For a change of scenery, I set out on a solo trip to Yunnan, the Chinese province that shares borders with Myanmar, Tibet, Sichuan, Laos, and Vietnam.
On my first stop, in capital city Kunming, the fish and flower market proved especially captivating. (I avoided photos of the caged birds, squirrels, and chipmunks though–too depressing.)
Choosing among the goldfish
Turtles try (and fail) to escape
From here, I headed northwest to Lijiang, a booming tourist city in the mountains. I stayed a few kilometers outside of Lijiang, in the village of ShuHe.
Apparently, shopping with abandon is a problem which requires official warning from the ShuHe government
On the advice of some ShuHe locals, I hopped on a bus to Liming, a teeny village at the entrance of a national park. (Side note: taking local bus in these parts means breathing in an incredible amount of second-hand smoke. Cigarettes are cheap in China, and the high rate smoking rate seems to prove that sin taxes really do work. Second side note: Have you ever seen a baby pee on the floor and seat of a bus? I now understand how babies in China get along without diapers.)
Liming is home to Thousand Tortoise Mountain. I’d say it’s aptly named
To protect the delicate sandstone formations, you’re asked to remove your shoes before walking around
Liming is a new trad climbing area in China. (Here’s where I admit that, yes, I did hang out with climbers on my non-climbing adventure to Yunnan!) Sandstone cliffs with splitter cracks line the valleys, and for all you trad climbers out there, apparently it’s ripe for discovery.
Other than a few Chinese tourists riding around in golf carts and a handful of climbers developing the area, the village was relatively quiet. Hearing national park, the American in me had visions of hiking trails, maps, and an informative information center. Not so much here.
Besides the huge stairs built to walk up to the Thousand Tortoise Mountain, the rest of the area was completely without a map or DIY exploration information. I’d call what I did less hiking and more wandering. Still, the relative peace was a welcome change from the bustle of a typical town.
Locals use ponies to carry loads between Liming, the main village, and their farm houses and other villages further afield
The guesthouse and climber hangout, Faraway Inn, in the center of the village
The food in northern Yunnan reflects the mountainous landscape. Specialties include baba bread (fried flat dough), goat cheese, yak meat, and (not pictured though delicious) yak yogurt
I also stopped at the much more popular Tiger Leaping Gorge, where the Yangtze River cuts a path through a steep canyon. Though the entrance to the gorge was highly unsightly (think: bulldozers digging up the river and sprawling buildings), only a few kilometers later, the scenery became more dramatic and peaceful.
Tiger Leaping Gorge, from above and river side
From my guesthouse, I followed a trail heading into higher terrain, weaving through terraced rice fields and small farm holdings complete with pigs, cows, and goats.
These little piggies made me feel some guilt about all the pork I’ve eaten in China
A slightly deranged-looking cow
Pretty ferns lined the paths
I somehow got off the main trail and ended up on a cliff, bashing through shrubs in an attempt to find the lookout rock. Eventually, I gave up, snapped this photo, and spent an extra hour trying to get back to the path. In summary: Me + unclear hiking trails = bad combination
A view from (near) the top
To get to Liming via local bus, I suggest following the directions in Mike Dobie’s climbing guide for Liming. You can download the guide book here. If you can, plan your visit to coincide with Liming’s monthly market, when minority groups from other villages come into town for trading.