Day 7: Chengdu/Lijiang
Today we were up early to catch our flight to Lijiang, 350 miles southwest of Chengdu and part of the Yunnan province. The city is home to the Naxi people, who are related to Tibetans but have their own language and culture; it’s traditionally matriarchal, with women inheriting all property and mediating all tribal conflicts. Lijiang sits at the base of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, considered one of China’s most spectacular peaks. We caught a glimpse of snow-capped mountains during the flight and watched the terrain get more and more impressive the closer we got to the city.
The road from the airport to our hotel was largely unfinished which made for a very bumpy ride, but our driver expertly navigated the potholes and we arrived at the Maple Leaf Inn in about 40 minutes.
I booked this hotel due to its good online reviews (thanks, TripAdvisor), the fact that one of the owners was from Holland (and therefore spoke English), and because it offered travel arrangements for the various sidetrips we wanted to take. We were thrilled to find it to be a charming little inn in Shuhe (one of the villages of Lijiang) and upon arrival we met the owners Wil and his wife Anna, plus their four children. We got settled and then went for a tour of the village with Wil and his son.
The village is a labyrinth of alleys, winding streams, countless shops, and traditional Naxi houses. We explored for a while before returning to the hotel to sit outside in its lovely courtyard and visit with Wil and Anna.
For dinner, Wil took us to his favorite noodle shop where he helped us order fried noodles with pork and vegetables. He did not mention that each order could have fed four people. They were delicious, though!
Back in our room, we discovered that there was no heater – a minor inconvenience in an otherwise great place. We pulled on our hats and gloves to help stay warm and made plans for our three days in Lijiang.