Shangri-la and lijiang
We were due to arrive in shangri-la at around 5 in the evening, expecting to get a lift from our hotel once we were near the realms of the ancient town. Well. This didn’t happen. To start with, I feel I need to say the rout from doacheng to shangri-la had some of the most breathtaking scenery I have EVER seen! So for that reason the agony the trip ended up being was almost worth it!
We left our hotel around 5am to walk the mile with our bags and walk the mile to the bus depo and get a place for the luggage early on. For once the bus left on time, so we were in good spirits… This didn’t last for long. 15 minutes up the road before leaving daocheng town behind the coach was pulled over by the police. We sat there in the coach for a long time not being told what was going on. One hour passed by… Then we were told that the coach was over loaded which is why we had been stopped. But this was not the strange part, as the minutes passed we found that it was not luggage and not people but the number of actual CHAIRS fitted in the coach, strange! We were told the coach would not leave today and we would need to rearrange for the following day. We were a little worried as our hotel was already booked payed for and non refundable. We waited. Eventually, a couple of men from South Korea said to us if we group together the police will cave, as you need five foreign people to make a fuss for them to back out. So, that’s what we did… We headed over to the police, us four and a English man who spoke Chinese fluently. We spoke in our native tongue, and asked what the problem was. Sure enough, the police quickly changed their minds… We were shocked! We were informed we needed to wait for a mechanic to come and physically remove the extra chairs…. We never found out what happened to the four people who purchased the seats went to, a couple moved places, but there would have still been four extra people somewhere. So, by around 9am we were ready to start our ten hour trip at last. Hungry and tired.
Within the first three hours of the ride the coach winded up and down mountains clinging to the edges of huge drops, overlooking gorges and waterfalls, painfully overtaking other coaches on the narrow road that zigzagged over the cliffs. It was truly breathtaking, although the camera bags were stowed away under the coach. Kraig kept falling asleep and missed most of the views! We also drove through tiny little villages. The. Coach however, didn’t really stop for breaks to stretch your legs….repeat of Daocheng! So the coach was behind schedular by around two or three hours by our clock, the sun was getting low in the sky and it had started to rain. We had made it off of the mountains and on to flat ground. When we were around 20 miles from our final destination all started to go wrong. The coach was on a small road, and a truck had got stuck in the middle of the road, between river and mud mound. Only small cars were tempting to go through the gap (although I’m pretty sure if they tried harder we would have got through!) other people from the coach had started to disperse catching rides with other local Chinese people. We weren’t so lucky. We had a tonne of luggage, and could not speak anything useful in Chinese which would help us get to shangri-la ancient town. The hotel had agreed to pick us up once we were there, as it was close-buy, but when we called to see if we could arrange a way to be picked up from our location and pay, they were not willing. The driver who had extra seats and had had his photo taken by the less than happy police had vanished into thin air. Only a handful of people remained on the coach. A couple of tebetan men, us and the one English man who spoke Chinese. Others with no luggage attempted the walk in to a busier part of town, but the mud was think, the path was bumpy and we could not see clearly. We wasn’t sure the route or just how far. It was getting dark, the rain was getting harder. Then we got lucky, thanks to Mike. He arranged with a local a lift for us for 100CNY, more than our whole bus journey cost. We jumped in the back of a truck, and off we went music blaring. The truck smashed over the bumps, through the ditches and puddles. It was a much longer journey than we thought. Eventually we got to the once ancient town, and mike helped us to get to our hotel, just up the road from his. We got to the hotel around 10 or 11pm… We’re not too sure, but it was one of our longest days in china!
Due to being in Yunnan we were unable to rent motor cycles, which was the start of our issues here. We found the town was very expensive to get around, cab drivers would ask a fortune to get to the places the town was named after and there were no busses to these places. The city was a lot biger than expected as with many cities in china. So unfortunately we didn’t get to see the mountains and rivers we thought we would see here, but nonetheless it was on rout to our next destination, lijiang. The ancient town we stayed beside had burned to the ground the year before due to bad electrics leaving just a building site behind. To lijiang was a further 6-7 hour bus leaving early one morning, a short cab ride to the depo early in the morning in the dark!
We both very much enjoyed the time we spent in lijiang. It’s defiantly a city we would recommend visiting. Many people and blogs said that other ancient towns were better such as Dali. But lijiang although some areas were supposedly burnt down was our favourite. We suspect that most of he ancient town is fairly new builds of older structures but it had a wonderful atmosphere. We spent quite a lot of time in the ancient town looking at all the little trinkets and purchasing a few gifts to send home. we are quite reserved buying things as we are aware of luggage allowances as well as the difficulties of posting things home. lijiang ancient town however for us had things we were interested to browse in the shops and we picked up quite a few nice things (which we eventually were able to ship home, half in china for a small fortune and half in Thailand.)
As well as the ancient town we also visited black dragon pool park. We had heard if you get there early you can beat the guards and not pay… So off we went arriving before dawn to catch the sunrise. We found the gate and the night security guard. He stopped us as the Chinese locals jogged on through. We made our point in English that the park was not open yet, he didn’t understand and eventually we went through without payment, success! Unfortunately, no pretty sunrise, the story of china. The clouds fogged the horizon behind the pagoda, and no colour prevailed. But we did still have a good morning looking around and walking t the peak of the mountain and looking at the city below.
We visited a smaller town near Lijiang called Baisha. This is also an ancient town similar to lijiang, but with some unique differences. Although the towns all sold similar things, Baisha had some of the only traditionally dressed locals we saw in china. Most we were to see were for shows or to draw attention, but a few workers in the stalls in Baisha working on the threading machines weaving silk wore fine, colourful garments, which was a joy to see!