Lijiang Old Town, Yunnan
Most people heading for Tiger Leaping Gorge get there from Lijiang, probably
the most famous tourist spot in Yunnan. It seems a decade ago this was a fairly remote outpost of the backpacker crowd, as was Tiger Leaping. The gorge is still rather rugged and geared more at the backpacker crowd than anyone else — though with the road now covering the entire length, it’s only a matter of time before the tour buses come in.
Lijiang, on the other hand, is firmly entrenched on the tour-bus itinerary
now, so you can see the usual crowds of tourists (mostly Chinese or other
East Asian: it seems most westerners here still travel solo or in small
groups) trooping along after a loudspeaker-bearing and flag-waving (makes them visible in the crowds) guide. While this crowds the streets up and increases commercial pressure on anyone walking the streets (as in, “hello!
hello! come in, taste the tea, see beautiful paintings!”), nothing can
change the fact that Lijiang is a gorgeous city, graced with lovely car-free streets (in the old town) and goldfish-filled canals, in a beautiful setting.
Before getting there, none of us had quite taken in the fact that, 40km north of town, sits what can fairly be described as the first mountain of the Himalayas. So you can imagine our surprise when we looked up from one of the town squares to see what was clearly a massive mountain rising in the distance.