Blogging from Lijiang – China

Posted in China at 1:12 pm by Administrator

Email from TC – Nov 15, 2009

Hey there,

here is an update from Lijiang.

We’ve just arrived in the province of Yunnan and the city of Lijiang. Wow what a difference it is from tibet. There is so much development here. Granted, the development seems pretty forced and the locals don’t seem quite ready for it but its great to have electricity and showers where-ever we go. The trip from Lhasa was really diverse.
The last time that I wrote I was in the city of Bayi town. That was in one of the low and fertile valleys of tibet and it was pretty overrun by han chinese rather than tibetans. once we got back above 4000m we found that the chinese (understandably) are fair-weather emigrants and only move to the nice warm bits. The dry high areas are really tibetan and were awesome to see. The most tibetan city that we saw was Mangkam (or markham or gartok or gartog (each place still has at least 3 different names)) in the very east on tibet. It was a cool place and I’m disappointed that we only got to spend a few hours there.
When we left Bayi town our schedule had us driving one day, riding 2 and then driving another day into Lijiang. As it turned out we rode 70 km of that journey and then had to drive 4.5 long and full days to reach the areas that we no longer need a guide and don’t have to go through checks in every town. The driving days were very long days, ranging from 2000 m to 4500 m above sea level. The roads deteriorated to the point where the landcruiser barely fit along the bumpy dirt track. On one side, 30 cm from the edge of the tyre, were drops of 800m to the river below and solid rock was on the upside. Then take into account that there are huge trucks trying to get passed and there was often a large amount of precarious reversing to find a spot wide enough to allow one vehical to pass. It also doesn’t help that drivers in china believe that an accelerator pedal only has an on and off position. Only fast or stop. So add that to the horribly (and spectactularly) winding roads and the massive daily cahnges in elevation and you have a great mix for car sickness.
Each pass that you cross in tibet leads to an amazingly different scene and way of life. The landscape changes with each pass and it is so interesting to see how people live differently just kilometres from each other. Eastern tibet is something that should be seen, the feeling of remoteness and uniqness is so fantastic. To do this trek spread over a few more days with some stops in the smaller places is awesome. We stopped in Rawu Lake, Bashto (for lunch), Pambu (a tiny dot of a place on a crossroad that is too chinese), Mangkam (lunch stop), a hotspring settlement on teh tibet border, shangri-la (otherwise known as gyalthang) and then Lijiang. Shangrila is in Yunnan but still has a significant tibetan population so it is only now that we are truely in China. Shangri-la was actually a cute place and we enjoyed the bars/restuarants in the old town. Lijiang oldtown is also really pretty but there are sooo many tourists that it reminds me slightly of San Marino. The hot spring place saw us in a posh hotel room, spending a few hours in the warm mineral springs by a gushing river in a beautiful gorge for the huge price of $25 aussie dollars. That is one thing about travelling this region, living the posh life is soooo cheap.
Chinese tourists and their purchant for horrible hats is hilarious. The men all wear disgusting versions of american cowboy hats and the women seemed to have been trawling the garbage bins after the melbourne spring carnival for teh worst race day hats that you can imagine.
The other thing that has offered me endless hilarity in China is the Chingrish language. We have so many photos of the names of shops and restuarants. Things like “The god of the east that is worshiped by the taoists wholesale store limited”, “Hi yang fruit shop and the surface pressure” or street signs like “Don’t waste food, eat and drink healthily”.
Also we saw so many pilgrims in eastern tibet on their way to lhasa. I mentioned them in teh last entry but I’m still amazed that they prostrate themselves for hundreds of kilometres on the way to the capital and that they deliberately leave at the time of year that is coldest so that the journey is harder and therefore their soul is all the more cleansed. Wow.
Its nice now to be in a place where the temperature is back in double figures of teh positive celsius scale.
We’re off tomorrow to hike the tiger leaping gorge and then it’ll be off south to Dali and then to Kunming.
Have fun for now.

Tc and Nic

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