The driver at the airport shuttle station advised me to arrive at my hostel in the late afternoon to avoid the old town’s maintenance fee. After much bantering I moved aside and got myself on roaming. Beaming with positive response (from the hostel) and my backpack, I returned to the station to find the same driver just done gobbling down his noodle, and declined driving me to my destination after downing some alcohol.
After one evening at Lijiang’s old town, it was a wise choice to get to Shangri-la the next day. Suffer first, enjoy later. Same itinerary in my mind to get myself acclimatised.
Shangri-la’s quaint old town was appealing, minus the cold. Carmen’s hotel transfer picked us up from the bus station and came to a halt underneath a couple of beautiful blossomed peach trees. It was a much smaller scale and I ventured out while Carmen decided to pay a visit to the hospital, after her fall the previous night.
Mr Zhang from Chengdu was struggling to communicate with three caucasian ladies. After translating for him, checking if the ladies had their lunch, our casual chat assured me he was a family man. Mr Zhang invited me to the hostel he was staying at to meet his wife and daughter. An overwhelming hospitality; everyone around the fireplace were curious about me and the chatters went naturally. It rained pretty heavily and I made my second wise choice to purchase a sturdy poncho at a random store on the way back.
Carmen and myself spent the next day visiting a few places with our talkative Tibetan driver. Apparently Shangri-la used to be Tibet’s land, hence the plentiful of Tibetan residents. Horse-riding, national park, and Tibetan house visit – all done without using the pricey oxygen tank we bought.
As soon as I got back to my hostel, I was told that an Australian man was also heading to Tiger Leaping Gorge the next morning. I was all stoked! Waited around, packed what I needed into what I call “my new garbage bag.” We met and he introduced himself as Matt. We both did not know if there were any more seats left to get to Qiaotou but I still tagged along. Got a seat on a separate local van. Possibly my worse ride for the week.
Less than three minutes after alighting, Matt’s bus arrived and we both stood by the road, trying to locate Jane’s Guesthouse. One could simply leave their backpack at Jane’s for 5rmb, as many days as you wish. Jane had a bad morning after someone hit her cat’s hind leg. After checking out her injured cat we were on our way for our two-days trek.
After about 40 minutes of walking, the beginning of the trek challenged my weak ankle. Matt was very patient but at one point I decided I would actually be more of a burden than a great company. So I went for my second horse-ride, hoping it would not only be of help, but a different experience. Reunited with Matt somewhere on the road, but this time with Hongji from Harbin, and a tall Scottish dude. After what felt like slightly more than an hour, we arrived at the next guesthouse where I remembered I hadn’t had lunch. Hongji’s girlfriend and an Israeli-Spaniard joined us at the table, making us six.
At about 3pm we set off for Halfway Guesthouse, the place that motivated me. Arriving there at about 6 or 7pm with limited beds available. The group settled with four of us sharing one room, and two in a dormitory. Stunning view. Three of us had ciggie breaks with the mountain range across us. Take it all in, I told myself. No electricity for the entire evening so candles did the trick. A tad inconvenient but for someone who hadn’t had a shower for the past 2 days, an afternoon trek with sweat and rain… had to make do.
My journey in the gorge ended with a fall, a bruised wrist and a pair of shoes that gave way after many years on the road with me.
The next two days were torturous – my flat feet hurt with my new shoes, my thigh ached each time I climbed stairs, my uncomfortable back from the fall. Managed to visit Lijiang’s Forbidden City i.e. Mu Fu and Black Dragon Pool. Both did not impress.
Our last night was in Shuhe old town. 70sgd for a deluxe room was not too bad. Best old town of the three, sans the dude who spitted and immediately invited us for dinner. Ewwwwwww. A long chat with the American-Chinese owner at the cafe where we had dinner was insightful. Things people do to pursue their passion – very inspiring.
The flight back was mediocre. The moment I touched down at Changi Airport I made my way to the washroom because the lady beside me on the flight was not very considerate having two bags stacked in between us. Enjoyed the privacy and…
The happiness of being able to flush toilet paper.😀