Travel Journal

When you look like your passport it's time to go home.

China by Horseback

Home Previous Next
I love horseback riding. I remember when I was a teen I had a friend whose father owned a ranch. We'd go out and clean the barns in the morning and then ride in the afternoon. It was great. I once got a chance to ride bareback.

When Eric suggested that we go on horseback to tour the country, I couldn't resist. He arranged the horses and owners to meet us in a village near Lijiang. The tour would take us to Lashi Lake (Qixianhu). The lake is a one and a half hour ride in the back country. Eric told of the legends surrounding the lake. The name means immortal. It was said that those who drink from the lake never die. But it's also known as suicide lake. Often the parents arranged marriages for their eligible children. Meanwhile the youths fell in love with another. Since the parents decision was binding, the youths would go down to the lake and take their own life.

On the way up the mountain the Naxi woman who owned the horses suggested that they pack a lunch for us. Well, yeah, sure, sounds good. So we stopped at their home and picked up some fresh garden vegetables and meat. This wasn't going to be a PBJ (peanut butter and jelly) snack. As we rode the horses through the well worn earth and threaded through the rough rock, the woman walked behind us, baskets full of the items for lunch.

When we got to our destination, Lashi Lake, they began to unpack not just the food but the traditional hot pot to cook it in. The pot is a donut shape with a cylinder through the center that rests on the base. At the base a fire is started and charcoal is placed in the cylinder. Soon the water begins to boil. Fresh vegetables washed from the mountain cold water nearby are tossed into the donut surrounding the heat. Bacon, ham hock, beans, potatoes, green onions, and salt are added.

There were several people having lunch around the lake. They were cooking in large woks. Soon there was a commotion. The other tourists (mostly Chinese, I didn't see another foreigner) were talking noisily. What's up? They stood near us, now angry with their own tour guides who didn't supply the traditional cooking device that our Naxi woman brought. Eric was cool. He told them that our cooking device wasn't as good as theirs. Theirs had better taste. He didn't want to get into trouble with the other tour guides.

This meal was the absolute best food I've had so far on this trip to China. Maybe it was the traditional hot cooking pot, maybe it was the fresh meat and vegetables, maybe it was the river washed food. I don't know, but it was wonderful.

We ambled back to the town in the rain, but we were warm inside.

We said goodbye to Eric over a final cup of coffee and tea. We got to know him so well. We will miss him and the wonderful things we saw while visiting Lijiang.

Tomorrow we leave for Shanghai where we finish up our last four days in China.

If you travel by horse you wont lose your luggage. - Dave Terry

Home Previous Next

Labels: ,

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Home Previous Next
Hutiaoxia (Tiger leap down) is basically big rock in a narrow stream. The water drops from its source 700 feet above is has an average depth of 131 feet. The gorge itself is 1.4 miles high.

Why the name? The story goes that a tiger leaped down to the rock and back up the other side using the bolder in the river. Like many legends the purpose is not to tell a true story but to give a visual to the visitor. It's something to talk about.

The walk is easy on the Lijiang side. If you visit, use the Lijiang side. (Its on the right side as you drive to the gorge.) Don't use the Shangrila or Zhongdian side. The Lijiang side is less crowded and you don't have to walk down to the lookout and then back up again.

But the walk on the Lijiang side is bit dicey. Rocks regularly fall so you are advised to hug the rock face to the right. The park rangers take this very seriously. If you get curious and start to saunter to the edge, a guard placed every 100 feet with a bullhorn will remind you to keep moving. This means that you can't pause to take pictures. Don't worry, the better shots are at the end anyway. I talked to one local person about this. He said that every year several people die because of falling rocks. Last year an older man from Germany was hit and was killed.

I took these "falling rock" warnings seriously. On the path there was a detour into a hewn tunnel. The reason for the detour was that on the original pathway skirting the mountain was a bolder twelve feet around. Now that would give you a headache. The stone balanced just at the edge of the path. The park is creating more of these tunnels for the ever increasing tourists. The tunnels are safer but, of course, it tends to limit your view of the gorge.

