When many people think of backpacking in Asia they often think of backpacking in places like Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam. But there is a special place in Mainland China that is just as unique and often times overlooked. That place is Tiger Leaping Gorge. Tiger Leaping Gorge is a scenic canyon on the Jinsha River in Yunan province. It is one of the deepest rivers in the world and it is a Hiker’s Paradise.
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Heading to Yunan Province
It was my parent’s anniversary and we planned a family vacation to celebrate. We flew from Shenzhen to Lijiang. Our flight was a little less than three hours. We took Shenzhen Air and the flight was nice but extremely bumpy. Our friends who had previously visited Lijiang told us that something about the air currents in Yunan makes the flights very bumpy. So don’t worry too much if your flight to Lijiang isn’t as smooth.
Before we arrived at Yunnan we reserved an adorable hostel that we booked through Booking.com. Like many other hostels in China the staff arranged our day trips for us as well.
That is the great thing about traveling in China. The hotels and hostels will arrange; transportation to and from the hotel, day trips, entrance fees and food for you. So you don’t have to worry about arranging anything yourself.
When we talked to the hotel staff we were super excited to learn about all the beautiful places to see and things to do around Lijiang. My brother and I speak Chinese so we were able to arrange our trips with few problems or so we thought.
Our Gorge Experience
When we signed up to go to the Tiger Leaping Gorge we explained that we were traveling with our sixty year old parents and that we couldn’t do anything too strenuous. The staff said that was fine. And they assured us that spending a day trip at the gorge wouldn’t be too much for our parents.
But after a two hour bus ride, we were surprised to learn that what we viewed as a strenuous hike was a little different than what the Chinese do. Chinese people love hiking. They regularly hike and view it as almost spiritual. It’s not uncommon to see a young girl hiking in her high heels or people as old as 70 hiking up a mountain with no problems.
When our group arrived at the gorge my parents started out with the group. But after a quarter of the way down with our guide holding my mom’s hand, she realized this was more than she could handle. And so my dad took her back up to the top and they decided to wait for us there.
My brother and I continued with the group for the hike. And in the end what we got was a physically demanding but surprisingly exhilarating hike we will never forget.
The Hike Down
The view of the Gorge was spectacular. It was April but the air was crisp and fresh. However, the trip down was a little scary. The trail was not smooth and covered in rocks. Each step was very steep and I thought my legs were going to give out at any moment.
Reaching the Bottom
It took us just under two hours to reach the bottom and I don’t know if I could have been more relieved. However the wait was worth it. Although it was dry season we saw a beautiful river with roaring rapids.
At the bottom of the canyon there was an old bridge that swayed side to side. Our tour group crossed the bridge and took pictures.
After about an hour of taking pics and recouperating, it was time to head back.
The Surprising Trip Back
Kenan and I were expecting to go back the same way we came down but we were in for a surprise. Our guide failed to mention that we wouldn’t just be walking back we would also be climbing back. Half of the trip back we literally climbed several sets of rope ladders at the edge of a clift. The ladders were vertical so we had to hold on tight.
After climbing several sets of ladders we had to walk the rest of the trail. The wind picked up but we felt rejuvenated.
When we got back to our van we met an older couple from England that planned to camp at the gorge for a few days. They had all their equipment and seemed to be experienced hikers but I was a little worried about how they would do. This hike is not easy so make sure you’re an experienced hiker or in good shape. If not, make sure to ask your hotel about the walking tour. The walking tour is great for families with small children and those who don’t like hiking. It is a very relaxing tour and also very beautiful. But if you’re up for it, plan a camping trip at the gorge and spend a few days there! I promise it will be a trip you will never forget.
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