Lijiang

Yesterday, on the 20th of October, your beloved tried and true Chin Su crew took a much-needed rest after having endured the educational prison that the Chinese government calls a high school. Instead of learning math and taking English tests that barely makes sense, the twelve of us leisurely strolled around the beautiful but admittedly very touristy town of Lijiang. With a new sense of gratitude for the American education system, we arrived in this relaxing little cown (a combination between city and town which is much better than the alternative) after a long bus ride in which I REALLY had to pee the whole time. Not fun 0/10. We walked around with our beloved guide Sophie as she showed us the cobblestoned pathways and the adorable shops. Eventually we stopped for dinner. That night and the night after we stayed in a hostel that served the BEST oatmeal for breakfast. Very quality. Extremely appreciative.

That night we had to say goodbye to Sophie and hello to Jonathan, our new guide. We all spent the night in groups wandering from the shops and pastry stores within the confines of the wooden village. My group in particular got rather lost as we were focusing on some ~intense~ lateral thinking puzzles. Ask me to tell you one sometime.

When we returned to the Maple Leaf Inn, we had to work on the Student Planned Module which went, just, so poorly. We planned the whole trip before realizing our theoretical budget was 3x what our actual budget was. We had planned to stay in a mansion. Spoiler: we are no longer staying in a mansion. No progress made. We all went to sleep.

The next morning. Oatmeal. Excellent start to the day. Then a few of us went on a “hike” with our brand spanking new guide Jonathan, which was really just a relaxing stroll around a different part of Lijiang. We sat in this tea shop and they made us tea! There was $30,000 tea. We didn’t drink that. Collin ended up buying some obviously. Not the expensive tea. Normal tea.

Then for lunch we all ate some pizza that was somehow amazing and very mediocre all at once. Then I worked on a college app while everyone else went shopping .—.

The next day we awoke to some more oatmeal (!!!) and our 10-mile hike into Tiger Leaping Gorge, or, as Sarah Beth calls it, Tiger Leaping George. We walked uphill for the next 8-hours. I’m going to repeat that. We walked uphill for 8-hours. According to Mads, there are two types of fun: type 1 fun and type 2 fun. Type 1 is when you’re having fun in the moment and it’s great during. Type 2 is when you hate it during but it’s great when you look back on it. Guess which one this one was.

Hot, sweaty, and also cold at 10,000 ft, we made it to our summit!! You all reading this might have already seen the pictures of the view, so I hope you’ll believe me when I say it was sublime. I can’t speak for everyone, but in that moment I finally understood the fancy writing Thoreau scripted about the beauty of nature. Sarah Beth cried.

Finally we made it to our cozy hotel nestled in one of a Tiger Leaping Gorge’s valleys. We discovered TLG is in the foothills of the Himalayas. Except they were definitely NOT foothills; they were QUITE BIG and VERY STEEP. But the point is we hiked in the Himalayas, and you should brag about that to your friends.

The hotel gave us these big fluffy blankets and the beds had heating pads. I chose not to use mine because Connor’s burnt a hole in his sheets.

The next day we had a rest day in our hotel with the most awe-inspiring view you ever did see! We sat tucked away in the valley of Tiger Leaping Gorge with a blanket of clouds for cover.

Anyway. That morning we watched a video about China’s newfound environmentalism and all the dams they did not build. Pretty neat. Afterwards, we finally planned our Student Planned Module with 8 days to spare! Oops! It’s fine, we got it done.

The next day we embarked on the 2nd leg of our hike. It was just as lovely as the first leg, but more importantly it was flat. Lots of pictures taken. Lots of snickers eaten. After about 6 miles we stopped for lunch. And then we stopped for good. We could have kept going, but after so many miles you just kinda want to ride in a van, you know? So that’s what we did. We drove to the top of the actual Tiger Leaping Gorge rapid and walked down a lot of stairs to go and see it and BOY let me tell you that rapid is NOT TO BE MESSED WITH. There was a hole the size of Manhattan and the white water looked like it wanted to befriend you and then betray you. Lexi said she wanted to jump in just to see what would happen. Don’t worry, we didn’t let her.

So let’s circle back to those stairs. The thing about stairs is, if you go down them, you will have to go back up them… 🙁

Afterwards we drove to our Tibetan Village home stay right outside Shangri-La that refreshingly did not have any WiFi. For the first time ever we were COLD. That’s right folks. Actually cold. For the first blessed time in a month and a half. We all headed to the upstairs room where we would spend the next two days right beside a very warm wood-burning cast-iron stove. There were also two cats. A kitten named Chach and a mom cat named Chooch. Those were probably not their real names.

So what do a bunch of screenagers do when they do not have their screens? WELL. The answer is Mahjong! Boy oh boy did we play a lot of Mahjong. Connor bought a Mahjong set for us to learn to play and we did not stop once we started. The following day there was a Mahjong game going for all 14 hours we were awake sans meal times. Crazy! We also played poker, and sometime during the day some of us went out for a hike. I held a baby yak. A good day.

The next day a handful of us got up to milk a yak. We were very bad at it. I think I tried for a whole two minutes and only got about a tablespoon out. Yak milk is weird and sweet but pretty good? Then the milking squad went on another hike to the prayer flags some people had gone to the day before. I had not gone the day before because I was playing Mahjong. Priorities.

After the prayers flags, which were lovely by the way, we left for Shangri-La! We arrived at the Auspicious Inn in which I personally showered and napped. Then a smaller crew went out window-shopping and scouting out all the good stores to buy stuff from. Then we discovered a Chinese dance circle and obviously we joined in. We looked dumb and did not know the dance moves but that is okay.

The next day we wandered around buying stuff and preparing for Beijing, as we had our flight later in the day. Andrew, Vicky, and I all got matching backpacks because they were cute and also mine was dying on me. Rest In Peace the Jansport. <3 We also met some dogs.