Ever heard of Lijiang?
It’s an old town in northern Yunnan, in what was once the Dali Kingdom, the fought-over hinterland between China and Tibet.
Curved eave buildings topple up narrow alleys towards a Qing dynasty pagoda.
Willows and flowers drip over its narrow canals, crossed by slender bridges. There’s a reason they call it “the Venice of the Orient”.
Old shophouses cater for the tourist trade — as always in mainland China, more Chinese than Western.
There are little waterwheels in the alleyways but the big one marks where the old town ends and the new city begins, a cusp between the past and the future.
Lijiang is full of flowers, all year round. We’re here in autumn, so the flowers are what the Chinese call chrysanthemums.
In winter there are bonsai plum trees, in summer they bring out azaleas and in spring the town is full of orchids. And I do mean full.
Chocolate box? Sure.
Disneyfied? A little.
I mean, you can even play with eagles in the town square.
We’ve seen some amazing places since we left. The painted lakes of Flores, Indonesia, the cave houses of Coober Pedy in Outback Australia, the underground river in Central Laos and the karst islets of Halong Bay, Vietnam. But this is still the prettiest place I’ve ever been.
Our thanks to China Odyssey Tours for hosting us in Lijiang.