The world famous Old Town of Lijiang is a UNESCO Heritage Site. With history going back more than 800 years, it is home of the Naxi (Nakhi) people and once a meeting point of trade along the old tea horse road.
Today it is a self-contained maze of winding cobblestone streets and tiny stone arch bridges across the three canal waterways that flow through the old town. It is pedestrian-only (supposedly, however some local shopkeepers brought deliveries through the narrow alleys), and overall, not too big to explore in a few hours.
You could get lost around every corner, but somehow always end up somewhere familiar. If you follow any of the canals upstream, you would reach the famous (reconstructed) wooden water wheel.
The town is still filled with touristy souvenir shops selling local Naxi embroidery (possibly some real stuff too) and restaurants, however it wasn’t as tacky and “fake” as Dali. We thought it was far superior and much more photogenic, everywhere you looked.
Up the town hill, one can get a fairly decent view of the traditional tiled rooftops. We had to go into one of the many open bars and order drinks just to get a good vantage point at a table overlooking the town.
Not far north of town is Black Dragon Pool, a famous pond in the scenic Jade Spring Park at the foot of Elephant Hill. The pool was built in 1737 during the Qing dynasty with a white marble bridge and pavilions overlooking Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance.
As night falls, the aroma of barbecued meats, steaming noodles and all sorts of other delicious street foods wafts through the chilly air. The tasty options are plentiful and cheap, small portions means you can dare to try anything with a skewer in it. In fact, skewers make decent, if not clumsy chopsticks.
Though the locals seemed pretty skilled at it.
Visited 22nd and 23rd December 2013.