If we sat down to a cup of coffee, I would tell you of my favorite cities; Jerusalem, Istanbul, Dahab, Bokara. These ancient cities preserve history and culture, and are in themselves landmarks. In a tasteful way they have been restored without seeming new. In China there are few places that still seem historic, most are flashy, rebuilt replicas of the past. However, in the Yunnan city of Lijiang, if you look past the tourist shops and guest houses, one can get a sense of China’s long destroyed past.
The Old city was built around a natural water way, with bridges, canals and narrow alleys creating a maze through old stone structures. Large, stone slab streets move past small businesses and restaurants. The city can be somewhat of a tourist trap if one doesn’t walk the narrow paths behind the shops. There one can get a sense of what it is like living in a small village. Washing clothes on the sidewalks, walking to the wet market everyday for fresh produce, and bringing water home from the well. This is what there is to see in Lijiang. There are countless stores selling everything from African Drums to polished rocks but the real city is found on the quiet, narrow alleys.
I have crossed the barrier into southern China. Noodles are no longer made of wheat and the staple is now rice or a compressed rice cake called “Erkuai”. Mosquito’s, flies cockroaches, and the sound of cicadas fill the warm humid nights. The weather seems to be controlled by a switch, where one moment it is pouring, and the next it is sunny. The Yunnan accent is rather hard to understand, but my Chinese continues bring smiles and compliments.