End of the Year Study Trip: 14-days through Southern China! (pt. 2)

Chinese Flag on the top of Jade Dragon Mountain in Lijiang
Chinese Flag at the top of Jade Dragon Mountain in Lijiang

The next stop on our trip was the gorgeous destination, Lijiang. Surrounded by mountains and clear, cool water, Lijiang honestly might have been my favorite city on the trip. It’s a beautifully quaint town in Southern China, that has all the small-town charm of my favorite places in the US. We were staying in Old Town Lijiang, a preserved part of the city which was overflowing with liveliness and culture. Lijiang was like a Hallmark movie version of a Chinese town and after spending an entire semester in Beijing, it was the change of pace I needed. Lijiang is a cultural center for the Naxi ethnic minority in China, and we were able to learn about their culture while we were there. We attended a lecture and visited a museum of Naxi culture, learning about their rituals and pictographic writing system called “Dongba”. One of the requirements for every student each semester is completing a project or essay that is relevant to our trip. My essay compared and contrasted women in Naxi and Han culture.

In Lijiang, some of us students went on a horse ride through the mountains with local Naxi tour guides. It felt like a movie. The tour guides sang Naxi traditional music, and we were high in the mountains under blue sky. It was truly one of the most beautiful and peaceful experiences I’ve had in China.

3 people Horse riding in Lijiang, PR China
3 Students riding horses with trees and mountain range in background
Taking a break and feeding our horses
Group of students feeding horses with forest behind them

Afterwards we enjoyed some delicious Lijiang specialty food, chicken hot pot.

Hot pot
Group meal around chicken hot pot
The lift to the mountain
View from mountain lift, high above trees looking out at mountains, clouds and sky

The next day we traveled to Jade Dragon Mountain. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the mountain via the lift, and the views were spectacular!




Once we arrived at the mountain, we grabbed some corn on the cob and started trekking (no really, corn on the cob was the snack that they had).

At the mountains
Posing in front of Dragon Mountain
Jade Dragon Mountain
Jade Dragon Mountain
With Tibetan prayer flags
At an old rest stop on Dragon mountain. This structure had ropes running from the top to the bottom, with flags running the entire length of the rope. These are Tibetan prayer flags . Mountain in background.
Tibetan prayer flags
Tibetan prayer flags and Dragon Mountain in the background

It was so quiet and empty on the mountain. The cold air cooled us down as we hiked up the mountain. It was definitely the cleanest air I’ve breathed in all my time in China.

On the mountain
A weathered pathway made of wood that scales the mountain with mountains and sky behind

I could’ve stayed up there forever. I didn’t realize how much I had missed nature, but staying in Beijing had made me yearn for wide, open spaces with no pavement and no people. Growing up in Alaska and living in Oregon, I feel extremely blessed to be surrounded by so much nature, and it was nice to get a little taste of that again. We walked the mountain, encountering a Chinese flag, a baby goat, and some Tibetan prayer flags.

Jade Dragon Mountain
Jade Dragon Mountain, with vast empty fields in the foreground
A baby goat
A baby goat sleeping on the ground next to 4 plastic water jugs
Tibetan Prayer Flags
Tibetan prayer flag structure

We ended the day at Blue Moon Valley, a picturesque tourist destination with water so clear and blue, it should’ve been in a travel brochure for the tropics.

Blue Moon Valley
Blue Moon Valley. Light blue water in the foreground leading to mountains in the background.
With a friend at Blue Moon Valley
Posing with a friend on a bridge with light blue water in background
With friends at Blue Moon Valley
More friends on bridge in front of the light blue water and mountain

Here are some other pictures from Lijiang!

Exploring Lijiang
Traditional multi story house with sweeping roof lines
Exploring Lijiang
Walkway next to a body of water that overlooks the house with sweeping roof

We traveled to Dali and Kunming to end our trip, but these last two visits were pretty uneventful. We had a lot of free time to finish our study trip projects and mostly relaxed. We returned to Beijing, tired, and with suitcases full of dirty laundry. Our study trip projects finished, we all reunited with our friends one last time for our commencement.

Commencement ceremony
Group photo on the podium for commencement ceremony
Last day of classes with friends
Group photo of 3 friends before last day of class

It was bittersweet to say the least. None of us wanted to leave each other, or Beijing. It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to these amazing people I had made such great memories with.

With my Chinese teacher Tan Laoshi
Group photo with my Chinese teacher and best friend Sarah!
My best friend Sarah
My best friend Sarah from University of Denver, and I on a circular swing made of wood and rope. Couldn’t have imagined this semester without her! Picture taken in Lijiang!

I truly made lifelong friends during this semester, and hope to visit them all in the United States when I return. Even though we’d only known each other for a couple months, we all became so strongly bonded.

Best friend
Photo with Will from University of Richmond! We are both wearing dust masks. My mask buddy!

I guess that’s what happens when you step so out of your comfort zone. It opens up a world of possibilities for friendship, growth, and life lessons. I am so thankful I came to do this program and can’t wait to return for Spring!


Great friends
Group photo of everyone in a pink jeep in the middle of a field