From the provincial capital of Kunming you can reach Lijiang via an internal flight, a one-way ticket can usually be found for around 500 RMB, the journey takes 1 hour which certainly beats the 8 hour minibus journey if you haven’t got a lot of time to work with. The bus journey from Kunming takes somewhere in the region of 8 hours and while this may not be everybody’s cup of tea, I really enjoy seeing the country from ground level, unfortunately on this trip I was really strapped for time and had to take the flight.
Lijiang lies in the north west of Yunnan province, it has around 800 years of history. For the latter 500 years during parts of the Ming and Qing dynasties the Lijiang area was governed by the Mu family. In the former period of Lijiang’s history the area was known as Lijiang Naxi Autonomous Prefecture and was the cultural and commercial hub for the Naxi people.
The Naxi people were famous for their production of high quality silk garments using intricate patterns – Lijiang city was a major landmark on the Southern Silk Road, which is perhaps the most well known ancient trade route connecting the eastern and western civilisations. As well as silk many other commodities were transported along the road which started in Burma, travelled through southern China, Tibet and Iran before reaching the Mediterranean sea where the products could be distributed to various locations around Europe.
One of the most important commodities to travel along the silk road was tea, because of this the Silk Road was also often referred to as the Old Tea Horse Road. Tea was in high demand in the middle east, Turkey and England the majority of which came from the British colonies (Burma and India) and China.
The UNESCO Heritage Site is the Lijiang Old Town which is a labyrinth of cobbled roads and alleyways, low-rise grey bricked buildings and narrow waterways. The environment in Lijiang is very habitable – the air is fresh since it is a fair distance from any major pollution producing areas, fresh water flows from the mountains into the city’s waterways.
When in the city you can see that Lijiang is surrounded by mountains, the most prominent of which is the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, towards this mountain you will find the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a high altitude gorge which runs through the mountains, the name comes from a legend where a tiger jumped over the narrowest part of the gorge to escape from a hunter, however, even the narrowest part of the gorge is still 25 metres from one side to the other. You can hike one of two trails which run through Tiger Leaping Gorge, the high road and the low road, you can read about my two day journey along the high road here.
We’re currently in Bali during a very special time, the Balinese new year. During this period are a few celebrations. I will be writing about this over the coming days so stay tuned.