The journey continued driving north from Dali and Xizhou along the Tea Horse Road to Lijiang, the small city capital of the Naxi kingdom, a matriarchal society whose ancestors claimed these great valleys. A UNESCO world heritage site, with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain behind us, and a burbling brook in front.
It was an exciting day of mountains, gorges, high passes and a complete cultural shift as we move from the ethnic Bai minority’s villages to the lands of the Naxi people. From my tour guide, I learned that Naxi people usually carry three pieces of silverware on their journey, a silver bracelet for protection, silver chopsticks for meals and a silver bowl for butter tea. The silverware aided in discerning toxic substances from non-toxic ones. Along the journey, the caravan men would fill their bowls with stream water. If the silver turned black, they knew not to drink.
Our guide took us to explore Dayan, the old town of Lijiang, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the early morning on purpose, as shops were not open and it was relatively quiet for better photo opportunities. The morning scene in the old town really gave us the feeling of the olden times in Lijiang. The wooden houses, watermills and stones with a running streams running across and birds whispering, the peacefulness overseeing the Jade Dragon snow mountain behind the town was magnificent. We slowly moved our way to the Black Dragon Pool Park for the famous postcard view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The Jade Dragon snow mountain beautifully reflects on the pool. The Chinese pavilions in the park add a hint of a poetic theme to the picture.
It was suggested we buy some oxygen gas supply before we climbed up the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain which was the insurance for us to not suffer from severe altitude sickness. There are three cable car routes to climb up the mountain to see the ethereal beauty of the Naxi’s people scared mountain. The most popular one is the Glacial Park at 4500m to view the glacia and the spectacular views of mountains and valleys at the top. You can also take a cable car to Yak Meadow to enjoy the view of the peaks of Snow Mountain and visit a Tibetan Buddhist temple. You can also see many beautiful highland wild flowers on the meadow in the spring and summer seasons. On this trip, I was travelling with my 67 year old parents, so we chose to go up by cable car to the Spruce Meadow at 3200m at the foot of the snow mountain. The Spruce Meadow is a pure land in the mind of the Naxi people and it is rumoured that it is the entrance to the ideal fairyland “Third Kingdom of the Jade Dragon”. From a scripture of the Naxi’s Dongba Culture, this place is described “there were more silks and satins than you can wear, more fresh fruits than you can eat, more wines and milk than you can drink, more gold and silver than you can spend. Here red spotted tigers takes the place of saddle horses, white deer serve as farm cattle, foxes with big ears are used as hunting dogs, and golden pheasants with colourful tails herald the break of the day.” I got an opportunity to borrow a traditional costume and snap a photo in front of the spectacular Jade Snow Mountain. The costume is so beautiful.
Afterwards, we went to the Blue Moon Valley on White Water River where the view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is absolutely stunning. Whenever I see the image of Blue Moon Valley online, I never believe that the blue colour is real. I always think that it is photoshoped. However, this is real life!
This journey also took me to the incredible Tiger Leaping Gorge and the Shangri-la described by John Hilton’s famous fiction Lost Horizon. I will be writing about my continuing journey in Yunnan next week. Stay tuned…