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In Love with Lijiang

June 20, 2008

The landscape is a feast for the eyes, and the music of the Naxi
ethnic people fills the heart. Lijiang, in Yunnan province, is a
destination to explore and experience. Located in western Yunnan and
surrounded by mountains, the historic city is a five-hour bus ride
from Kunming.
Joyce Kam
The Standard (Hong Kong)
June 13, 2008

The landscape is a feast for the eyes, and the music of the Naxi
ethnic people fills the heart. Lijiang, in Yunnan province, is a
destination to explore and experience. Located in western Yunnan and
surrounded by mountains, the historic city is a five-hour bus ride
from Kunming.

Its so peaceful and relaxing here. I can lie on my bed all day just
gazing at the clouds, confides Song Hui, on honeymoon from Lanzhou in
Gansu, China. The Old Town is amazingly refreshing. It makes you want
to stay forever.

Lijiangs Old Town, built on a mountain slope and admired for its
architecture, was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
Here, modern ways exist alongside ancient cultures.

Along the Square Street in the Old Town, visitors can find
traditional hand- made ethnic products including tie-dye cloths and
silver accessories.

Locals in colorful traditional costumes sing and dance in the streets
where drinking and dining places abound. The region is mainly
inhabited by the Naxi people and the Bai community, two of the
mainlands 55 minority ethnic groups.

Every night at 8pm, the town comes alive as the Naxi Ancient Music
orchestra performs. Visitors pay 120 yuan (HK$135.40), 140 yuan, or
160 yuan for a vantage point.

The orchestra is a living legend. We are famous for three-olds. We
play old songs, which are at least 500 years old, with 100-year-old
musical instruments, while many of our players are over 80 years old,
says Xuan Ke, the president of Dayan Naxi Ancient Music Association.
The orchestra has performed in Hong Kong, Britain, the United States,
the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway.

A 20-minute car ride from the Old Town takes a visitor to Lashi Lake,
where one can enjoy a horseback ride around the area, followed by a
boat trip. Mani Kan Man-yee, a 23-year-old visiting from Hong Kong,
says she is overwhelmed by the blue skies and is thrilled at the
experience of tasting a grilled fish that had just been reeled in.

Around Lijiang, the Mosuo people reside beside Lugu Lake. The Mosuo
have a matriarchal culture which adheres to what is known as a
walking marriage (or zou hun in Chinese) the men visit the dwelling
of their partner at night, but return to their own home in the
morning, sometimes a long walk. Both men and women may take as many
partners as they like.

When children are born, the father may have little or no
responsibility for his offspring, as they will be raised by the
mothers family, and take on her family name. However, walking
marriages, with foreigners are frowned upon.

Accommodation in Lijiang is relatively easy to find around Square
Street. Hostels operated by local residents could cost between 50
yuan and 100 yuan a night, with home-made meals at an extra 10-20 yuan.

It is best to rent a car to get around, and this can be arranged
through a hostel owner. It may cost about 100 yuan per day depending
on distance traveled.

Another must-visit place is Zhongdian, also called Shangri-la, which
can be reached by a four-hour bus ride to the northwest of Lijiang.

Zhongdian is located in the Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of
Yunnan province while Shangri-la is actually a Tibetan word, meaning
land of sacredness and peace. Most of the tourists praise it for its
heavenly scenery.

In Zhongdian, too, there is an old town, but much smaller. Not far
from here is the Songzanlin Lamasery, which is the largest Tibetan
Buddhist temple in Yunnan. Buddhist flags and prayer wheels are ubiquitous.

Tibetans walk around the temple or turn the wheels clockwise three
times for good luck every day.

For details, visit http:/ /www.yunnantravel.com.cn
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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