We came to Lijiang on a hard sleeper from Kunming. I was pretty happy with the train ride. The beds weren’t bad, the sheets were clean and we had a good amount of space on the second level of a double-decker train.
When we arrived, we took a van from the train station to our hostel’s area for 15RMB per person. We tried to bargain it down to the Lonely Planet’s recommended 10RMB to no avail. We later found out that that’s the price.
Check our video here:
Taxis in Lijiang don’t use their meters because they said they haven’t been updated for inflation or cost of fuel for 10 years. Don’t know if this is true but no driver will use their meter. They will negotiate a price with you which fluctuates depending on the time of day and where you want to go. Check with your accommodations to know what the rates should be.
We stayed at Garden Inn in one of Lijiang’s old towns. The Inn is more like a hostel and I found it online and later saw it was recommended by Lonely Planet. It was okay. The rooms were relatively tidy minus a giant bug freaking out a French roommate. The bathrooms weren’t too clean and some shower heads were broken. Also, lots of noise gets through the walls. If you need a good sleep, perhaps find somewhere else or get some ear plugs.
I’d recommend staying in Timeless Hostel (formerly Panba). It was clean, the staff were helpful and there are a lot of detailed things that make it nice: like a curtain, personal lamp and plug in your dorm bed.
The main old town in Lijiang’s was pretty good. It reminded me of the Hutong areas in Beijing, particularly Hou Hai. They are small and quaint buildings and all of them have obviously been renovated to appear to be like an old town. Nice Asian architecture if you want to see that.
Part of the old town is still under construction and it’s basically separated into a hotel or “Inn” area and an area full of overpriced snacks, trinkets and bars. It’s nice to walk around for a bit but there’s not really anything to see unless you want to try some food or buy some trinkets for yourself or people at home. They mainly sell scarves, drums, cloth paintings, silver bracelets/jewelry and other miscellaneous things.
On the second day, we explored Shuhe Old Town. It’s also a renovation-in-progress by the government or businesses to generate tourist dollars. You get the feeling they want to suck out your dollars in these old towns.
Most of the tourists are Chinese. They want to come to Lijiang (according to my wife) because it’s famous for love stories. Basically some people will come here looking for love or one-night stands and many hotels even say things like: “Bring your own woman,” “have sex here,” “make your love story happen here” and things along those lines. Kind of interesting but it’s written in Chinese so you might not be able to catch it.
The rest of the time, Nala and I went around trying to buy some waterproof shoes because it’s the rainy season here and our shoes weren’t up to hiking in the rain. Eventually we found a decent pair after an exhausting search. Some of the shoes we found were fake (150-300RMB), whereas others were ludicrously priced (around 2700RMB). We bought ours for 490RMB each.
Lijiang is a good base if you want to go see some of the sites. There is Lugu Lake,Tiger Leaping Gorge and some mountain areas.
Overall I’d recommend Lijiang if you want to go to some of the sites around it or want “your own love story.” The hostel prices are also decent and it’s been a good base for Nala and I to catch some R&R. We also based here to go to Shangri-La and Tiger Leaping Gorge. I’ll update about those soon.
Where to stay:
The hostels and hotels in the area are well priced if you’re not coming here during a Chinese national holiday. On our first night, we stayed at the Garden Inn (recommended in the Lonely Planet) but it wasn’t so great. It’s fine but wasn’t so clean and needs a good renovation on its bathrooms.
We later found a gem of a hostel nearby called Timeless Hostel (formerly Panba). The dorm rooms start at 40RMB and singles with a good view for 160RMB. The rooms and washrooms are clean and newer. They also are very considerate in the dorms with curtains on your bed, a personal lamp and plug. Not bad.
Staying in the Old Town is nice. I’d advise leaving it to find a place to eat or anything else since it’s pretty overpriced.
I wouldn’t recommend Shuhe Old Town though because it’s really far from everywhere else. That means you’d have to eat there and do everything in a tourist-oriented place that wants your dollars… er, RMB. Also, to get there or away, you need to pay double the taxi price because of some price-fixing scheme the drivers have. That’s about 30RMB one-way to the other Old Town.
How to get here:
We took a hard sleeper after flying into Kunming. The price was decent, around 146RMB each. To the Old Town, you can take 2 buses (at 2RMB per bus), take a van (15RMB per person), or a taxi (around 50RMB, I think)
You can also fly into Lijiang’s airport if you have the coin to do so, or are on a tight timeline. Not sure about the prices from there.
Or the budget route, you can also take a bus into Lijiang.
There are quite a few earthquakes, landslides and mudslides (during rainy season) that happen in this region. If you plan to see some of the sites near Lijiang, you’ll want to make sure the roads are open and safe. Some drivers will go through them even after there’s been a landslide or mudslide.
So take care and do your research. See if reputable (super expensive) travel agencies go there and what they say. After you know, book yourself a bus ticket (to save some cash).
During our stay, we checked some travel agencies who wouldn’t go to some regions whereas others would, or one woman’s husband had his own business and he’d drive us there. No way and no thanks! Be careful and cautious.