nice too, but food here, like most other places in Yunnan, is a little too oily for me.
These three wells are supposedly where people living nearby drink from, wash their food, and wash their clothes in. The well at the highest level is for drinking (on the right side), and it overflows to the middle one, where people wash vegetables, and finally the water flows to the last one (at the far left of the picture), which is for washing clothes. Tried some water from the drinking side and thought it was refreshing. My friend did have reservations trying it though.
Day 5: Qingxi Reservoir (Qingxi Shuiku)
My last day in Lijiang. It was my fifth day here and I was running out of places to visit. Someone I met at the hostel reccomended visiting a reservoir which was a little out of the city but accessible by bus. Locals’ recommendations usually beat most tourist sites so off we went in search of the reservoir.
Qingxi Reservoir (Qing Xi Shui Ku)
We couldn’t miss the stop as it was the last stop on that service (3Y for bus). Took a little while to find our way to the reservoir from the bus stop.
Last meal in Lijiang … for now
And time for our final meal in Lijiang, also one of the most awesome. Back in town, another of the guys at the hostel excitedly brought us to this place he discovered not far from our hostel but where only locals frequent. We basically ordered this huge pot of wholesome goodness (~48/50?Y for a pot thats more than enough for 4 grown guys) with all sorts of ingredients cooked to perfection in an amazing broth for an affordable price. The shop was crowded and it seemed like every table ordered the same thing. I’m not sure what it’s called though, but it was awesome.
Onward to Shangri-La
With our stomachs filled, we grabbed our bags and headed to the bus station for the bus to our next stop, the fabled Shangri-La further up north. We had company with us for the next few days- a guy I met in Dali who was introduced to me by a guy I met in Kunming. Got to the bus station, bought tickets (71Y) on the spot and soon we were on our way.
Lijiang Itinerary (5 days)
- Day 1
- Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yu Long Xue Shan)
- Day 2
- Tiger Leaping Gorge
- Day 3
- Lijiang Old Town
- Day 4
- Lijiang Old Town
- Day 5
- Qingxi Reservoir (Qing Xi Shui Ku)
Budget (5 days)
- Actual travel dates: 20 May 2015 – 25 May 2015
- Accommodation: ¥100(~S$22 for 5 nights)
- Attractions: ¥355(~S$77) (includes transport to Tiger Leaping Gorge)
- Food: ¥503(~S$110)
- Transport (excl bus to Shangrila): Y3(~S$0.65)
- Bus to Shangrila: ¥71 (~S$15)
- Total: ¥1113(~S$243)