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Lijiang Travel Guide

Lijiang Activities

There is a reason Lijiang is on the UN World Heritage list. At night with the lighting along the old canals lined with trees, and with the lighting on the curved eaves of the houses up to the pagoda on Lion Hill, it is one of the most romantic places imaginable. It´s so perfectly beautiful that even the Chinese stop and stare and try to photograph it. I didn´t even try at night. The old city covers so large an area, even with a map; you get completely lost in the tangled streets and stone bridges. The cobbled streets are worn smooth, and even the old Chinese characters showing where water lines and electric lines are laid are usually impossible to read. There are lots of tourists, and at first I thought it was basically a Disneyland reproduction of what life used to be. But the more you walk away from the two main streets, the more you find the native Naxi people living regular lives not based on tourism. I happened on to a small street where a coffin had been carved that morning and was just being painted with red and black tar. 3 foot tea makers over open Naxi man stringing beads flames got filled over and over; locals brought baskets of food; the wood chips got swept up; and the coffin was put under a canopy that stretched across the whole alleyway. I felt like I was intruding, or I would have just sat and watched for the rest of the afternoon.
There is a pretty well known Naxi orchestra that has it´s own hall and does nightly performances of the music of the area. The orchestra members are mostly really really old men who almost seem asleep and can barely lift their instruments, but the music starts, they really come to life. Each number is introduced by the conductor, mostly in Chinese, or when he gets a little tired, a lovely young girl talks about the next song in both Chinese and English. Then the oldest of the really old men rings his chime, chants out the name of the song v e r y s l o w l y , and the music begins. The opening song (a thousand year old piece written by some emperor of some province) was amazing with its gongs and drums and rock chimes--it was like being in church. My favorite of the evening, though, was the young girl who played mouth organ. It was really easy (after being told what the song was about) to hear the tune and the words at the same time. It was such a crowd pleaser, that she did an encore.
I always thought that the color for China was red. Maybe because the earth is so unbelievably red here, the color for Lijiang is blue. Blue is everywhere. The Naxi women wear a native dress of mostly blue. All aprons are blue, or at least have a wide swath of blue at the bottom. The head covers are blue. The men wear blue chairman Mao hats. Shoulder bags are blue. The street sweepers (the streets are really clean) wear blue. Bike bags are blue. Bike carts are blue. The busses are blue. The license plates are blue. The garbage trucks (small as they are) are blue. Even the postcards are enhanced with blue. No wonder the Chinese love blue jeans--it´s like a june bug to a street lamp.
The carving here is amazing. The windows and doors have intricate carvings of birds and trees. The walls often have large carved screens. Rarely are they as intricately painted as the photo, but it is amazing.
The more time you spend here, the richer the culture seems. It took me a couple of days, but a lot of signs are both in Chinese and the Naxi hieroglyphs. The glyphs are pretty amusing and usually pretty self-explanatory. You may not know how to pronounce it, but the meaning is often completely obvious.
I´ve been completely seduced by this city. I´ve spent much more time than I ever imagined I would.
On another note, Tibet opened this week to foreign visitors in an organized group. The first group went in on Tuesday. I met a Dutch couple who will be going next week. The travel permit is only for Lhasa and the lake about 40 km north of Lhasa, but there seems to be some hope that once there some other travel would be permitted. I am really tempted to go since I´m not that far from the border. but independent travel is still not permitted. So I´m off to the south and mosquito-land.

Lijiang Tour Packages

Lijiang Tour Guide

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