I walked the alleys and stairway streets of old Lijiang for nearly five hours yesterday and saw no foreigners. The old stone streets run alongside narrow irrigation canals criss-crossed by stone bridges. Everything moves at a pedestrian scale and pace as cars are not permitted in the old section. Everything is immaculately maintained, with clean public restrooms at every turn. This is not an inconsequential feature considering the amount of tea being consumed!
The main streets are crowded with Chinese tourists so I stuck to the hundreds of smaller alleys that zig zag up the hill to the main temple. Shops are filled with the colorful weavings and tie die of the region. Bells are sold everywhere with a wooden wind paddle onto which the vendor will calligraphy a wish. The sound of the bell is thought to offer your wish to the gods whenever the wind blows.
For lunch I went to an outdoor market and sampled soup with egg, tofu, sweet corn and shrimp followed by some local yogurt topped with fresh mango and honey. I also sampled yak jerkey sold at a store called "meat of Naxi girl.". Good thing I saw the sign on the way out because the ambiguity was a bit frightening. I passed on the "octopus balls," also due to the ambiguity (though my biology major wife ruled out my worse fear on this one, so tomorrow...)
While walking back from dinner I heard Hebrew so as my dad would always do I greeted them, "Sholom aleichem, Yisrael?". I explained that I have close cousins in Tel Aviv to which one replied, "nobody's perfect." Needless to say, I liked the four of them immediately. One of them turns out to be a very famous singer in Israel -- Yair Nitzani. The only "gringos" I encounter all day in these tribal lands turned out to be members of my tribe...