From Chengdu, a "20" hour bus-ride awaited me. This was after being sold a ticket to Lugu Lake, which I returned because it was NOT going there, and I would have had to have transferred at 2am to the bus station in XiangXi and caught the bus there around 6am, riding in the hard seat of the train which essentially meant losing a full night's rest. Not the most ideal of options and not worth it during a long trip. So the bus ride actually took 25 hours due to long windy roads, but provided an incrediblly scenic view (don't worry pictures are plentiful - I have been lazy about sending them, I know I'm sorry). I saw some beautfiul natural landscapes which appeared as the road meandered east and west and north and south up and down these mountains. I had the pleasure of viewing waterfalls with water the normal color I am accustomed to seeing, along with Red water! We also stopped several times due to muddy conditions on the road and other vehicles attempting to pass - these roads were quite narrow you know...Also the occasional sheep herder (yes they still exist) caused us minor delays...and were actually herding other animals too!
So I finally arrived in Lijiang! "Backpackers Heaven", although it hardly seems like it. I had a walk around the old town the day I arrived. Stunning would be the best word to describe it. It is just as beautiful as the pictures show (the old town at least) and wandering through the streets gives you a dreamily relaxing feeling that no matter what happens in life, everything will work out just fine. All seems well as you observe the swaying smooth sea plants lightly gripping onto the bottom of the small streams which line city streets and flow under anciently constructed bridges. The red ornaments decorate the streets, as do the fabulous varieties of plants and vines hanging from all around the town. The nightlife is flaring as well, as this seems to be a prime location for Chinese toursits. Sort of random, but "Mishu" this dog's hostel is one of the finest, cudest and cuddliest canines I have yet to encounter in my lifetime. If it were not for the Chinese police being so strict, and the staff, I might have attempted an under cover mission to string this fabulous mammal with me to my next stop! On a random side note, I tried Yak meat - several different varieties - sweet, spicy, etc. It is absolutely delicious!
A friend and I rented a bike and took off this morning to vist some villages belonging to the Naxi Minority Ethnic group in China. The view on that bike ride once we got off the main road was unreal - something out of a movie might be the best attempt at using my knowledge of the English language in describing it. With clouds hanging over the mountains and a bright blue sky, surrounded by crops and horses, cows and goats, this was just the natural and amazing sight that people had told me I would see in Southern China!
The first village, Shuhe was was too touristy and we barely saw any Naxi people there. It was when we got off the beaten path and into the country side where we encountered the second village, called Baixa. This was a much more authentic experience, and the cultural component to Lijiang that both the gentleman who I was accompanied by and myself were hoping to have! We had some authentic Naxi food there, experienced the culture, and managed to make our way into an elderly 80 something year old woman's humble abode. Her name was Mei Liu and it will be impossible to forget her. She gave us tea, sweets, peanuts (which I could not eat), and we saw like literally hundreds of travelrs who had signed her copious amounts of guestbooks, left souvenirs, and photos. We also had the pleasure of meeting both her daughter and grandson! After giving a small monerary gift for her kindness, we headed back to our home base in the ancient town of Lijiang! Next stop, Tiger Leaping Gorge!