The dream that is Li Jiang

Li Jiang (Photo: Steve de Vroom)

Have you ever dreamed of a perfect place, where everyone is happy and the surroundings are beautiful? A place where crystal clear streams, traversed by stone-arch bridges run through a perfectly neat and clean village. A place where every street is a walking street with cafes, interesting shops and restaurants on either side. A place where every night is party night, lit up by red Chinese lanterns. A place of plenty where the fields are rich with produce surrounded by cloud capped mountains with touches of snow on the peaks.

You may have been dreaming of Li Jiang, in Yunnan Province of Southern China, not far from the Tibetan border. It may sound like Shangri-La and indeed it is not far away from that famous place of perfection.

The old town of Li Jiang is something out of a fantasy. A tourist haven preserved from high-rise development. You have to walk through winding alleys to find your hotel but that is half the fun. When you see it from the hill above there is a sea of old style Chinese rooftops with little stone-clad streets between.

Li Jiang has another part of town which is modern and new. Development during the last 10 years has turned this sleepy outpost into a bustling city of about 2 million. But within the old town, you could be lost in a dream.

Last year, Li Jiang played host to 4 million visitors.

This is the town from which you can visit Tiger Leaping Gorge, where the mighty Yangtse River, the third-longest river in the world after the Amazon and the Nile, asserts its place in the world by crashing down through the mountains fed by numerous mountainside waterfalls and roars through the gorge that keeps alive the legendary tale of the feat of an tiger, intent on escaping his pursuers.

The sheer power of the water is awe inspiring and it is no wonder that the Chinese Government is considering harnessing the power to convert it into electricity. Time will tell whether the conservationists or the desperate need for energy will win that battle.

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