Anthony's Interesting Times 2004 travel blog

Steven in door of Dongba Guesthouse

Lijiang rooftops

Old Naxis

A Chemical Brothers single, in honour of my first proper night out in China. This is written after three hours sleep, and with a really bad headache, while waiting for my breakfast before my bus to Lijiang. I finally found where the good times were being had in China.

Last night I was drinking with these three people here, all English teachers, which was interesting in its own right, and even more made me want to get into that as a way of travelling. Anyway, then we went off to this bar owned by an Irish guy here, to drink more and play pool. People were smoking as well (and in the club later), and apparently and surprisingly this is relatively tolerated for Westerners here, though not many Chinese will do it.

And then off to a typical guesthouse cafe/pub, that transformed into a pumping nightclub. Bad news for anyone there who wanted to sleep. I left at 3.30, as even in that state I could tell this was definitely necessary. By then the place had been packed for hours - about 3 to 1 Chinese to Western - and a Chinese DJ was being very animated on the decks (CDs). Everyone was dancing to fairly pumping house, and frankly I could have been anywhere in the world, and I was having a hell of a lot of fun. And now I don't know if it is the Chinese beer, or that I am out of practice, but my head hurts.

Later, in Lijiang: I didn't really enjoy four hours on a crowded minibus either as we moved further into the mountains towards Tibet. I am now in a place called Lijiang, not to be confused with the Lijiang (River) that went through Yangshuo. Some of you may even know the place, as it was a 9 hr Channel 4 documentary a few years ago. It was heavily destroyed in an earthquake a few years ago too, interestingly it was all the new buildings that feel down, so they were rebuilt again in old style.

Whilst it considerably adds to the town's charm, it didn't help my headache that it is pedestrianised, and I spent a lot of time carrying all my stuff while trying to find a particular hostel, which was full anyway. But then I went for a nearby Tibetan one again, on this small square with a mix of tourists and old people hanging out.

We've changed tribes again as well, most of the locals here are Naxis, a very old kingdom and culture. The town in general - or at least the Old Town where I am - is absolutely gorgeous. It is a Sunday in National Holiday week so the centre is heaving with Chinese tourists, but if you get away from the main drag it is easier to really appreciate the maze of cobbled alleyways and gorgeous houses, chilling out in lovely cafes looking over the rooftops at the snow-covered Jade Dragon Mountain in the distance, etc. And even more great shops than in Dali. I keep getting hopelessly lost, it is such a maze, so much so that I never go out wihout my compass as well as a map of the town.

And I have noticed it seems to be getting hippier the nearer we get to Tibet, and that is the Chinese too. One of the things that is nice here is that like in Dali, a lot of the shops and cafes play world music, so you hear music from all over the world. And it is even cooler again, as I think we are even higher up.

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