Saturday in LiJiang, by Ian Whittall ’14

Today we woke up and had a semi-western breakfast at the hotel, including sunny-side up eggs and coffee: things we hadn’t had for weeks. Then we all met at nine o’clock in an inner courtyard (still in the hotel) and decided that the day’s adventure was bike riding to a nearby town. So we all put on sunscreen, grabbed some water, and took a few taxis to a bike shop.  Several of the students were put on two-person tandem bikes to pair a couple of students who couldn’t ride bikes with others who could.  Almost no one had ever ridden a tandem bike before, and we were riding from inside the busy city, but it all worked out safely.  After leaving, we made a few stops: one at a reservoir and two or three others for water breaks. After a couple of miles, we made it out of the city and onto a wide field in-between tall, beautiful mountains. It was pretty hot and the sun was beating down on us, so most people were sweating before we arrived at the nearby town.

The town was simple and focused much around tourism, although unlike Lijiang, you could actually get a great sense of some of the native customs. We perused the main street of the village, looking at little boutique and antique stores, and after half an hour we sat down for lunch.  The cute restaurant we ate at had notes for foreigners around the world pinned to the walls, and it was the first time there wasn’t a lazy Susanne (turntable) for the dishes during lunch!

Once lunch was over, a nearby thunder storm threatened to drench us, so we decided to return the city.  The trip back was similar, but after we got to the bike shop, the teachers gave us 100 RBM per language-partner pair for lunch and everyone split up. From then on there was free time for everyone, and several groups did several different things, but most people walked around the streets of Old Lijiang. The students all walked to Square Street, a popular open marketplace in Old Lijiang, where a long row of open food-venders sold assorted foods such as tofu and yak meat kabobs. Some students walked back to the hotel and looked at the variety of bongo, jewelry, clothing, food, and “native craft” stores on the way. It rained during the mid-afternoon for under an hour, but that didn’t seem to stop anyone.

For dinner, most of the students ate in or near the Square Street marketplace. Unfortunately, we found out the next day that several of the students felt sick and were suspicious of having food poisoning. After dinner, everyone met in the hotel lobby and we walked, once again, through Square Street (over a mile walk each way) to a concert hall.  Here, we saw concert of traditional Chinese instruments, which lasted for an hour and a half. I didn’t recognize any of the instruments and I still can’t correctly pronounce their names.  The concert was performed by many septuagenarians and other people around that age – the oldest musician was ninety! But they all seemed fantastic at their own instruments, and the music was definitely authentic and traditional to this region. After the concert, we all walked back to the hotel and, exhausted, gladly got some well-deserved rest.

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