After cutting short our stay in Shangri La, we found that we were very much ahead of schedule and had quite a bit of time on hand.
It was as good an excuse as any to go back to Lijiang to chill for a few days since I really enjoyed it the first time we were there. Notice the use of “I” instead of “we”? Apparently Jo finds doing nothing too “boring” for her.
- I’ve mentioned before that one of the perks about our way of travel is that we don’t have to conform to the usual way of “tourist travel”, rushing from place to place and getting a tick in a box within a very limited time frame. Our time horizon is longer, so we can spend weeks/months at a place, really just getting to know people and soaking in the place.
- In Lijiang, soaking in the place means spending endless hours at cafes and sitting on rooftop gardens sipping coffee/beer. Most of the establishments have signs inviting people in to “bask in the sun” (晒太阳), “read a book” (看书), “stare emptily into space” (发呆) and “have a fling” (艳遇)??!!
- But no, Lijiang is not a giant red light district. Far from it. It’s just that the indigenous people of the area are the Naxi people, one of the ethnic minorities in China whose societal structure is matriarchal in nature. The women-folk of the Naxi are head of the households and the men normally end up doing the manual labour or end up as ermm… gardeners and musicians. One of the unique thing about this matriarchal system is the women can take whichever mate(s) she fancies. The women-folk would then single handedly bring up the children. The children normally have no idea who their “dads” really are.
- This leads to the misconception from many Chinese that the Naxi women are open to one night stands. Judging from the few Naxi girls that we’ve met (I’m talking specifically about people like Mama Naxi), any unwanted advances would probably end up with you having your balls ripped off.
- Female empowerment indeed.
- Of course, we did not spend all our time in Lijiang staring stupidly into space in cafes (Jo would’ve ripped my balls off). We took some time going for touristy tours as well.
- The most memorable (and cheapest) one for me was the horse/boat ride through part of the the Ancient Tea Route (茶马古道). Also known as the Southern Silk Road, this route was a network of mule caravan paths winding through the mountains of Yunnan. From around a thousand years ago, the Ancient Tea Route linked Yunnan (one of the first tea-producing places in China) to Central China, India and Tibet.
- The route earned the name Tea-Horse Road because of the common trade of Tibetan ponies for Chinese tea. Today, these Tibetan ponies are used to haul our fat asses through the mountains of Yunnan.
- As if the hour-long (and did I mention ball-crushing) pony rides were not enough, the tour package includes a boat ride through one of the most serene lakes I’ve ever seen.