Friday, April 21, 2006

A Vacation from My Vacation

China has been amazing! I have been meaning to write loads of stories and observations, but everytime I have a few minutes on the Internets, I am busy trying to send a few emails to people to make sure they know I've made it to my next destination a-ok. My itinerary hasn't changed, so you can see what cities I've been in so far. We got to a smaller town called Lijiang a few days ago and it's a stark difference. The places we've visited have had populations of millions. This town (as of 2002 or so) has about 8,000. It is a popular tourist destination, however, so it does get crowded. In Lijiang, there is an old town and new town. The old town has little cobble stoned streets that curve every which way and present scenes and views that are worthy of many photographs. After you walk about 5 minutes from where we are staying, the streets become lined with shops selling clothing, dolls, artwork, combs made of some sort of animal horn, dolls, tea, postcards, bells, and let's not forget..."dried meat yak" as it says on the store front.

We are staying at a guesthouse that is filled with Westerners (the first such we've been to so far as many of the other hostels and guesthouses have also had many Chinese travelers and we haven't seen that many Westerners.) The guesthouse is called Mama Naxi's. Mama's dinners are legendary and people who stay in other guesthouses also come to dine here. (She charges 8 yuan, the equivalent of 1 USD for guests for dinner.) At night the courtyard is a buzz with numerous foreign languages from people sitting around the four tables. We have met a very nice Israeli fellow and his mother and have become pals with them. They have even invited us to visit them in Haifa! The guy is studying Chinese language and culture and has visited Lijiang before, so he was our sort-of tour guide walking around the village.

Today (Saturday) is our last full day here in Lijiang, where we have enjoyed the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere at the guesthouse. There isn't tons to do or see here, and the entire town is walkable, so we've meandered here and there, shopping, visiting one attraction called Black Dragon Pool Lake, and enjoying tea or coffee in a cafe that affords gorgeous views of the nearby mountain whilst writing postcards and enjoying Leonard Cohen flowing through the stereo speakers.

Our plan today is to rent bicycles and ride around the town and explore the less touristy shop area. Tonight we are supposed to get tickets to a traditional Naxi music concert (Naxi is the "nationality" originally in Lijiang--more info on them to come at a later time.)

Next we go on our cruise on the Yangtze for three days and then on to Shanghai. After a couple of days, Janie and Silke will fly back and I will be on my own. Because of the national week-long holiday starting May 1, travel to and fro is insane, so I have decided to stay put. I will therefore likely be in Shanghai about 10 days, which is longer than I had intended to stay. But, it might end up being nice to have some time to mundane, every-day things. I hope to write more for the blog about what I've experienced so far, have some general chill-out time, read more about Genghis Khan (in preparation for Mongolia), and check out a film. Of course I will also see some sights and wander around the city.

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