Lijiang – Exploring Old Town

Email to Rory on July 12, 2009:

We just had our last lecture from the scholar who has been with us on this leg of the trip. I think his area of focus is rather interesting. He is the one who looks at the intersection of changing a society to increase tourism and trying to preserve culture at the same time. Being here, I have really been able to see the connections with tourism in the Western US. Beyond the cowboy hats (which they do sell here), leather goods, yak instead of buffalo, etc., they seem to have a lot of the same underlying themes that sell in the American west. The Tibetans seem to fill the dual role of the cowboy and the nobel savage. There is that idea of a wild and romantic frontier. They play to the tourists who want to believe that everyone here still lives that old way of life. They make frontier life seem more “clean” and more ideal than it actually was. Those are just some rambling thoughts on the subject for now.

One of the many canals in the Old Town. Tourists buy the goldfish and release them into the canals.

It was foggy today, so no clear view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (you should search Google images and take a look at it). I feel like I got a decent view yesterday, even with the clouds, and it is taller than the clouds so I don’t feel as disappointed as some people. The mountains here are just awesome.

When I went back into the hotel last night, I found most of my colleagues in the courtyard. They were having quite the time, so I sat down and had a drink with them. However, I avoided the Chinese liquor some of them were drinking. That was the most foul smelling stuff I had ever seen. Imagine everclear type stuff that costs (and was probably not even worth) a dollar and you’ll have the idea. One bottle was called AK-47 with Che Guevara’s picture on it. Add that with the 7800 ft and there were some slow people this morning.

Last night before I talked to you I had sat on a porch with some people and drank Tibetan wine. I thought it was ok, but they were really excited to have wine from Tibet. My favorite part was the view over the rooftops and the softly lighted old part of the city with the mountains in the background. It was a beautiful view. I did take some pictures, but those never seem to turn out quite right. But is was a very good time.

Some friends walking down the streets of Old Town.

Well, I should probably go pack for Shanghai. I have loved this trip, but I am happy to be going to our last stop. I hope you had fun with George while I was sleeping. Have a good night!!

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