I know you must be worried that we took this path. I mean, if something happened to me, who would write the next blog post on this Travel Journal? What would you read tomorrow? Don't worry, the fact that I'm writing this now is evidence that I survived. Unfortunately, there'll be another post tomorrow.

One of the tunnels was still under construction. There was a worker outside overhauling the compressor. All the parts and pieces were strewn about him on the ground as he squat and hand filed one of the piston rings. We followed a couple inside the tunnel and passed piles of rocks neatly stacked against the wall. There was a concrete smell to the place. When we approached the other side we found that they had just poured a concrete wall to hold the stone walls in place.

Our Naxi woman cab driver sang Naxi songs to us on the way to the gorge. The Naxi people are the largest of the 22 minority groups in Lijiang. (There are 56 in all of China.) They are closely related to the Tibetans. She also bought strawberries (cao3mei2) for us. She understood that we have to stay away from the local water but told us these were okay for us foreigners as they were washed in the rushing river below. They burst with flavor and were ice cold from the water below. She also taught us Chinese words and we taught her some English. She really has a good ear for pronunciation. She said "This is my car" in perfect English after Ruth repeated it the third time.

The taxi ride to Tiger Leaping Gorge was like a ride on a bucking bronco at a rodeo. I hit my head on the side of the door frame from one of the car-sized pot holes we bounced into. Construction steamrollers and dump trucks loaded with rocks clogged the narrow roadway and fought for position on the turns. Buses and taxis don't stand a chance. Heshifu, our cab driver, placed her front bumper on the rear left mud flap of the truck in front of her waiting for an opening to pass. The trucks puffed soot that enveloped our car and swirled in great clouds with the dust from the road. We rolled up the windows but this only trapped the mixture inside and made it hard to breath.

Covered in dust and soot we crashed at 9:00 p.m. We'd been up since 5:30 a.m. It was a long day.

A traveler to distant places should make no enemies. - Nigerian Proverb

Home Previous Next

Labels: , ,

Grocery Shopping

Home Previous Next
After breakfast at the Bistro Well, we decided to go shopping and to the grocery store today. As you can see the items here are much fresher than the Safeway or Publix in the United States. I mean, the bacon is still warm and the fish are still swimming. How can you get fresher than that?

We got an opportunity to teach English the Lijiang College. It was fun and students seemed to enjoy it. Eric Yang who runs a cafe at Lijiang college hosted the event. It was just a one hour to illustrate some of the techniques we learned in Dr. Cotton's TESOL class.

This blog post is short. Enjoy the pics.

Breakfast at Bistro Well.

Pots and pans at the market.

Poultry section

Shoe repair


Fresh meat

Checkout counter

Fresh fish section

Fresh vegetables



Insects (you may not have this section in your grocery shop)

Fruit section

The candy shop

Yuan, the wood carver.

Some people pictures.

A vacation is over when you begin to yearn for your work. - Morris Fishbein

Home Previous Next

Labels: ,

Inns & Outs

Home Previous Next
We've had a bit of a challenge with our accommodations here in Lijiang. Our first place was just $10 per night. It was quiet but then the proprietor (a girl of about 20) had five or her friends come to visit. They all decided to watch Chinese drama on their 35" TV in the next room. The walls here are single wall construction. It was as if we were all in the same room watching TV together. The only difference was, Ruth and I couldn't see the TV screen.

Then the local police came by and sat in the courtyard just outside our window. He invited some friends to sit with him to chat and smoke.

The hammering on the inn next door added to the cacophony. The strong finishing spray they use on the doors blows our way and inhibits our ability to take a breath of fresh air. My eyes water. They have just two months to complete the place before the big tourist season begins, so they work all day, but only until 10:30 p.m. or so.

It seems that the local parking space for the motorcycle is located at the entrance of our place, just 20 feet from our door. Whoever was using it came and went every 10 minutes. As they came and went they'd set off an auto-movement alarm from a moped down the street. Of course, that upset the dog across the pathway and he let us all know about it.

