The best and worst idea you will ever have while living and working in China is to travel during the Chinese New Year.Being the most import time in the Chinese calendar, you should choose your destination carefully, and plan well. This is what I did, and it was one of my favourite journeys into Chinese culture so far.
Having searched high and low for a new experience, I set my sights on Lijiang, a traditional Chinese city with amazing ethnic culture and traditions. Located in the Yunnan Province of Southwest China, Lijiang was the ancestral home of the prominent Mu family. Beginning in the Ming Dynasty and lasting until the Qing dynasty, their rule extended for a period of almost 700 years!
This is important because the Mu family helped developed the openness that makes the Yunnan region so wonderful. From my late arrival into the city until my last day, I was amazed by the open nature and genuine curiosity that the locals had towards me. On my first day, under blue skies, I explored the ancient mountainside town. In the city centre, I came across a traditional Dongba dance, done by the locals. Every day, leading to Chinese new year, citizens would host a dance in the town square and invite tourist to join in, I was always too nervous to try!
Although I did not dance, I did not need an excuse to try new foods. Lijiang had many tasty Yunnan dishes like pineapple rice and Yiliang Roast duck, just to name a few. I quickly gained weight! This, however, was not a problem. Just outside Lijiang, Yulong Snow Mountain provided amazing hiking opportunities to burn off all the food. For only a few hundred yuan, you could hire a guide and hike for an hour or a few days.
After a day of sightseeing, however, my luck ran out. I tried to take the bus back to into town only to find that it had stopped running; this was a common occurrence for this bus route. With seven kilometres between Shuhe and Lijiang and no available taxi's returning to town, I decided to walk! I met many other travellers on my way back to my hotel who all chose to walk after almost two hours of waiting, this was the longest day of my trip, but one of the most fun!
With Temples and historic homes, Lijiang was a welcomed get away from megacities and traffic. The city's Mu Residence gave a glimpse into the past of Chinese nobility. Small rivers and bridges connected tourist to each other section of the city. Reminiscent of Venice, I was greeted with many quiet strolls and beautiful sights. At night, Lijiang offered even more exciting bars, clubs and night activity, including fireworks for the Chinese New Year!
Going during this time of year was a fantastic opportunity to share in cultural moments. I met many tourist and travellers from all over including Italy, German, America and other parts of China. I tasted new dishes and experienced great memories. Journeys like these are what makes travel worthwhile, and this is why I continue to search new destinations; I enjoy learning, having fun and staying curious.