Maya followed our advice and joined us on the ‘big bus’ this time for a few kuai more (which I believe is the sequel to A Fistful of Kuai). The bus ride itself was not as spectacular as the Kunming-Dali ride, but the mid-point rest stop was even more exquisite. In fact, I think it should be its own destination. I’m going to open up a hostel next to it.
Lijiang gets a bad rep for being the “Disneyland” of Chinese old towns. But as a Disneyland aficionado I can tell you there are some striking differences. For one, there are very few hidden mickeys. Two, there are no rides. No Matterhorn, no Thunder Mountain, no tea cups. Its like Disneyland without Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, or Toon Town.
That’s right, it’s Main Street. Except instead of a typical small U.S. town one-hundred-plus years ago, it’s a Chinese town one-hundred or two-hundred years ago. And yes, like Disneyland, it may not be as authentic as other cities’ old towns. And yes, the streets are filled with tourists. And yes, the food is more expensive and not as good as outside the stone walls. But unlike a real town of yesteryear, it’s clean. The streets are continuously swept. The buildings are freshly painted. And the only poverty is you, when you leave.
I decided to stay an extra night in Lijiang and take it easy before tackling Tiger Leaping Gorge. All in all, I liked Lijiang more than most Westerners. But then, I like Disneyland.