If we thought trying to make a birthday for Robin was tough, imagine trying to plan a 40th birthday celebration for Dan right under his nose! We had originally decided to give Tiger Leaping Gorge a pass meaning that we would have a few days in Lijiang to shop and more time in Jinghong where we would celebrate Dan's birthday. A change of plans meant we would leave almost immediately for Tiger Leaping Gorge and then head to Jinghong, leaving virtually no time to shop for birthday presents. In the end, we only spent one day in the gorge and then were stuck in Lijiang awaiting a flight out, which meant that we celebrated Dan's birthday on the day we left Lijiang.
The boys and I saw our chance to shop "sans Dan" our first day in Lijiang when we discovered the dearth of air tickets to Jinghong, which posed a serious problem as the overland route was a minimum of 36 hours in a bus. We decided to split up as we believed Dan could cover more ground on his own . With about an hour and a half of Dan-free time, the three of us leapt into "super-shopper" mode and hit the many shops of Jinghong with a vengeance; Robin and Adrian were my star negotiators, offering advice on what prices to offer and even jumping in themselves from time to time. We quickly found several gifts that we thought Dan would enjoy -- a jade and silver stud earring, a Mao style jacket in handwoven fabric, and a piece of loose jade to be made into an earring later -- and then headed back to our guesthouse to hide the evidence, only to find ourselves hopelessly lost in the maze-like streets of old Lijiang. Retracing our steps we arrived back at the guesthouse only minutes before our appointed meeting time and successfully hid the loot.
On the morning of Dan's birthday, the boys proudly surprised him with hand-made birthday cards and our gifts, and then took him down to the lobby of the guesthouse to while away the morning enjoying his many electronic birthday cards over a delicious espresso coffee. Dan's choice of restaurant for lunch was a very popular Japanese/Korean joint that made excellent "bibimbap", a typical Korean dish that Dan and I had lived on for our first few days in Korea some 11 years before. After installing Dan in the picturesque river-side restaurant, Robin and I headed back into the maze of Lijiang's streets to the Blue Papaya Restaurant -- an Italian restaurant with a real Italian chef -- where we purchased 2 kinds of delectable birthday cake (chocolate and tiramisu). The breeze from the river kept blowing out the birthday candles, but the cake was so good that no one really minded. I can honestly say that Dan was completely surprised -- maybe even flabbergasted -- that we had so many birthday tricks up our sleeves!