Travels With Hyeongnim 3: to Lijiang

Out of Dali and on towards Lijiang, another ancient capital city, still in good/renovated shape, and much like Dali a major (perhaps the major) part of the tourist trail. Interestingly enough, there didn’t seem to even be a tourist trail anywhere else. Up until Yunnan, that had been one of my favorite things about China: I never got the “insect on a dead thing” feeling that troubled me so much in the more popular parts of Vietnam and in Thailand. Of course, China is changing probably faster than the rest of Asia, meaning that its old culture is indeed quickly becoming a dead thing – but the insects here are Chinese; I don’t feel like it’s me and my kind that are doing the damage.

Of course, what “doing damage” means requires more analysis than I’m willing to give it. Even though it’s kind of the central anti-theme of my ride and my life.

For now, I’ll counter this pessimism by saying that even when certain parts of a country have been transformed into “dead things,” there are always more parts that haven’t, and there are always certainly more people that haven’t. In the words of the Lonely Planet regarding Lijiang, despite the crowds “There’s still enough there there” if only you go looking for it. Being on a bicycle is almost certainly the best way to do so.

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So it was that I set off with Hyeongnim and two dudes that he had met they day after our accidental split: Tianlong and Yongshun, both on their way to…Lhasa! Surprise!

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A tourist stop on Erhai Lake, altitude 2000m+, just outside of Dali. This pictureque bird arrangment is achieved by tying their legs to the bamboo pole so they won’t flee.

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Prayer-less prayer flags; we’re almost in Tibet! Not that I’m allowed in.

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Stop at a Monday market in Shaping. This is the first totally transient market I’ve seen. Even the restaurants are gone by the next day.

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Perhaps the coolest thing about Yunnan – all the minorities. Particularly the women, almost always wearing traditional dress. In East China, I had barely even been conscious of the fact that minorities exist here; as you move West, though, fewer and fewer people are Han Chinese, and fewer and fewer speak Mandarin as their first tongue. Luckily, they all speak it as a (fluent if accented) second, so I can still get by.

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(After purchasing of some bean flour noodles:) “Hey boss, can we take a picture together?” “Why should I, I know you won’t send it to me?” “I can send it to you! I’ve done that before, really! Just give me your address!” “My address can’t be written.” “Oh.” “Also, I’m old and ugly, you’re young and handsome.” “No way! Your clothes are beautiful, but mine are dirty and I have all this ugly hair on my face.” Haha, picture’s already taken!

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More friends on the road. No gear, but I was still faster than them up the mountain! Suckers!

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I had to do a lot of waiting; Hyeongnim is a little slower than me, but takes cigarette breaks pretty often; TL and YS are still in the first days of their trip, so they haven’t quite acclimated. I, on the other hand, don’t like resting until (what I think is the) top of the mountain; resting halfway up just makes me more tired. So, I get to the top 30-45 minutes before everyone else. What to do? Make a target and throw rocks at it! Yeah! There’s always fun to be had.

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#2 to arrive joines my makeshift/found-art Olympiad. Oh, the joys of not being alone!

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The camera’s also a good down-time toy.


That night, Hyeongnim and I camped in an abandoned (we hoped!) truck stop while the two tentless fellows went on into town.

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“Ghost games,” as the Koreans call this.

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Next morning, in town: a pair of Quebecois cyclists. She’s 60ish, he’s 55ish. Could my trip last thirty years?!

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And, after all that countryside, we make it to Lijiang Ancient City! Another 5km2 block of shops selling trekking gear, souvenirs, indigenous-looking skirts and shalws, yak meat, or drums. Oh, and the drum shops all have at least one cute girl drumming along to the same Naxi tribe song. You cannot escape that song. As in, if you’re in old town, you’re in earshot. Maybe from several directions at once.

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Then again, how can you be grumpy when the town is filled with cute little cafes like this one?

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As it was the repetitive song that most annoyed me while walking around, I’ll let you take your tour in silence. Imagine you’re there, walking around, bright sun, beautiful clouds, clean mountain air (altitude nearly 8000ft), slight chill, earplugs in.

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The end.

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10 Responses to Travels With Hyeongnim 3: to Lijiang

  1. SHAKY says:

    that saddle of yours is gettin a good ridin` ya fuhkkin sluhhhh mike u like lijiang? ms too

  2. 썌키 says:

    Hey I’m Shaky!

  3. zara says:

    한글버전으론 쓰지 않나요?^^
    난 무사히 잘 도착해서 집에서 푹 쉬고 있어요
    내가 청두 떠나고 쓰촨성에 지진 일어났다던데…
    항상 건강조심!!!!

    • Michael Roy says:

      지구날 행사전 도착하셨네요! 지구의 날은 내 생일인데 보고 싶은 친구들과 같이 재미있게 노세요!

      전 내일 모레 샹그릴라에서 출발함. 정말 푸ㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜㄱ 쉬었어요.ㅎㅎ

  4. 1째썌키 says:

    Pretty sure i remember that cafe with all the stickers everywhere. Next post – can we see some pictures of yaks?

  5. Marisa says:

    Absolutely love these photos!