After catching a flight from Xian to Lijiang and getting a bus from the airport into the city centre I got a taxi to the Timeless Hostel. I was able to get my first real impression when the taxi took me through the city centre of Lijiang. It felt different to other areas of China and I didn’t quite feel at ease. The place gave off an unsettling vibe. I pretty much felt like this the whole time I was in Yunnan. It felt less policed and I definitely didn’t get that safe feeling I had in other cities, however, it was a nice change. Being on edge and having that little nerve ticking away at the back of your mind to watch out was giving me an adrenaline shot. The taxi arrived and I paid the measly 8CNY (80p) fare for the 10 minute journey. I checked into my hostel, dropped my bags and went exploring. It was August which meant rainy season. The temperature was a cold 15C at best and overcast which brought a bit of a downer on the mood, but nevertheless, I made it what it was. Lijiang was pretty much just one big shopping centre. Chinese style building constructed in rows after rows. If it wasn’t a hotel or restaurant it was a shop selling musical instruments or tea. You could even pick yourself up a Chinese drum for approx. 2000CNY (£200).
As I made my way down the street I could hear a young Chinese man running behind me in the distance shouting 安飞. my Chinese name. I hadn’t clocked on at first, but when he charged up in front of me and said ‘hi’ I realised he was calling me. On the plane on the way to Lijiang the same day I sat next to two students who could speak just one or two words of English. His friends soon joined us until there was a group of four people around me, three guys and two girls. They said in Chinese that I should join them and so we walked around the town, every so often they’d stop at a shop and buy some traditional Lijiang food for me. After walking around for a while they suggested we go to a traditional Lijiang restaurant.
The chairs and table at this place were very low to the ground, however, the food looked delicious. They had ordered a jug of something with small clay shot glasses and everyone filled their glass. They all picked their glass up and told me to do the same and proceeded to shout 干杯 which means drink a toast and so one has to drink the whole glass. It tasted like extremely sweet honey and didn’t think much of it. I should have guessed what it was. Only after the 10th toast did I start to feel rather light-headed and then when I attempted to get up to go the toilet realised I had lost all my balance. I hesitantly asked them with a smirk on my face what I was actually drinking. They replied with the dreaded word, 白酒 (baijiu) which is a 60% Vol rice wine spirit drank religiously in China. There wasn’t much time to contemplate life at this point as the food shortly arrived afterwards. It was extremely delicious and I suggest that anyone going to Lijiang finds a traditional restaurant.
After eating we played some Chinese games, laughed and joked around. The only downside was that I was starting to find it hard to construct proper Chinese sentances as the baijiu took its effect on my body. I was met with blank expressions on their face and the constant reply of tingbudong, meaning “didn’t understand that”.
After what seemed like several hours the baijiu had finally worn off, for me to have enough balance to be able to get back to the hostel. I knew the next day was going to be a rest day for me!
The next day I continued to go around all the side streets and explore on my own. What I had quickly noticed was that this place was FULL of couples. It was like the Paris of Europe and so as a solo traveller felt rather unsettled with couples walking hand in hand everywhere. I do suggest visiting Lijiang for the experience, however, it is fairly boring inside the city, but if you want to just relax with your SO, then there are some great luxury hotels right on banks of the little river canals that run through the city.