Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Coolest Old Town Ever

That's certainly a bold statement, and of course I'm basing it off only places I have been. Still, Lijiang, in northern Yunnan province was pretty freakin' sweet. First though, I went to Dali, Lijiang's rival a couple hours south that also knows how to throw a party. Dali (home of Dali beer), is a city situated around the enormous Er Hai Lake and nestled in between the Cangshan mountains. After a night of pedaling cheese, I got up at 7am and rented a bike and hauled out to the ancient Three Pagodas. The pagados themselves were pretty cool, but I've seen my fair share of pagodas, and the huge park itself was basically built up around the pagodas for tourism. I asked one of the merchants in which dynasty a particular temple was built, and she said 2005. Not so cool. After that I made a valiant effort to get to the butterfly garden, as I pedaled for a solid hour by wheat and corn fields. Ultimately I didn't have enough time, and decided instead to head to the water to do some journaling while local fishermen tried to make a catch.

The next stop was Lijiang, a city whose history stretches back over 800 years and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is home to the Naxi minority, and is exactly what you would think of when you think of traditional Chinese towns - cobblestone roads, ceramic tiled roofs with horned eaves, and old buildings squeezed together to create intimate alleys lit by bright red lanterns. The coolest thing about this bustling old town, however, is the system of open waterways running through the city. It's no Venice, but it is pretty nice to enjoy some traditional Naxi bread and noodles in a cafe perched right next to a canal that runs under a series of wheeping willows.

While snooping around I was asked to take my first photo with a Chinese person this summer. This was common stuff three years ago, but I've found that as China becomes more and more exposed and developed, especially as a tourist destination, my white skin and brown hair are becoming less of a novelty. It must be the smooth good looks that keep them coming back for more.

After finding Petit Lijiang, an old bookstore where I was able to trade two old books for a new one (The Kite Runner, if you were wondering), I did some hunting for dinner. There were simply too many new foods to settle for just one big meal, so I took the piecemeal approach. First I started off with some delicious dumplings prepared by a local Naxi-family-run restaurant. This was a cheaper restaurant (I tend toward these), and apparently they don't get too many foreigners, or at least Chinese speaking ones. They had a good time with me, asking for my opinion on everything from Michael Jackson to Chinese women. Next I went for the "Chinese Hamburger" - basically a hollow bread creation that is stuffed with cold noodles. It got better when I added loads of spices. A dried water dragonfly was next up, and it took a bit of willpower to get that one down. I ended up putting down three of them for good measure. The dragonflies might (would) have been better had they been deep fried or covered in chocolate, or both. Then I went for some dried yak meat, which was great, and followed it up with yak yogurt which, because yogurt in China is "酸" or sour, was downright nasty. I polished off all of that with a cold Fanta of the orange variety. There was a war being waged in my stomach that night as I slept.

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I have dried dragonflies, I always insist on them being deep fried and choclate covered! Great stuff - hope your stomach survives!