17 October 2009

Li Jiang is stupidly pretty

Li Jiang was the last stop on the tour of China and it was also the prettiest place that we went to by a long long way. Water flows everywhere through the old town bringing beauty, calm and welcome respite from the heat. Footpaths follow the water as it meanders confusingly producing a maze that you want to get lost in.

This picture is a fairly typical street scene showing how the low traditional buildings crowd around the water while bridges try to keep away from it and red lanterns hang curiously at the side.

The waterways run down the middle of some streets, at the side of others and in a few they are almost hidden in half-open channels.

This street has gone for the at-the-side option with stumpy bridges to gain access to the shops and restaurants and with trees along the footpath to provide shade. The constant red lamps are here too.

Any possible complaints of uniformity are firmly dispelled by the way that the familiar themes are tortured into different shapes as the streets follow the myriad waterways through the town so that each step gives different perspectives and different pleasures.

The town fights some of the confusion by planting very welcome maps (made of wood) at the major junctions - and there are lots of junctions.

These maps only show the neighbouring paths and so tease at an escape from the town itself, but who would want to escape from this?

The buildings that follow you through the town are all low and traditional in design providing comfort and charm. This is a tourist area and so almost all of the buildings are either shops or restaurants and they are usually open wide to the walkways. It's rather like walking through a large shopping centre except in a good way.

The streams are also home to large colourful tribes of carp that swim in geosynchronously while feeding from the fresh passing water.

Complementing the walkways are a few open spaces where decoration is allowed to flourish and, in this case, the clear glacial water can rest before resuming its long journey towards Shanghai.

Here still but alert lions guard the town against the possibility of dragons emerging from the deceptively safe looking water.

These few pictures and my inadequate words can only begin to hint at just how pretty Li Jiang is. Perhaps seeing more of my photographs here, on Facebook may help, but I think that I can best impress you with the wonder of Li Jiang by saying, truthfully, that if I could only revisit one of the places we went to in China it would have to be Li Jiang.

That all but wraps up my holiday in China, there is only one day left to cover and that was the best day of the lot.

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