I made it into Lijing after 4 hours in a small bus that constantly stopped for passengers. We even had to load some sacks of rice along the way. I dozed off for most part of the trip, so the next thing I knew, we were approaching a city, that is the new Lijiang, on a cloudy day. The bus stopped in front of what seemed to be gate of the Old Town. My inn was located inside the Old Town, the main attraction of Lijiang. I got down and tried to ask for directions. Unfortunately, nobody could understand me, so I tried calling the inn. I was told to go to Sifang Square, where I would meet someone to escort me to the inn. Turns out I was far from Sifang Square, and with the maze that is the Old Town, I got lost.
Lijiang Old Town (or Ancient Town) is a labyrinth of cobblestone alleys. The place was huge, way bigger than Dali. I began to like it though, as you really feel you're in a Chinese movie set. Preserved shop houses lined the alleys, streams flow everywhere.
I followed the crowds, until I found an alley that was packed with people. Finally, I ended up in an open space with a lot of tourists capturing themselves on photos. I arrived in Sifang Square after 10 minutes of walking. I called up Mu, my host, and told him that I was beside the tourist information kiosk. He arrived 3 minutes after, got my bag and told me to follow him.
I saw the sign of my inn, and I was glad it was located on a quiet alley beside the ancestral home of the "king" of Lijiang (the family who built the town). Mu's Garden Inn was pleasant. It had a courtyard, like most Chinese inns, and was built out of wood. I settled in a private room and unloaded my stuff. I was so tired from walking that I had to rest before I head outside to see what Lijiang holds for me.
After an hour of rest, Mu gave me a map of Old Town Lijiang. Finally, a map. I began my exploration of the old town, passing through Sifang Square again, hoping I would get to master the maze. Lijiang was full of Chinese tourists. They were packing each alley. There were shops everywhere, selling everything unique to Lijiang and China from antiques to silk scarves.
Lijiang was capturing my attention for its preserved old town charm. You could see the Naxi people whipping up their delicacies, creating artworks, or just lazing around. It was still their home.
It was also so cold, so I decided to finally buy a fleece jacket to add layer to my clothing. I also noticed a lot of tourist reminder signs like this one:
I went around looking for a place to eat. There were some side walk vendors selling their native delicacies and some street side dishes like this egg omelette which they call a pancake. It was savory and sweet at the same time.
I moved on to find a place to sit and have a decent meal. I ended up in Prague Cafe, where I had a very tasty Naxi Sandwich. Think a regular clubhouse, but with goat cheese, egg, potatoes and lettuce. This is also where I bought my handcrafted Lijiang notebooks.
I continued walking around Lijiang and ended up in Pub Street, which had several bars and restaurants. Little did I know that this place transformed into a huge beat box at night. This was the first time that I saw Chinese people dancing crazily on the dance floor, and singing to tunes that are out-of-tune.
I went back to the inn after amusing myself with the Chinese revelers. I had to get some rest as I would be heading to my most anticipated destination the next day: The Tiger Leaping Gorge.