While the calendar at school reads “Spring Break,” Chengdu has greeted the coming of April and spring with cold, grim, cold, damp, “foggy,” cold, bleak (have I mentioned cold?) weather that feels anything like spring.
So we did what any self respecting person does when they can’t take the cold, we left for the long weekend.
Phil and I visited Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site/tourist hub in Yunnan province that is home to a bustling old town that gives a glimpse into not only old village ways but also to domestic travel in China today. Yunnan is home to a variety of minorities and in Lijiang the most predominant is the Naxi people.
We arrived early Saturday morning, took the bus into the city, had a quick meal and head into the old town to find a place to stay for the night.
The old town is beautiful, when its not hoarded by people and most of the shops are closed. There’s a fine balance to be had between historical preservation of the Naxi architecture, water canals, hidden picturesque alleys and tourist garbage. Between blue skies and a back drop of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Lijiang is somehow able to accomplish this balance.
We found a small little guest house called Tai Hang Garden down a quiet alley that had a sunny courtyard and a friendly and a bit over-eager Chinese couple who were happy to arrange anything we needed. They were pretty excited to see two foreigners show up at their door.
In terms of Naxi food highlights include lao pai gu (cured ribs) and Dong ba chicken were excellent but we quickly discovered how flavorful Sichuan food is when put up against other provinces. Nothing quite matches up to the food we eat daily here in Chengdu.
Absolute highlight of our tour of Lijiang was when we went to get “sanwen” a highly recommended fish dish. Our hotel manager said it would be one of the best meals of our trip, so we figured, with the pristine mountain waters it must be pretty good. Turns out sanwen means salmon. She sent us to go eat salmon, in China, closer to Tibet than any ocean. Luckily, we bought a live one, who knows where they get live salmon in China, but we ate it. It was alright, it was worth more shock value than anything.