April 7, 2009

Lijiang City and Tiger Leaping Gorge, China

Arriving in the “ancient” shopping mall of Lijiang was like buying an entrance ticket to Disneyland’s Yunnan theme park where the local Naxi women dress up in cheap satin and sequined imitations of the ethnic minorities’ traditional clothes and try to lure you to their overpriced restaurants and shops with loud cackling noises that would amplify beautifully through a megaphone. The narrow cobbled lanes and alleys become a Chinese tourist mosh pit by mid afternoon and the real and present danger is not with pickpockets, but rather getting poked in the eye by over excited middle aged women on organized tours carrying a dangerous brigade of sun umbrellas (yes, this did happen, but luckily I still have my vision).
Even though the town's veneer has been created by tourism, it’s still kind of fun to get lost down the new “old” streets, wander past the small rivers that cut through the new “ancient” town and sit at a café to people watch and burn the overflowing pile of cash in your pocket.
Westerners use Lijiang primarily as a jump off point for a trek through the tremendous landscape of The Tiger Leaping Gorge, an Eastern rival of The Grand Canyon. I was now in an ever-expanding group of traveler’s and after touring the city, the eight of us made our way to the starting trail of the gorge. It’s magnificence is immediately present as the narrow path cuts into the side of the mountain with brush and rock above and a vertigo inspired drop down into a wild rocky canyon with the jade colored Yangtze flowing at it’s base.
As I quietly found my solitude within the group, walking alone at my own pace, I was beckoning my inner Buddha and holding meditative conversations with my parents through the many twists and turns of the path and the awe inspiring scenery surrounding me. I was a mere spec in this grand picture and yet somehow I felt entirely significant and accounted for, as if the whole gorge would implode if I was suddenly plucked from its’ surface.
Walking toward a mountaintop guesthouse for the night I kept my almost umbrella-poked-out eyes open for a leaping tiger, but after eight hours, I concluded that the only thing leaping was my heartbeat up the steep hills. It was a highlight to lodge on the face of such a deep canyon, waking in the morning to the sight of snowcapped mountains beaming with the rising sun. It also gave me the opportunity to strike again with another International Almost Naked Photo. As I stood flashing the rocks, grasses, clouds and birds (and maybe a few lurking villagers) as the cool, fresh air cleansed my skin and my spirit and a large basket covered my bum, I had somehow managed to summon yet another moment of unforgettable freedom.

1 comment:

keith said...

There's more info about Lijiang and Tiger Leaping Gorge . . . and other things you can do half-naked in World Heritage areas at www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/happysheep/shangri-la-la/tpod.html


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