After 10 hours of not so unpleasant soft sleeper train—with not so pleasant stinky toilets—we arrive to the train station of Lijiang and follow the directions to arrive to our hostel. Two bus hops to the suburbs make us realize that the Hat Inn is not that close to the center as we read online. Someone from the hostel fetches us at the bus stop and walks us to the place. The lack of a reception desk is represented by a patio surrounded by three buildings that host the rooms. The picture in our minds about the nice local Chinese restaurant that the website reads transforms into our host: a teenage girl who makes us understand with her poor English that she can cook some noodles if we want. We climb to the last floor where the worst room and toilet combo of our experiences in China presents itself. The Hat Inn mailbox suddenly receives our cancellation email that thankfully can be done in the same day of arrival at no cost. We flee from the place and settle down in another hostel inside the old town of Lijiang—way better and more comfortable.
Lijiang was named a Unesco Heritage town because of the traditions of the local people and the old Chinese style houses. Walking through the streets of the old town makes us realize the sad truth: The place has been ravaged by Chinese mass tourism. Every single house in old town is either an inn, a stupid souvenir store, an overpriced restaurant or a drum store—nothing to do with the place and we really can’t understand why there are so many drum stores. If Lijiang was a videogame, one achievement could be to visit every single one of these places and it would be super hard to achieve.
Nevertheless, some places are nice if you manage to forget about the theme park feeling, including the experience of the food court where you fight for a table and bargain the price of different foods all around.
The next and last day we decide to bike away from the crowds to Baisha. It is a small town told to be one of the best day trips from Lijiang in the guidebooks—although the best part is the cycling itself. Bad luck, Irene has a flat tire; good news, a repair shop is just 20 meters in front of us. “Could it be that they throw nails on the road to make business?” we ask ourselves while the man adds another patch to the tenths that the air chamber of the wheel already has.
Back in Lijiang, we fail to find a vegetarian restaurant again so the standard rice, tofu and vegetables dinner enters our mouths before going to bed. Tomorrow is flight time to Jiuzhaigou.