Catherine is a travel writer, trail runner, and fan of second class buses in foreign countries. She's co-authored Lonely Planet's Alaska, Pacific Northwest Trips, and the forthcoming Thailand and Southeast Asia on a Shoestring. She lives in tiny Seward, Alaska, and would love to hear from you. Email her at Catherine.Bodry@weblogsinc.com
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Lijiang is a funny one. It was demolished by an earthquake in 2006, just before it received the UNESCO status. It was subsequently rebuilt, and retained its protected status even though most of the buildings are replicas of the originals.
Despite -- or perhaps because of -- its new-old architecture, Lijiang is actually pleasing to the eye. Narrow, cobbled streets wind through a labyrinth of wood and stone buildings with up-swept roofs. The best part are canals cut into the stone roads, filled with rushing water that tumbles down from nearby Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (a "snow mountain" in China is one that is covered in snow year-round). Several wells in the town center also contribute clear blue water to the canals. Stone and wood bridges cross the canals - three of which are channels of the Jade River. According to the UNESCO website, Lijiang has 354 bridges.
Happy New Year! We hope today finds you merry and optimistic about the year ahead, rather than remorseful about last night....
This photo of an empty waiting room seems appropriate for two reasons. First, I always associate an airport waiting room - or airports in general - with anticipation. I'm not usually inside an airport unless I'm going somewhere, or just returning. We can think about 2011 as a trip that we are about to embark on, with all the happy trip anticipation that comes with the sound and smells of an airport.
The second reason I like this photo is because an empty waiting room is generally a good thing. No one likes to wait, and a packed waiting room usually means that somehow plans have been delayed. Flickr user jwannie
writes that "the MSP airport at 5am is boring," but I happen to think it looks like a wonderful place to be.
Have any travel photos that exude optimism? Upload them to Gadling's Flickr pool
, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day
A few days ago, Gadling told you about the historical charm of Shaxi
, an intact way station from the ancient tea-horse road days. Though the little village offers plenty for a mellow day or two, part of what makes it so great is the quiet valley it sits in, as well as the surrounding hills.
Just outside the village's walls runs the clear Heihui River, with walking paths on either side and arched bridges providing photo-ops. The paths are great for strolling, and you're likely to encounter Bai villagers going about their daily routines. Follow any of the cobblestone roads across one of the bridges to catch a glimpse of rural life as you pass through tiny villages and farmland.
Around 4km from Shaxi is the even smaller village of Duanjia. Its theater was used as a model for Shaxi's restored venue. Duanjia makes a pleasant day trip destination; rent a bike and enjoy lunch in the village.
Once an important market town on China's ancient tea-horse road
, Shaxi is one of seemingly very few Chinese villages that have retained their original feel. Quiet, with cobblestone lanes and courtyard homes, Shaxi is currently undergoing a "remodel" to restore and preserve its historical market square, inner village, and, eventually, ready the entire Shaxi Valley for tourism. Though only a few hotels and shops currently smatter the tiny village, there's no way a town like this will stay this quiet for long. You'll be rewarded by visiting soon, as the vibe is sure to change after the completion of a new highway nearby.
Gadling was lucky enough to visit Shaxi in November on a trip with WildChina
, during which we traced parts of China's tea-horse caravan route.
Merry Christmas from the team here at Gadling! If you're celebrating it, we hope you're full of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.
If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, this photo is for you. Trees with gingerbread-house icing against a sunny winter sky: it's a great day for a cross-country ski, or even a sleigh ride! Afterward, warm up with a cup of spiced wine or cider, or a hot chocolate. Thanks to our own darren.murph
for inspiring a little holiday cheer.
Have any travel photos that impart cozy feelings? Upload them to Gadling's Flickr pool, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day
In November, Gadling traveled with WildChina
throughout Yunnan province. The theme of the trip was "the ancient tea-horse road," and it followed a trading route that runs from Yunnan's tropical lowlands up to the Tibetan plateau and eventually in to India.
As the name implies, the "road" was a caravan route along which tea and horses were traded, though salt was also a major commodity. Lesser known than its glamorous older sibling, the Silk Road, the tea-horse road was nevertheless an important trade route. Though defined in the singular, the tea-horse road was actually a series of small trade routes; it was rare for traders to travel the entire route.
