A few days after returning from Mt Bromo (previous post), went for a family holiday to Yunnan, visiting Kunming, Lijiang and Shangri-La. Here are some of the (photo) highlights of the trip!
Day 1: Shi Lin (Stone Forest) and Jiu Xiang (a very impressive cave – actually several caves in all, quite recently turned into a tourist attraction).
Day 2: Visited the minorities cultural village most of the day, and finished the day with a walk down an old street in Kunming, and dinner around the neighbourhood.
After that, we took an overnight train to Lijiang.
Day 3: Arrived 7 plus am, and went to our (boutique) hotel to drop off our luggage. Then, on the recommendation of our hosts, we took a trip to Lassi Sea area for canoeing, horse riding (along the scenic old Tea Horse route, where salt and tea were carried on horses and traded in Lijiang Old City, long ago). At night, we visited the very happening old city of Lijiang (the one that is biggest, most bustling and touristy) – good for experiencing the vibrant atmosphere as there were live music everywhere, and lots of (young) people wandering around, and shopping.
Day 4: Met up with our guide, who brought us to Blue Moon Valley, the Glacier on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and to watch the very famous Zhang Yimou show “Impressions of Lijiang”, featuring the various tribes of Yunnan performing against the backdrop of the mountain!
We then went to Baisha village (see above picture) for lunch and to walk around this rather quieter old town (certainly has a more “authentic” feel then the one we visited the night before, as the inhabitants of the village can be seen just hanging around the streets, even though the shops are also mostly catered to tourists).
Day 5: Early start for me and Chien to reach the Black Dragon Pond Park for the above (very famous) postcard scene of Lijiang (with water, bridge, pagoda and mountain backdrop). The park entrance fees are 80RMB, but its free before 7 am, for locals to go in to exercise, so if you want to go there, and save on the entrance fees, head there early!!. It is a pretty park, but as our hotel hosts opined, it is rather expensive just to pay 80RMB for the above scenery, and to spend 10 min there! But in my view, you definitely need to spend more than 10 min there (it is not that small a park!), and those who like such spaces will like it there.
After breakfast, we visited ShiGu (Stone Drum, literally) with our guide. This is a village at the “first bend of the Yangtze River”, which is interesting geographically (for the way the river does a dramatic 180 degree turn here) and historically (for its connection to the Long March). Fortunately, it was also a market day where the locals around the area gather to peddle their stuff (mostly food products) and it was interesting with Nongbu, our guide, telling us stories related to the place. If you go on your own though, it may be very much less interesting, if you are not into history …
After lunch at Shigu, it was time for us to do our trek along the Tiger Leaping Gorge. The car took us to Qiaotou, and after dropping off our bigger luggage at Jane’s Guest House, we were taken to the start of the hiking trail (which was some distance from the road, up a dusty road – there’s lots of construction everywhere in the area, I believe, for opening up the place to even more tourists, by building roads and railway lines).
The first part of our trek was a steep upwards climb of 2 hours, until we reached Naxi Guesthouse, where we spent the night. Fine views of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from there; even more magnificent if the mountains were snow capped, and this happens before April; now in June however, the snow has already melted…
After a good night’s rest, we continued our trek. First part was another 2 hour uphill (“28 Bends”), and after that, it was either flat or downhill. Along the way from the highest point after the 28 Bends, after about every 2 hours, you will reach some village with a guesthouse where you can rest and have drinks /food :). (Tea Horse GH was our first drinks stop, then we had a lunch stop at Halfway GH (see picture above)).
Continuing along, we finally reach Tina’s GH along the main road (after almost 10 hours of walking – including rest, lunch, photo stops etc, but if you just walk, it will take about 7.5 hours), passing by forests, valley scenes, and the very nice waterfall below.
Our overnight stay was at Tibet GH, a further distance from Tina’s but the hosts arranged for a car to bring us there :), which was much appreciated after a long day’s trek.
Day 7: The next morning, on our hosts’ recommendation, we went to the Upper Gorge area (instead of the Middle Gorge) to see the view and roar of the mighty Yangtze river (actually, this part of the river is called Jinsha, and it is the first stretch of the Yangtze river) and the stone where legend has it that the tiger leapt from one side of the gorge to the other! (see above picture, for the stone).
Then we took the long scenic route to Shangri-La …
The highlights here were the wildflowers, valley and mountain scenes, and the Baishui Terrace (very much like what we saw in Huang Long last year during our SiChuan trip)
Finally, we reach Shangri-La late in the day, around 7 pm.
Day 8: First day at Shangri La was spent going to Songtsanlin Monastery (a Tibetan monastery, and a small scale version of Potala Palace), and then walking around the old town (Dukezhong old town):
Every evening, around 7 pm, the locals and tourists do a dance in the square (above), for about an hour; what a great way to end the day!!
On the day of departure (from ShangriLa, to Kunming, to catch our flight back home), we spent the morning visiting Napa Sea and Nila Grassland (actually both are at the same area, just depends on which one dominates during the season you are there: wet season, the sea takes over most of the area, while in dry season, the grassland dominates 🙂 ). If you have time, you can rent a bike and cycle around this 2-in-1 place, or maybe do some horse riding. However, beware of touts and the bad press here – have been reports of tourists being forced to pay to go to this place and paying for horse riding etc, after being brought there by unscrupulous drivers (even official taxis), even though there is no entrance fees at all to visit this natural site.
A GREAT TRIP for family bonding 😉 , and …
Memorable too, for the little adventures along the way (like when our first night pre-booked hotel stay was not accepted, and we had to find another accommodation on the spot, or the scary car rides along the mountainous roads (to the Upper Gorge, and also to Shangri-La), or the taxi ride into Kunming city on Day 9 to find an arts supply shop during the time we had to spare before our flight home …).