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Chiang Mai celebrates 4th of July

A Journey to the Roof of the World

Chiang Mai celebrates 4th of July

Celebrations to mark America’s 231st birthday took place around Chiang Mai on July 4th as hundreds of Americans and other nationalities gathered at different events last week.
The US Consulate in Chiang Mai welcomed hundreds for their traditional fair with hotdogs and fireworks while other Americans and there friends took to picnics and parties to mark the event.
Meanwhile in the US, America’s 231st birthday celebration opened in Philadelphia with a reading of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall, and descendants of signers of the original declaration were on hand for a symbolic ringing of the Liberty Bell.
In New York City crowds braved heavy rain to mark the U.S. Independence Day holiday, cheering as the city’s massive fireworks display light up the sky and for the first time seemed to set the East River’s surface aflame.
Crowds sporting ponchos and umbrellas stood along the river to see the 30-minute show that was billed as the nation’s biggest, with 40,000 fireworks. Eight barges on the East River and at the South Street Seaport set off an average of 1,300 shells per minute.
About 1,000 people from around the globe became U.S. citizens at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida raising their right hands in front of Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom as the oath was read by Emilio Gonzalez, head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. CMM Reporters/AP


A Journey to the Roof of the World

Novices and monks gathering for morning prayers at one of the many Buddhist temples in Lijiang.

Becky Lomax
The photograph advertising the trip was seductive - a Chinese sala framed by beautiful Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and its snow-capped peaks. I soon discovered that it was the view outside of our small villa in Lijiang. I also discovered that Yunnan Province is so full of beautiful scenery that you simply can’t take a bad photograph unless you forget to remove the lens cover from your camera.

The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful and the ride was magically hushed except for the tinkling bells of the grazing yak below.
We flew from Chiang Mai to Kunming, and then changed to a domestic Chinese carrier for the one hour flight into Lijiang. Our resort was located on the edge of town with a full view of the mountains, and it was luxurious. We dined on a Chinese banquet fit for royalty in surroundings that were equally elegant and then settled in for a good night’s rest. The resort, although full, was incredibly quiet. The next morning we met our guide and driver and headed to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Lijiang has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site; and the Chinese government meticulously protects the environment surrounding this world-renowned tourist area. Private vehicles are not allowed on the mountain or its foothills. Our driver parked at a bus station, and we transferred with our tour guide to a state operated bus for the next part of our adventure. Our bus was filled with tourists from other parts of China, all as eager to see the beauty of the area as we were. We passed a lovely area on the mountain with many small and large waterfalls. Bored looking yak in full festival regalia stood by waiting for tourists to climb aboard for photo opportunities.

In old town Lijiang the aqueducts nourish a myriad of willow trees, and there are said to be 350 bridges in this tiny area.
We were surprised when our bus pulled into a parking area less than half way up the mountain; and we learned that even these vehicles are allowed to go no further. The longest cable car ride I’ve ever experienced waited, and I’d go to Lijiang all over again just for this ride. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful and the ride was magically hushed except for the tinkling bells of the grazing yak below us and the cheerful Asian tourists calling out “hello!” as we passed them on the lift. We ascended to Yak Meadow and enjoyed the yak, alpine flowers and mountain people going about the task of living and working at that daunting altitude.

Mangos, lychees and other fresh fruits for sale from the street vendors in old town Lijiang.
In the afternoon we decided to spend time in Old Town Lijiang. We arrived when local families were walking around, children were playing in the water fountain and tourists were everywhere. It was a delightful reminder of the historic district of our home city but much more colorful because of the many minority people and their costumes. Old Town Lijiang is marked by countless little lanes meandering in all directions from a central square; and each lane is paved with local stones and filled with tiny houses and shops featuring local architecture. The aqueducts nourish a myriad of willow trees, and there are said to be 350 bridges in this tiny area. Lijiang is an area to be explored for several days. We left with regrets the next day and drove through the mountains to Zhongdian (Shangri-La).
I could have easily skipped the drive and flown from Lijiang to Shangri-La. The touted tourist attractions - Stone Drum Village and Tiger Leaping Gorge - were disappointing. The mountain scenery was beautiful, but Yunnan Province sits in the foothills of the magnificent Himalayas and is filled with beautiful mountain scenery. I would have enjoyed more time in Lijiang and less time on the road.
I was not disappointed in Shangri-La, although I must confess that our resort was the first that I had ever checked into that featured bottled oxygen along with bottled water. The greater altitude and more rarified air was a challenge. The resort was composed of Tibetan houses that had been moved to the location overlooking mountains and plains, and it was gorgeous. Our guide was a very political 20 year old who identified himself as Tibetan and a follower of the Dalai Lama. He was pleased that I was determined to walk up all 150 steps of the 17th century Tibetan Buddhist monastery just outside of town, and I did so by following the example of my fellow tourists and resting every 8 or 10 steps. Age notwithstanding, even robust trekkers were panting. Before the Cultural Revolution, the Gadain Sumzanling Monastery was home to over 1,600 monks. Fewer than 700 survived. I rang the bells and turned the prayer wheels for all of them.

A father and child walking through a pasture with the imposing mountain range in the background.
We were fortunate that the annual horse roundup was taking place just outside of town. The wind was cold and it rained, but I’ll never forget the Tibetan cowboys and their colorful ponies. I’m glad we found Shangri-La, but I missed the oxygen, so I was ready to leave after only two days.
We left early the next morning and spent the day exploring Kunming. We wandered through the old market area and small children called out “hello!” Then we toured the Kunming Museum, and were delighted with what we found. The museum focuses on the history of Kunming, but supports itself with sales from an attached antique shop that is just as interesting as the museum. Copies of museum pieces are available, but far more interesting are the local antiques that are offered for sale. Nothing over 150 years old may be sold, but many interesting small collections of silver, jade and other decorative objects are there. We also found one of the most delightful conversations of our vacation waiting in the museum shop. Our guide and the other museum staff offered us tea, and it was then that we discovered that all of them spoke English. They were open and friendly and not at all wary. We had a frank, if somewhat tactfully-phrased, discussion on their lives and those of their families, their work and play and hopes for the future. As with so many others, China captivated us.

The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is one of the many must see sites.