Tiger Leaping Gorge, Lijiang’s fabulous food market, and oh! that altitude!

It was quite a relief to leave the desert, smog, and pollution and arrive in the picturesque old city of Lijiang close to the Tibet border. The altitude is high (TheEye was gasping), cool and the air fresh and clean. Also, a joy to see green fields, flowers, fruit trees, corn, and rice paddies.

We stayed in our first international luxury hotel – the Banyan Tree. After a few fairly rough places (a mouse in my travelling companion’s bathroom), hotel guests chain-smoking in bedrooms leaving their doors open so the fumes could circulate everywhere (very generous of them to share), threadbare carpets and one ‘buffet’ breakfast where the bread was still rock hard frozen and the orange juice warmed up squash and absolutely no fruit, not even a banana in sight, it’s wonderful how you really appreciate the finer comforts of life.

A visit to the Tiger Leaping Gorge was quite an experience. TheEye had visited waterfalls and gorges before and rather naively thought maybe she should take her swimsuit. However, it wasn’t quite as expected. An exhausting walk down hundreds of steep stairs with the river thrashing below was somewhat alarming. One slip and… well, who knows, but TheEye might not be around to tell the tale.

A long way down and a very long way up.

Some were carried by human rickshaws which must rate as the bottom of the employment barrel.

Some took the easy way down but then felt sorry for the ‘rickshaw’ carriers and walked.

No swimming!

You wouldn’t survive to tell the tale.

Lijiang Food Market

A huge daily market selling vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and dry goods. Lots of strange roots and fungi for medicinal purposes, to say nothing of dried snakes, frogs and a variety of gruesome intestines. And lovely flowers. It was the chrysanthemum festival when we were there and brilliant displays in gorgeous colours. A separate area adjoining the market resembles Covent Garden with a similar lively atmosphere. Packed with shops, boutiques, and cafes it is teeming with young fashionable Chinese tourists.

All kinds of strange eggs – preserved, pickled. Better off with plain boiled and toast soldiers!

Freshly picked each day and spotlessly clean.

Freshly fermented bean curd and tofu.

Great fish and they certainly knew how to prepare it.

Mushrooms…apparently these rather sinister looking fungi are used for medicinal purposes. Also dried snakes and frogs.

Cooking up a storm

Demonstrating the traditional way to make pu’er tea which apparently takes years off your life, prevents illness and just about everything else. A production to make, but TheEye fell for the packaging.

Rooftop view from the Tea House

BAISHA EMBROIDERY CENTRE

Baisha Embroidery Centre is in a rural hamlet outside the bustle of Lijiang. Three or four young members of one family work together. Their skill is brilliant but, sadly, they mostly copy old master paintings they have found on the internet of the Laughing Cavalier variety. TheEye is good at seeking things out and found a corner hidden away in a back room of some lovely original abstract work in black and white thread. Abstract and double-sided. Well, of course, she couldn’t resist and had it taken from its frame and rolled and now being framed in West Hampstead.

The happy embroiderer who has just sold her abstract work to me and taken it out of its frame so I could have it rolled and taken home with me. Both happy.

SHAXI (PRONOUNCED SHASHI)

A couple of hour’s drive to this small rural town, popular with Chinese holidaymakers, students, and backpackers.

Very pretty and our hotel, The Old Theatre Inn, still has a theatre and stage where music is performed.

A tranquil courtyard. The bedrooms were minuscule. A great deal of strategic planning was required as to where to put our cases. TheEye will be able to give packing seminars soon with all her experience.

Theatre in the main square Shaxi

Old Theatre Inn Shaxi

It was a steep climb to visit an extraordinarily beautiful 9th Century Buddhist Temple at the top of a high hill with several caves containing fascinating rock (sandstone) carvings on Buddhist and secular themes, well preserved for the most part…

Statues on Buddhist and Secular themes have been mainly well preserved apart from thefts by antiquity explorers about 20 years ago.

A farmer taking a break to smoke the pipe he made himself. Tried to buy it, but he wasn’t interested. What a fine face?

Our ‘taste’ of China couldn’t  have ended in a more pleasant way.

On our way to Hong Kong. Farewell China.

A zillion thoughts and impressions to process about what we had seen and discussed on our travels. Positive and negative in equal measure.

To quote the supremely powerful, Winnie The Pooh lookalike (Winnie The Pooh, by the way, is banned in China), President Xi Jinping, ‘Don’t worry, in China, we have only one gear, and it’s forward.’

Soon there will be statues of President ‘Uncle Xi’. The most powerful and autocratic Chinese leader since Chairman Mao.

It was off to the bright lights of Hong Kong – a cultural world away.

A somewhat hazy view of Hong Kong (awful smog) from The Peak.

Fireworks from the 51st floor of The Upper House Hotel celebrating China’s Independence Day

 

10 Comments

  1. Fabulous
    What an incredible trip.

  2. Sounds like a very interesting holiday…will put it on my list! 😘

  3. Wonderful adventure… wonderful pictures…makes me nostalgic…i lived on the top of the peak for six years when there was no smog….ah…what a world…thanks for sharing …happy you are back safely !!!

  4. It sounds very remote but from the photos is obviously geared to tourists. Did you feel echoes of old China? One of the most amazing things I remember from my visit in 1994 was the voice of the very old Chinese guide in a pearl factory, in Souchou or Wuxi, where he had worked since he was a boy. It was pure refined upper class Edwardian English. A voice like that would have no chance in the UK where accents are influenced by usage, the BBC, film etc but this man probably in his 90s had been able to preserved this accent in his remote bubble.

    • Thanks for your comments. The tourists were all Chinese. Very few Westerners where we were. Sadly now there are NO echoes of the old China. We were there also in 1994. Only in the rural areas (Xaxi), a lovely gentle time warp. The technological advances are impressive and astounding – new cities have sprouted up in two or three years. Tower blocks, factories (bilging out fumes, so awful pollution), amazing road and rail networks, wind farms etc. The flip side is the total control. You read I am sure that President Xi Jinping now has a mandate to rule for life following in the steps of Mao and has promised the Chinese people ‘he will help them achieve the goals set by the founding revolutionaries a century ago to create a country that is prosperous, strong and can dominate the world (again)’. Our trip was a fascinating adventure.

  5. Brilliant – Tiger leaping gorge looks amazing! Quite a trip show us the black and white weave. x

    • It was a real adventure – from start to finish. Not a holiday in the rest/relax way at all. Quite arduous but abslolutely fascinating. In the ghastly throes of moving next week and when settled in the temporary ‘digs’ you must come and see the black and white embroidery. Wish I had bought more.

  6. What an amazing trip, I would love to go there, but would definitely need to come to your packing classes !!
    x

  7. You are such an adventuress. Have globe , will travel.

    Love the photo of David being carried down the stairs.

    Take me with you next time. xxx Love K

  8. I have been enjoying your blog.
    Especially the idea of pu’er tea, have you been drinking it?

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