Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Another Venice of the Far East?
Years back I talked about a lovely town called Wuzhen in China that was supposedly called the Venice of the East. Well, here's one that is called the Venice of the Far East. Is that a distinction? I don't know, but I do love these places. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas along the Yangtze River in the Northwestern corner of the Yunnan Province is a village built on river tributaries and canals called Lijiang. Home to the Nakhi or Naxi people, the town has been around for centuries, going back to the times of Kubla Khan and beyond. The royalty that left it's mark on the town were the Mu's and several parts of the city are just lost in time.
Lijiang is not in the middle of nowhere. There is an international airport and a huge train station there. The city today is modern and there are luxury resorts and spas for all the jet setters. This is not one of those places where you have to go and live like a local to visit. You can live like the spoiled American that you are and still get to see what life was like in the old days.
As a matter of fact, I think that now might be a good time to visit. Modern ways are making their way into the old town area of Lijiang, and it may end up ruining the atmosphere of this area. So, don't waste any time getting here to see it. The Yunnan Province is a very popular tourist area and Kunming with it's International Village and Stone Forest as well as Tiger Leaping Gorge are close by. The new train that goes to Tibet stops in Lijiang as well, bringing even more tourists to the area. It's getting busy, people, so don't wait on this one.
Why should you visit? I would think to learn about the history and the people. The Musuo and the Nakhi people have been here for centuries. Up until more modern times, the Mu Family were the local royalty in this area until the country began to be expanded and it all became one China. Kubla Khan stationed troops there once to defend them against invaders. Their identity has been shaped by many influences including most of the ancient emperors, Mongols, and Buddhism. It's a fascinating area for cultural influences. You can actually learn so much in a short span of time that it's input overload.
But architecturally, these people are masters at handling life on water. There are hundreds of bridges in this old village with dozens of canals and a few rivers. There are walkways, cafes, and even waterwheels along the way. The term Venice of the Far East does seem to fit the old town there. The architecture is ancient and what one would expect to see in China according to the ridiculous things we learn in America. There are temples and pagodas, and Dragon Pool Park which is one of the prettiest parks anywhere. You can see the locals performing traditional dance, you can see them making their handicrafts. You can just relax, maybe go to a temple or a royal home. What will happen is that you will feel like you've stepped back in time about 800 years or so.
Day or night, the views are amazing. There are local old world hotels to stay in within the old village. There are also huge modern resort hotels in the area. There is a ski resort to go to as well, and the hiking is second to none. There are a million things to do, or not if you'd rather just kick back and absorb the world around you.
But why would I call this an Adventure for Anyone? Well, I'd have to say it's for the the people, the history, the food, the architecture, the out of the way feel of it all, and of course, the view. So, don't miss this one. With the chains moving in and the trains stopping by, I don't think that it will stay the way it is forever. I think that it will get invaded by modern life, and that will be a shame. So, get off your sofa, and head to Lijian, China, the Venice of the Far East before it starts to look like a wet Hollywood Boulevard.