I was busy blocking it all out, typing at a small desk I found in the corner of the courtyard when I saw Ruth approach from the corner of my eye. Ruth was trying to get some rest. I looked up to see her hair mussed, she was wearing a frowny face. She said: "It's time to move."

We'd talked about moving inns the night before and the night before that. We figured that eventually they'd turn off the TV. We wore earplugs which brought the decibel level down to about 80. We had some problems with the size of the room. It was just two feet wider and longer than the double bed. We had to put our luggage on the floor so it was like a plastic shuffle game moving from the door to the bathroom. The bathroom was similar to the one in Longji but the light was the strength of a single candle.

I'm not making this stuff up. Really.

So we packed up and went to a hotel that was four and a half times the cost. It was a cute little place on the second floor overlooking a bridge that spanned the waterway. It had a desk and separate shower stall. We figured it would be worth $45/night for some peace and quiet. The guy told us that the music below the window would end when the festivities in the square began. But frankly, I really liked the music, it was acoustic guitar.

So we dropped off our bags at our new inn and went off to meet some of the craftsmen in the old town.

We visited a silversmith, a wood carver, and a paper making plant that uses a waterwheel to beat the pulp. But the man we enjoyed the most was the coppersmith. I wanted to get a photo of him but he insisted on showing us all the items he made, including a copy of an ancient lock. We talked quite a bit with him. He offered to wash the strawberries Ruth bought from an old Naxi lady in the street. I want to go back to see him again. Maybe he'll pose for a photo with his copper tea kettle. He was such a friendly man.

We met a Dutchman who speaks English. His girlfriend runs a restaurant. We told him we were visiting China to determine if we could live here and teach English for an extended period of time. He insisted that we meet his friend at the local college. Eric, his friend, met us at the end of the #4 bus and took us to the cafe he runs on the college campus. His English is very good but he said he still learned a lot while talking with us. He gave us coffee and tea while we talked until 10:15 p.m. We offered to do a demo of our teaching techniques to 20 students that meet at his cafe on Thursday. He says that he'd like to open a private English school for the local Lijiang young people to help them become better tour guides for foreigners. He's looking for a partner.

We caught a taxi home to our new quiet inn.

It's only after you use a bathroom that you discover the insufficiencies. This bathroom door doesn't close. The glass sink teeters. The four foot glass mirror hangs on a single nail and sways dangerously above the teetering glass sink. There is only a single bathroom light positioned on the right side of the mirror, which makes accurate shaving a challenge. We used our hand towels for pillowcases. And finally, I had to fix their Internet wire so that I could have access in the room.

The music below was gone but yelling vendors and motorcycles filled the void. The inn's barking dog let us know of each passing person. The noise on the street below didn't go away until 1:00 a.m.

I think . . . we have . . . to move . . . again.

It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I've gone and come back, I'll find it at home. - Rumi

Home Previous Next

Labels: ,

Where are we anyway?

Home Previous Next
We see a Tibetan temple, a totem pole, monks with cowboy hats, and cows with long fur. Where are we anyway? I thought we went to China.

We are in Maoniuping, which in Chinese literally means: Hairy Cow Flat, you know, Yak Meadow.

At the suggestion of a tour guide in Yangshuo we went on both cable cars to a mountain near Lijiang. If you go, you must go on both. Do not miss either.

The cable car to Yak Meadow was grand. At the top it drops you (figuratively not literally) at a wooden platform and you walk a circle of what seems like 10 miles. We had to keep stopping because of the thin air. It may have been only about a mile or so. This is also where there is a Tibetan temple with prayer wheels and flags. The fragrance of incense is heavy as we pass the temple.

After the walk we had a nice talk with a Tibetan woman of 65 who didn't speak a word of English. So in Chinese we told her we'd like to live here with her and enjoy the view. She told us we picked a good day and that most months have strong winds and heavy snow. She gestured how high the snow gets. If you lived here, she told us, you wouldn't like the other months. Yeah, she's right, we picked a perfect day.

