Day 5: Overnight Train to Lijiang and Exploring the City
At 5am there was a knock at the door to my sleeper birth. Having already been awake for a while now though it didn’t really startle me. My brother in law was checking in to make sure we were awake as we were set to arrive in Lijiang in about half an hour. Given that the recycled air on the train was filled with smoke and it was a fairly bumpy ride I didn’t sleep much. It might also have had something we been traumatized by how disgusting the washroom I used at 2am looked.
Checking the weather on his phone Talaal told me it wa around 15 degrees in Lijiang and a look outside the window showed it was clearly raining. The sight of the rain immediately had me worried that it might stay this way all day or worse for even longer making the trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge in a few days not possible. It wasn’t until I had already committed to the trip when I found out we were going in the rainy season.
Once we arrived we made our way out of the busy train station to find our pre-arranged driver waiting to take us to hotel. Unfortunately he had parked about a 5 minute walk away so we walked through the cool rain to get to his van. Once inside it was a shirt drive to old part of town we were staying in for a couple of days. Despite it being dark I could see well enough that it was a beautiful city. The hotel we are in is us quite beautiful.
With our check-in not until 2pm though they welcomed us in to rest on the couches in the lobby. Here I rewrote yesterday’s blog post which somehow got deleted s most of the others rested and caught up on their virtual lives. Talaal quite kindly looked up restaurants nearby that should hopefully have vegan options for me. With Lijiang being more of a tourist destination than Kunming I’m hopeful that eating will be less of a challenge, but that might be naive thinking.
Once it brightened up a bit, Talaal, Adam and I ventured out in the rain to find breakfast. We ended up a place called Naxi Snack Bar 88 were it seemed the only option that earlier on the morning was some bread and congee. We ate a bit of it, but none of like it all too much so we went searching for another place. On our way back to the hotel we ended up at “Cross the Bridge Noodle” where Talaal and I had a Yunnan special: mushroom soup. He absolutely loved it, but again I wasn’t blown away. It was better than some of the good I’ve had so far though.
After eating we made our way back to the hotel to find Kim and Yasmeen eating the free breakfast included at our hotel. At this point Kim told me we likely could not hike Tiger Leaping Gorge and my heart broke a little. A short while later though one of the incredible staff here confirmed that while it is a bit dangerous that it still might be doable. Talaal and I are set on doing it unless someone tells us we can’t. It was this time that we made finalized some plans for both the day and next couple of days. The woman running the place recommended a performance to see tonight which we all agree would be nice to do and we set up plans to go to Snow Mountain and take the cable car up it tomorrow. With those plans made we then went out on a long through the “Old Town” which is the part of the city we’re staying in. We explored quite an extensive food market and also a very large market with a bit of everything. The Old Town is quite beautiful to walk through even in the rain.
After waking for a bit we went to a restaurant for a light snack. It had a beautiful view. It was quite funny watching Talaal trying to explain that the five us only wanted to order two small desserts. The staff gathered around and all tried to understand and laughed as we struggled. Eventually after watching them struggle I turned to Google Translate and use it to explain we just wanted the two items.
While eating Talaal explained to me that the Naxi people in this area are a matriarchal society and that the women run everything while the men take care of the children. It was quite an interesting fact to learn. Once they satisfied their sweet appetite we made our way to inn where our beautiful bedroom was ready waiting for us. We decided to take some rest time for a bit before ventured out again. My nephew researched electronic violins, I wrote and stretched (my hip and leg have been hurting the last couple of days), and the others relaxed and did a bit of laundry.
Around 4:00 we left to go find some food for an early dinner before leaving for the show. Even though the show didn’t start until 8:30pm the staff at our inn recommended going earlier as there are often street performers worth seeing. We opted for some comfort food tonight and went to a restaurant serve Western food. I got a great house salad, pasta dish and smoothie for the equivalent of about 10 dollars. Plus on the way there I got a nice ego boost when a young Chinese woman selling some goods in the market said “Hello, you’re very handsome and smiled”. Being one of the few white people here (we’ve seen only a handful) I sometimes feel like a novelty.
By the time dinner finished up and we made it back to the inn it was pretty much time to leave for the theater show that the staff here recommended we see tonight. Little did I know that by “theater show with entertainment outside the theater on the street before hand” was going to be perhaps the craziest show I’ve ever seen and that isn’t an exaggeration. For starters on the street actually meant on the streets on the theme park. Arriving there I realized this place was pretty big. They had multiple stages, craft vendors, art installations, food vendors and food court. The whole place was themed around some of the minority groups in the area. I didn’t know how to feel about this since I wasn’t sure how much input/participation they had in the whole creation of it. I took some comfort that in the very least that some of their culture was being preserved, but definitely had mixed feelings about it. As for the actual performance though: It was out of this world. The artists were beyond top tier and the whole production made Cirque Du Soleil look like nothing in comparison. There really aren’t any words or pictures that can do it justice.
When we returned back to the inn after the show we were all pretty exhausted. I had a nice video chat with my partner and then passed out for the night.