Tea, still grown and fermented for travel in Yunnan today, was carried north, while mules and horses from Tibet plodded south. Small traces of the original trade still exist: condensed bundles of tea packed into bamboo pipes at a rural market, an old square in a village where horse stalls still sit behind a guesthouse once used by muleteers (those who traveled the route with mules), and even a few people who worked in the trade before 1949.
Gadling introduced you to Dali
, in Yunnan Province
, the other day, and touched on a few activities and sights there. Out of all of them, hiking the Jade Belt Road (also called the Cloud Road) in the Cangshan mountains was our favorite.
Green furry mountains rise out of Dali's back door, and are an easy escape from the town. A mostly flat, paved walking path winds in and out of valleys about two-thirds of the way up the mountains, making a lovely day hike. If you don't feel like working too hard, an old-school chairlift can carry you up on one side, and a fancy-time, Austrian-built gondola 11.5 kilometers to the south can take you down - or vice versa. The path also extends beyond the lifts on either side, but we only explored the terrain in-between.
We chose to climb to the main trail by following a sometimes-muddy, often-slick path up under the chairlift. It took us the better part of an hour to climb up the steep mountain, and we arrived at the top of the lift sweaty and out of breath. The top of the chairlift, and the path that leaves from it, sit at 2500 meters (or roughly 8000 feet), high enough for us to feel it in our lungs.
A refreshing detail of Gaudi's Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain. The bright colors, varying shapes, and whimsical lines of this roof line showcase Gaudi's style without incorporating the entire work. I appreciate that a grand building's overall feel can be shown in just a tiny detail. And it makes me feel cheerful just to look at it. Thanks to Flickr user Gus NYC for sharing it with Gadling's readers.
Have any cheerful photos from your travels? Upload them to Gadling's Flickr pool, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day feature.
Though it was only built in 1947, the Linden Centre
is a nationally protected building - in fact, it holds the same status at the Great Wall. Built by a wealthy merchant in traditional Bai style architecture, the grounds were occupied by the army during the Cultural Revolution; the Red Guard were kept at bay, and thus the building and its paintings and artifacts remained intact.
Today, the Linden Centre functions as both boutique hotel and learning center. Meals and transport are included in the cost, and you can expect a quiet yet stimulating stay.
Gadling visited the Centre in mid-November on a trip through Yunnan with WildChina
(read more about it here
); here are our impressions of the hotel.
The alleys in Xizhou are so narrow that buses can't squeeze through them; instead, your bus stops about a block away and you're met by staff who carry your luggage through the unassuming gates.
Once you pass inside, you'll enter a Bai-style courtyard, which means that one wall is a dedicated "reflecting" wall -- painted white, it's meant to reflect the sun's rays. The other three walls are made up of guest rooms, a small bar, and offices. Though the grounds have been modernized to a very comfortable Western standard, the Linden Centre isn't the type of place you'd stop over for business meetings; think of it more as a retreat. In fact, Gadling's own features editor Don George will be teaching a writing workshop there in 2011!
Pressed by Erhai Lake on one side and the Cangshan mountains on the other, Dali attracts both Western and Chinese tourists drawn to its scenic location and laid-back vibe. Here you'll see long-haired Chinese hippies and Israeli backpackers throwing back beers in Dali's many bars, as well old folks from the Bai minority group shuffling along the sidewalks. One of Yunnan's
most popular backpacker destinations, Dali has been on the travelers circuit for longer than most towns in the province.
We visited Dali twice in November, the first trip funded by WildChina
. Here's a little of what we experienced and learned in and about the popular destination.
First of all, there are two Dalis. Dali New Town (Xiaguan
) sits about 30 kilometers south of Dali Old Town(Gucheng). Dali Old Town is where you'll want to head. Here, the town's original gates, invoking Dali's grander years, mark entrances to a grid of streets. A few are pedestrian-only, and some are cobbled. Throughout the old town is a mix of new-old architecture; essentially, it's full of newer buildings that are meant to look old. The result is definitely more attractive than regular new Chinese construction, but it can at times feel fake - especially since many of the shops sell the same mass-produced Chinese crap.
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