February 28, 2011

Old Town of Lijiang

Lijiang is picture postcard perfect city in Yunnan. Magnificent estates are hidden among narrow knots of streets and a beautiful lake reflects the mountains behind it. Although Lijiang has 800 years of history, many of the ancient style dwellings in the town were actually built after a devastating earthquake in 1996 flattened many high rises in the area. Now a Chinese version of a Lord of the Rings movie set, the old town is dissected by narrow waterways and connected by quaint bridges. Sporting a maze of cobblestone paths, I was able to find my hostel with great difficulty.

The rulers of the Naxi tribe that inhabited Lijiang lived in the intricately designed and ornately decorated estate known as Mu's Mansion. With a sprawling courtyard and relaxing trails leading up to temples on a hill side behind the complex, the mansion provides some room to breathe compared to the claustrophobic alleys and tight living quarters outside the estate walls.

A brisk walk away from the center of the old town leads to the Black Dragon Pool. Boasting one of China's signature views, the pool mirrors a bridge, a pagoda, and snow capped mountain peaks borrowed from the scenery behind. It is a popular picnic spot for locals and visitors alike. Water from the springs come together to form this pool, which in turn pours into a waterfall that streams into the old town. I would head to Tiger Leaping Gorge from Lijiang, leaving behind man made beauty for nature's splendour.