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.
Afterwards we enjoyed some delicious Lijiang specialty food, chicken hot pot.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Here are some other pictures from Lijiang!
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.
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.
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.
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!