fish, tortoises, and yaks: exploring northwestern yunnan

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


Hello, neighbor!


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


Liming tips:
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.

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5 Responses to fish, tortoises, and yaks: exploring northwestern yunnan

  1. Sam says:

    Angie, what camera do you use to take your snaps? The images really capture the character of the place – beautiful!


  2. Angie Bradshaw says:

    Sam- Thanks! The Yunnan photos were all with our Canon Rebel XTi (the non-pro digital SLR). This fish shots were all with a 50mm lens and some of the others with a wide angle.

  3. Donna Hammond says:

    Dear Angie,
    I loved your pictures of Thousand Tortoise Mountain. What interesting rock
    formations. I really enjoy reading about all your adventures. As I tell the boys, have fun
    but stay safe. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day! Love, Aunt Donna

  4. Angie Bradshaw says:

    Thanks everyone! Donna, the Tortoise Mtn was a surprise; I hadn’t heard that much about it before I went to Liming. I’ve never seen anything like it before.

  5. Aunt Pam & Uncle Mark says:

    We LOVED your beautiful pictures. The colors are so vivid – almost felt like we were there with you. Who took the adorable picture of you on the Thousand Tortoise Mountain? Uncle Mark said he wishes we could be doing your life right now. Please take extra good care of yourself and be safe. Love, Hugs, & Kisses – Aunt Pam & Uncle Mark

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