Lijiang+Yulong Mountain, China

We have travelled with Marc to other parts of China for work on previous occasions (see posts on Beijing, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Shanghai) but this was the first time that we had an opportunity to visit field sites and completely natural areas in China.

We drove from Kunming to Lijiang located near the Yulong Mountain (it also goes by the fancier name of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain). Lijiang is famous for its 1000 year old town that was once the hub of the tea horse caravan trail (tea was exported out of China in exchange for horses). The Old Town of Lijiang is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Lijiang was surprising to say the least. What we found, instead of the small quaint town we were expecting, was a city centre lined with upscale modern buildings filled with high-end shops. Even more shocking was the Old Town of Lijiang, which was covered with multicolour lights, tacky gift shops selling all manner of things they were trying to pass off as “ethnic”, including djembe drums from West Africa. One store even had large wood statues of Native North American people. To complete the picture of tourism gone wrong, there are dozens upon dozens of bars and karaoke and dance clubs trying to outcompete each other on who could be louder. I don’t think that’s what UNESCO had in mind when it deemed the Old Town of Lijiang a World Heritage Site. To be fair, we only spent an hour in the evening (which was as long as we could stand it) wondering around. Would it be different during the day when the loud obnoxious bars and clubs are closed? I hope so.

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Welcome to the Old Town of Lijiang. You can’t miss it.

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Famous for its many waterways

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Endless shops to cater to the mass of domestic tourists

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I’m surprised any stars can be seen with the amount of light the Old Town emitted.

 

In contrast, we spent the next day in the peaceful setting of Yulong Mountain, where despite the tourists, we found quiet beauty. Yulong Mountain consists of 13 peaks and is home to one fourth of all plant species in China. This is also where the southernmost glacier in the Northern hemisphere can be found. A visit to the Yulong Snow Mountain Scenic Area can be quite expensive as there is a hefty entrance fee and then shuttle bus and cable car fees to get you up the mountain. There are different cable cars to get you up to different elevations and of course each came with its own individual cost. Fortunately, we were able to avoid most of the fees as our host had applied for permission to bring us to the field sites, which are located inside the scenic area.

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View from Yulong Mountain

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The viewing platform at the top of the cable car that takes you to the alpine meadow.

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Alpine forest on one side. Meadow on the other.

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The meadow dotted with goats, sheep and horses.

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Nice setting for a graze

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The sticks in their hands were used to explore all the various piles of dung laying around to determine the diets of the animals grazing in the meadow. They were particularly excited to find dung beetles in some of the piles. There is no doubt they are the children of a biologist.

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Ponies in the forest

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In her element

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The field site

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Biologists at work

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Perspective

 

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Turquoise waters of Yulong Mountain

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Cascading pools

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The cable car that starts at an elevation of 3356 metres and takes you up to an elevation of 4506 metres to the glacier. This one ride costs an incredible 180 RMB/person.

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Unfortunately the visibility was very poor during our visit to the top and the path to the glacier was closed. All we saw was white until the wind blew the clouds out for one minute, just enough time for me to capture this photo. You can see the glacier covered in snow at the bottom centre of the photo just above the stairs.

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Practically every Chinese tourist had one of these oxygen tanks held up to their face whether they needed it or (likely) didn’t need it. Nothing stops them from taking a selfie though.

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Then they proceeded to leave a trail of their trash behind. Even worse, as we headed down in the cable car, we could see thousands of oxygen tanks discarded down the mountainside from people having purposely pushed them out the window of the cable car. There’s no other explanation for how they ended up where they did. Incredibly upsetting. I guess visiting nature does not equal respecting nature.

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Nicest looking field station I’ve ever visited

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The field station also comes with a pretty good view

If any of you have travelled within China, you will understand why I added the word “completely” when I mentioned natural areas in the beginning of this post. Many “natural” areas in China have been “enhanced” (think paved paths, music flowing from rock-shaped speakers, snack stands every 50 meters, etc.). It was refreshing to walk in a forest with nothing but the sound of animals and the smell of earth and plants; and not the smell of hot dogs and fish balls. Although there were those where you get on and off the cable car. More nature is in store on the blog. Next up – Tiger Leaping Gorge!

 

 

 

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