The first tourist trap activity of the day was an activities that included a guided tour on horses, a boat ride, a tea tasting, and a photoshoot opportunity that involved dressing up in the traditional costumes of various ethnic minorities which we skipped. The total cost was 380 RMB.
There were more activities advertised in the package which we didn’t get (if you can read Chinese, we picked the third option on the tour packages menu below). The tour operators made some weather-related excuses. Fine, but no warning beforehand or partial refund? Little did we know that in the days to come, we would experience more shady business practices.
The horse ride was fun. We rode Lijiang ponies, a special breed of pony developed in the region. Lijiang ponies are excellent at navigating tricky mountainous terrain and doing manual labor, but are not the kind of energetic horse that gallops at high speeds. They are also pretty ugly.
Ugly but cute.
The lady in red is wearing a traditional Chinese costume (of the Han ethnic group) for a photoshoot. These costume photoshoots are a super common tourist activity in China and they range from the price of a Starbucks drink to hundreds of dollars for one outfit change.
I was apprehensive about this because the only time I’ve spent an extended amount of time on an animal was riding a camel in China’s northwest (near Central Asia/the Middle East) and it was scary and uncomfortable. Camels shift weirdly and their height doesn’t help. The Lijiang ponies were predictable and stable so I could concentrate on looking around me and not think about balance.
We rode through fields and up an overgrown mountain to a village.
The village had examples of the art of the Naxi, one of the local ethnic groups.
The Naxi have their own language and writing system of pictograms.
The Chinese character 木 (mu) is in front of most of these names. Chinese names have the family name first, which shows that all these people have the same family name. This is because they are descendants of the Mu family, which was very influential in Yunnan during the Ming Dynasty. (This isn’t that important in daily life because 85% of Chinese people share the 100 most common surnames.)
The tea tasting was in one of the buildings around this garden.
These are the costumes we could have done a photoshoot in.
I didn’t have any opinion on the tea but we bought a few containers anyway.
After the tea tasting, we walked to a pier where we got in a rowboat. Kayaking was also available.
Lijiang is remarkably stunning. A vibrant blue sky, a sparkling lake, crisp unpolluted air, lots of greenery, and snow-capped mountains on all sides of the city were a huge change from the gray concrete and shiny glass of dusty, crowded Shanghai.
After this we were picked up by the same taxi driver from yesterday to get lunch. She was the only female taxi driver I encountered in China and told us lots of interesting things about life in Yunnan.
The restaurant had a charming appearance but I wasn’t a big fan of the food. Somehow we ended up with pork belly (the pink stuff), stewed pumpkin (orange stuff), and greens (green stuff). The greens are the kind of vegetable dish you’ll find on every household dinner table in all parts of China. The pork was extremely fatty and not in a good way. The pumpkin, although greasy, had a satisfying savory flavor and melty texture. I think we were overcharged a lot because we were obviously foreigners.
On our way out, we saw the granddaughter of the family that runs the restaurant. She was so cute! The papoose-esque contraption she’s in is traditional to Yunnan.
Next post: The Old Town of Lijiang!