Afterwared we took the cable car down to the bus. On the way back we stopped at green, cascading waterfalls. This area is phenomenal. There is sun, mountains, waterfalls, vivid colors, and, of course, yaks.

If you visit this area I would not recommend going it alone unless you know some Chinese. Go with a tour group. We just barely squeaked by. There were many times when we didn't have a clue about where we were going or how much we should pay or of even what we were paying for. Sometimes we got on a bus without really knowing for sure it was the one we wanted. But in the end we never made any mistakes and we got to see everything we wanted. Well, there was this one time that I got into a little trouble.

I negotiated pictures of Ruth and myself using my own camera. I made sure that the price I was willing to pay was a total price for the two of us. I did all of this in Chinese. All went well. Two people for just 40 yuan, not each but both of us, right? Yes, two people for this price. Ruth got on the yak and then I climbed on. Suddenly people were yelling at me and gesturing me to get off the yak. But the yak had started to move off into the water away from the launch point. The yak faltered, then stumbled back to the edge and a woman grabbed my arm and yanked me off. I had the mistaken impression that the price meant that we'd be on the same animal, but in fact they prepared another yak for me. Oh, okay, so I get it, two people, two yaks. Why didn't you say so? In the end I apologized and told them I was sorry and I didn't know there would be two. A man made body gestures of the yak collapsing from our combined weight. We all laughed together about the silly foreigner who thought a yak could carry two people.

We met our driver back at the bus stop and we showed her all our receipts from all the stuff we had done. It' had been about four hours since we last saw her. She waited in her van knitting and sleeping. She asked if we had seen the "da" something. Big something? Ah, well, not sure. We must have missed something big. What was it? It was only after handing over more cash and getting in the gondola line that we understood just how big this big thing we missed was.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (or just Snow Mountain) has the all time best views I've ever seen of a snow capped mountain close up. The weather was absolutely perfect for photos. But just to give you an idea of the size of this thing, the length of the cable is 1.8 miles! The six person gondolas take you on a ride that has a vertical rise of 3,373 feet. The mountain is 14,783 feet high. (Ruth bought an oxygen bottle.) The cable hardware and gondolas were imported from Italy. It is capable of moving 4,020 people an hour up and down the mountain. We looked down on the birds landing in the trees below. After a walk around the top we had coffee in the cafe and watched the gondolas descend the mountain.

We were so glad we'd taken the advice of the tour guide we met in Yangshuo. Take both she said. Both rides are truly fantastic.

We were exhausted by 5:00 p.m. when all the rides were finished and we'd walked over three miles of trails. We hadn't really eaten a good breakfast because we left so early. Lunch was just crackers and water. We were spent.

We drifted in and out of naps on the way back. I do know that our driver was blazing down the mountain. She was passing all the cars, trucks, and buses. Just out of the park's gate stood a very serious policeman waving her over. I didn't understand everything they said or, I should say, I understood mostly nothing. But I did hear 60 kilometers and license card. She gave them to him and sounded apologetic. He looked firm and unbending. Then he looked to the back of the van and saw me. Ruth was sitting in the middle seat but when he saw me I heard him say something about having foreigners in her car and she could go. I think I was the "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

Our driver dropped us off at Gucheng (old town) and we paid our 200 yuan ($28) for the day. We were so grateful to her. She made sure we were standing in the right line and moved us from this place to that.

"Ganxie ni zhaogu women." (Thanks for taking good care of us.) I don't know if I said it right but she smiled wide and graciously said it was nothing.

We slept soundly.

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. - Lao Tzu

Home Previous Next

Labels: ,

Links 'n Stuff Web


About the ads

  • The Google ads that appear on this page are fed by Google Adsense. I have no control over what is produced here. However, it you see something objectionable, please let me know and I'll contact Google about the content.

© 2008 Travel Journal | | Site Feed | Back to top
No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.