After leaving Jade Dragon Snow Mountain we headed to another old town, Lijiang’s Shuhe Ancient Town. I liked Shuhe Ancient Town more than the Old Town of Lijiang because the scenery and architecture was more interesting, with lots of canals and views of the surrounding mountains and plant life. It was also less touristy – I could actually take photos here with no one in them (meaning you can see the buildings and alleys instead of seeing lots of tourists blocking everything). The merchandise here is also more unique and unusual than the genericized stuff you can find in the Old Town of Lijiang.
From China Highlights:
“Shuhe Ancient Town, also named Longquan Village (which literally means dragon spring village), is located in the north of Lijiang Ancient City. In Naxi language, Shuhe means “a village at the foot of a peak”. As the earliest habitation for Naxi ancestors, Shuhe Ancient Town is regarded as a living specimen of the Naxi ancestors’ transition from an agriculture civilization to a commercial culture. Similar to Lijiang Ancient City, Shuhe Ancient Town is surrounded by a murmuring river and interlaced with smooth flagging. It is a compact village hidden in the forest, and it lies near mountains and rivers. It is a more peaceful, smaller version of Lijiang Ancient City.”
There isn’t an enforced entry fee here, so that’s also a plus.
The pace of life is slower here and you get a sense that there’s some living going on, not just buying and selling.
Besides buildings built in the traditional style, there’s also some modern stores and restaurants integrated nicely.
We were able to connect with more of the local culture and history here, through visiting old buildings and temples and reading informational displays. There is a free museum in a designer handbag store about the Ancient Tea Horse Road.
A map of the Ancient Tea Horse Road:
A glamour photoshoot.
Tofu being chilled under running water.
Eating out of an old-fashioned communal pot in a Communist commune-themed restaurant.
A folk dance before dinner.
I wanted to buy these hugging puppies so much. Awwww. Unfortunately, I couldn’t.
I also couldn’t buy this longpao (dragon robe). It was thousands of dollars and I’d never look normal wearing it, but I had to ask anyway because I hadn’t seen longpao for sale before. Longpao were worn by emperors throughout Chinese history. Most longpao are yellow because yellow symbolically represented the emperor and power (as did dragons), so the wearing of longpao was reserved for royalty.
What seems expensive to me, an American, will be even more expensive to the average Chinese citizen. I asked a salesperson how many of their exquisite garments were sold each day. He replied that as long as they sold one, the rent would be covered. Then I asked if they really sold one every day. The answer: nope.
Above: exotic fruit, below: cheese. Yes, cheese. This type of Yunnan cheese (and Inner Mongolian cheese) is sweet and waxy and is eaten like candy. This cheese does not have sharp or savory flavors.
This sign in front of a bar was funny. Roughly translated, it reads:
Because of the many modern bars and restaurants here there is potential for great nightlife but we didn’t stick around for that.
If you can only visit one old town, I would recommend Shuhe Ancient Town over the Old Town of Lijiang because of its authenticity, lack of huge crowds, and beauty. However, as you can see from my picutres, Shuhe Ancient Town isn’t great for those with walking issues. Shuhe Ancient Town is under development in many places and the ground can be rough and uneven. The Old Town of Lijiang is still hilly but the ground isn’t opened up so is the better choice if you’re concerned about walking.
Tomorrow: off to Kunming for Yunnan Nationalities Village!