When I was working in China, I often asked the people I met there where are the most beautiful places in China. I always got these 2 answers: Li Jiang (丽江) in Yunnan and Jiu Zhai Gou (九寨沟) in Sichuan.

Li Jiang literally means beautiful river because it’s situated near the first bend of the longest river in China Yangtze. It’s called first bend because the river makes a 90 degree turn from South to East within one kilometer. Situated on an altitude of over 1800 meters, Lijiang is not far from Tibet. When I was there, I could actually feel the thin air.

It was a cold clear day when I visited Lijiang for the first time after so many people told me that it’s a must-visit place in China. It’s winter. Cold but not snowing and it was sunny, the type of sun shine that you could imagine as in 7 Years in Tibet. Since it’s in high altitude, you felt like you could almost touch the sun and the beautiful blue sky.

It was 2003. I don’t think the place was as developed as nowadays in terms of tourism. I notice that there seems to be many good hotels offering by different travel companies now. But when I was there, those posh hotels were not there yet. We were put in the best hotel in the old town of Lijiang – so we were told. But little did we know that the hotel had time control on offering hot water. I was not feeling well one day may be due to the thin air and I stayed in the hotel almost whole day. It was December but they turned off the heating during afternoon. I was freezing and wanted to take a shower. After some negotiations, they finally gave me a flask of hot water to wash my body.

But that experience did not affect my affection towards the place. The Old Town of Lijiang is one of the most well-preserved old towns  in China. In fact, The Old Town of Lijiang (as well as Jiuzhaigou) are included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The buildings are very beautiful. Silver was one of the main selling items. You can get very good value silver in Lijiang.

We strolled along the stone built roads and were attracted into some of the roadside cafes. We went into one owned by a woman, who came from Tibet to start her business there. We ordered Tibetan dumplings and Tibetan sweet milk tea. It’s very unusual. There’s also a guest book in the cafe which tourists used to leave their comments. Many went there because of the recommendations by Lonely Planet. I did see some lonely souls left messages for other people to contact them to finish the lonely journey together.

I have also heard of a beautiful love story in Lijiang. There was a Korean woman who went there for traveling and fell in love with a local man so she stayed. They then opened a Korean restaurant together in Lijiang. One of my friends told me this story after coming back from his holidays there and he said to me that Lijiang was the most romantic place in the world! Yes, these are the exact words from a man. Not sure if the restaurant still exists. If anyone happens to read this article and know more of the story, please leave your comments.

I wish I will have the chance to go back and stroll along the stone built road, sip Tibetan tea by the little streams passing through the whole old town of Lijiang and listen to the love story of people met in holidays.

The Old Town of Li Jiang is a very beautiful place. Do you agree?

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