Yunnan. Some people who come here never go back to their old way of life. Some fall in love. In a place where the clouds are just beyond reach and eternal spring greets you every morning, you may just realise you don’t want to go back home.
Utopias, as we are told, either do not exist, or are shortlived. I recently made a trip to the old town of Lijiang, one of the most popular tourists spots in northern Yunnan province. It is not the place it used to be. That’s what I had been told. The forces of globalization as well as the catering to more regional tourists have caused both a sprouting of western fast food outlets and late night KTVs respectively. You can still meander down a narrow street in Lijiang Ancient Town and feel its charm, but you can also quickly tire of the crowds and the commercialisation.
Nearby villages Shu He and Bai Sha however, do allow you to peel back the years and find a bit of that tranquility you may be searching for. A slower pace of life unfolds here beneath the watchful gaze of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Yunnan’s beautiful blue skies. Stone streets, courtyard kezhan (inns), and the customs and culture of the Naxi people delight and de-stress you.
Yunnan calls the weary workers of the world, the midnight toilers and desk dwellers, to a different way of life. If not a utopia, it is an oasis. Here at China Tea Leaves, we’re starting a series over the next several weeks hoping to bring a bit of Lijiang, Yunnan province to you. In the meantime, see how Dali, another town in Yunnan is calling to Chinese urbanites. (Please note, the link takes you to nytimes.com – and may not be accessible in your region).
Don’t forget to check out our travel guides, more coming soon.