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Daily rental cost of a 4WD is around 500 rmb, while a 7-seater mini van (aka “bread van”, mianbaoche, 麵包車) is around 400 rmb. Please don’t mind paying that extra 100 rmb, and go for a 4WD. Not only it gives a more comfortable ride, but also much safer. Unless traveling alone, the extra spending probably costs less than a McD happy meal when splitting it among with others in the car.

bread van

bread van

The thin metal used to make the mini van makes the car crumble easily in car crashes. In addition, the lack of advanced safety features like stability control or airbags makes this “bread van” not a smart pick, especially for road trips to some snow mountains.

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Yik and I are happy that we rent a 4WD for our Meili Snow Mountain trip :D

Ok, for those of you who have patience or don’t have Yunnan in your priority list, it may be a good idea to wait for another year or two. Apparently, the Yunnan local government is in the process of developing its tourism industry. When we were on our way to Lugu Lake (瀘沽湖) and Meili Snow Mountain (梅里雪山), we saw many road constructions. We are told that the roads, which will be ready in some time next year, will be much wilder and less bumpy. This means a safer and more comfortable ride, if not faster as well.

But of course, this also means that these places will get more touristy and lose the peace and quiet nature as they become more accessible to the outside world.

many road constructions

Yunnan: many road constructions

There were many road constructions like this on our way to Lugu Lake and Meili Snow Mountain.

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Try to avoid traveling on the road on rainy or snowy days, especially if you are going to / from the mountain areas. Most of these areas have not yet been fully developed and their very narrow, winding roads become especially dangerous when it’s raining or snowing.

In fact, there are many fatal car accidents every year due to the poor road condition in the mountain areas. And the local government is aware of this that it blocks the roads in the mountains whenever it rains/snows heavily. It will be so bad if you are in the middle of your 8-hour ride, only to learn that you can’t proceed any further but change your plan, or even worse, cancel your trip and head back to wherever you are from.

Yunnan Driver Recommendation

It is very important to get a good driver. Yik and I were just very lucky that we met XiaoWu (小武) and XiaoMo (小莫) and had them to refer us to a responsible, friendly Tibetan driver – Zhaxipeichu (扎西培楚) . Even on the bumpy winding roads in the mountain, Zhaxi drove quite fast, yet very stable, that I felt safe enough when sitting in his car. And because he drove so fast, our ride from Meili to Shangri Las had cut short for almost two hours.

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Btw, only until when we said our farewell, Zhaxi told us that he is a champion of a Shangri-La rally race :)

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Here is Zhaxi’s business card. He told us that he also gives rides to Tibet. Yet, price is double of what he charges for Yunnan – 1000 rmb / day. He explained that it is due to the tough road condition and high gas price in Tibet.

Mini-bus to Lugu Lake from Lijiang costs 70 rmb, while the return ride costs only 50 rmb. These are the market prices. So, unless there is a special discount due to a particular situation, everyone pays the same prices. But while everyone pays the same, not everyone gets the same. With the same cost, you may be arranged to a comfy 20-seater bus, with spacious legroom and headroom, or a crappy, tiny 14-seater with little or no air-con, legroom, headroom, whatsoever.

So, my suggestion: always ask for more details when you book for a ride. Ask about the car model, the departure and arrival time, the stops made in between, the number of seats that are planned to leave empty to put luggages… it just won’t hurt to ask more ;)

Yik and I didn’t know any better before we went to Lugu Lake from Lijiang.  So we ended up taking this fully loaded 14-seater bus for our 8-hour bumpy ride to Lugu Lake. Lucky that everyone in the car was good passenger though; at least nobody was sickly coughing, or had car sick, or snored loudly when sleeping in the car, etc, etc.

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This is the 14-seater we rid to Lugu Lake. O ya, we had a flat tier too… :mrgreen:

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We didn’t take the 14-seater bus back to Lijiang, but this 20-seater bus. They cost the same, but the 20-seater was so much better!

lugu-lake-06When we were in Lugu Lake (瀘沽湖), we didn’t stay in the very-touristy Lashui (落水), but in Lige (里格). Lige has only been redeveloped since the end of 2005, hence, all of the guesthouses there are very new.

All are newly built guesthouses. Because the government wants to keep the Mosuo (摩梭族) culture alive, it restricts all guesthouses to be built only in Mosuo architecture style.

When all the guesthouses look so much alike, one by one standing next to each other, tourists can’t really tell the difference when they first get to the town. When the hardware is very much the same, it is the software that counts. When the guesthouses look very much the same, with rooms charging closely to the market price, it is the customer service of the guesthouses that can make the difference.

And I think Luguoyizhan (路過憶棧), the guesthouse we stayed in Lige, understands this very well. :) The guesthouse is mainly managed by two people. Both of them are very friendly, and always do their best to accommodate their customers’ needs.

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This is 葉大媽, a straight-forward and righteous woman who thinks that charging customers more than the market price is a terrible thing to do.

When she learnt that Yik and I got over-charged by our driver for a Naxi home visit, she got very upset with the driver, as if the driver was a wicked villain who had committed some ugly sins. But for us, while getting ripped-off wasn’t something worth celebrating, we were happy that we got over-charged by just 20 rmb, an affordable lesson which we have learned much from. :D

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Instead of ordering from the menu, we went straight into the kitchen, checked out what fresh food they had for the day, and decided on our order.

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Dinner time!

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free internet for its customers, all with LCD monitor too 8)

lugu-lake-03 business card of Luguoyizhan

Due to the time we had, we chose the four-hour Mingyong Glacier (明永冰川) trail over the three-day Yubeng (雨崩) hike when we were in the beautiful Meili Snow Mountain (梅里雪山). Even though our Tibetan driver 扎西培楚 told us that the glacier wasn’t beautiful as how it was once known to be and didn’t worth going anymore, we went anyway.

Mingyong glacier is fed by the snow that fall on Meili. And at 28.5 degrees north and an elevation of 2,700 meters (8,858 ft), the glacier is located at the lowest latitude and elevation of any glacier in China. There is widespread evidence that glaciers are retreating in many mountain areas of the world, and those in Tibetan Plateau are retreating in especially high speed. Mingyong Glacier has receded about 530 meters in the last 10 years, making it one of the fastest receding glaciers in the world.

Blame it on global warming, for the only thing that affects a glacier is the climate.

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This is the ugly melting Mingyong Glacier. Even though it has lost its beauty, I would suggest one to visit the glacier if she has a few hours to spare in Meili. It is a good experience to see the effect of global warming, and what all of us have done to our beautiful nature. Just remember, don’t put up any hope in seeing a beautiful glacier, else, you will be very disappointed.

mingyong-01

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Although we were a bit disappointed with the glacier, we had a great time hiking in the mountain. Beautiful snow mountains, autumn leaves, clear blue sky and cool breeze, it’s just awesome!

It took around 2.5 hour hiking up, and 1.5 hour hiking back down. Instead of going on feet, one can also ride a horse/donkey.

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