I arrived in Yunnan province yesterday morning and it's made me reconsider how I'm traveling. Before, I assumed I could see everything there was to see in China in this five week or so summer break. But I'm down to ten days now before I have to show up in Beijing and I don't think that's going to happen any more.
The town I'm in, Lijiang, looks like a page out of a nostalgic old book on China. The narrow cobbled streets twist and turn so that last night we were afraid to leave because we weren't sure we could get back, and seriously contemplated acting out Hansel and Gretel in China. Here's a picture of a woman selling live eels in a bucket, and then one of locals haggling over vegetables (can you tell I have wireless Internet access?):
The scenery is gorgeous here, and I'm beginning to think that in order to "do" Yunnan, you have to sit for a few weeks, relaxing and enjoying the view.
On one hand, I want to see what China has to offer. On the other hand, I don't want to spend a lot of money to gloss over all the best parts. Maybe it won't actually be a problem. We're about to go on a two day hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge, which has been given rave reviews by my friends, and then probably go to Shangri-la, which is supposed to be another place where you can just soak up China.
I say "we" in the last paragraph so naturally; Lijiang is a haven for backpackers and I've already become friends with a group of about six or eight. We have fairly compatible schedules, so we might be together for several days.
Not to describe things too romatically; this is a picture of a bug (not a butterfly, the Chinese woman running things here said) that attached itself to one guy's shirt. This is not a tattoo (although we did tell him that it would make a good "tramp stamp" to commemorate the event).
So hopefully I figure out a good travel strategy.