15 November 2009

Mu's Residence, Li Jiang is magical

It has taken me three months to get around to writing about our last full day in China.

Some of the reason for that was because I had to write about the other twenty days first but the main reason was the difficulty I have had in trying to select just a few photos to capture the mood of the day.

But let's start at the beginning.

Li Jiang had already shown itself to be the prettiest place we visited during our three week tour and so I relished the prospect of a free morning to explore the town on the final day before starting the long journey home via Kunming and Hong Kong.

Our guide suggested that we spend the morning shopping but I had other ideas.

I had bought a map of the town on my arrival and that revealed that in the heart of the old town was a palace, called Mu's Residence. Exploring that was always going to be more fun that looking for cheap fake goods to give people for Christmas.

The streets of Li Jiang would put most mazes to shame and, like a maze, they all look the same too and so, even with a map, finding the palace was bit of a challenge.

On the plus side it was Li Jiang that we were bemused in and so we had pretty buildings and murmuring waterways to engage us as we set about our exploration.

When we got there we were immediately staggered by the scale and the beauty of what we found.

Mu's Residence was based on the Forbidden City and while it is much smaller it is also in a better condition, for example there was an abundance of water and plenty of plants to provide respite from the heat and the sun.

The buildings were magnificent and most are open so you can climb up to the higher floors to get different perspectives on the palace that was like a maze within a maze with its many sections and numerous walkways. Exploring was a real joy.

The large pond was my favourite part of the palace with its collection of rectangular sections that lead you further away from the buildings and deeper in to the garden and the shade.

All of that would have made for an absolutely fantastic morning, but there was more.

At the far side of the palace was a sign to the garden which took you through a building, along a walkway above the streets of Li Jiang and then down through another building.

The garden was small when compared to the palace but was very pretty none the less.

Beyond the garden was another path, this time leading up the tallest hill in Li Jiang. The climb was steep and hard work but was made easier by the frequent seats and the traditional covered walkway that kept the aggressive sun at bay.

The cafe half-way up also helped.

As we climbed the hill we could see increasingly more of the old town and then of the new town beyond it.

The roofs of the old town are wonderfully uniform in shape and colour, almost as if somebody had just scattered some building bricks from a Chinese Lego set (and if there is no such thing as Chinese Lego then there jolly well ought to be).

A proud pagoda sits on the top of the hill looking like an adventurous wedding cake. More climbing here but this time it was inside and with easy steps.

More views and more to marvel at on a day which had already far exceeded any reasonable marvelling quota.

I hope that the images I have chosen here have given you some confidence that this really is one of the loveliest places in the world. The cultural atheists can find more proof and the devotees can find more joy in the full set of photos.

This was the last day of the holiday and it was also the best day. If I could go back to China for just one day then I'd go to Li Jiang and Mu's Residence.

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