River and his crew at Timeless Lijiang Hostel were quite efficient and friendly. The hostel was located on the outskirts of town so it was nice and quiet but it was just a short walk to the bustling center square. I stayed in the 4-bed ensuite, which was big and comfortable. The kitchen had some tasty dishes at pretty good prices. River helped me plan my next day at Tiger Leaping Gorge. And yes, Timeless Lijiang Hostel and Timeless Dali Hostel are affiliated with each other. :-)
Lijiang Old Town was very beautiful at night but it was very crowded due to the holiday. Its streets were quite numerous which made them complicated to navigate and it was very touristy. For some reason there were bongo drums everywhere. You would also find many vendors for yak meat, flower cakes, and Yunnan coffee. I did find the prices quite more pricey than Dali.
Early the next morning I hopped into a van to Qiaotou to start my hiking tour of Tiger Leaping Gorge. This was not part of the original trip, but my friends said I had to go there since Lijiang was so near. It cut my time in Lijiang but it was well worth it. I started the climb around 11:00 am with the other riders in the van: 2 Americans, a French young woman, and a German father and son. We reached Naxi Guest House for lunch on schedule. We continued on through the hardest part of the hike, the 28 Bends. At the top of the 28 Bends, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the gorge far below. When we reached the Tea Horse Guest House, we said good bye to the father and son, who were spending the night there. The rest of us continued on to Half Way Guest House about another 1.5 hour trek away. We reached Half Way Guest House just in time for dinner. Just as River had estimated, it had been about 7 hours after we started the hike in Qiaotou. After dinner, we were treated to an incredible night sky filled with what seemed to be every star in the Milky Way and some holiday fireworks.
After breakfast the next morning, I left towards Tina's Guest House and the Middle Gorge with some guys I met in the dormitory: an Australian, South Korean, Frenchman, and German guy. We wanted to see both the Middle Gorge and Walnut Garden so we needed an early start. The Middle Gorge and Tiger Leaping Rock were very beautiful and we climbed down (and later up) a long metal ladder to reach the gorge. We did feel nickeled and dimed when we had to pay for every bridge to get closer to the water. After climbing to the top towards Tina's again we turned toward Walnut Garden but it was further than we expected so we turned back. After a nice dinner at Tina's we boarded buses back to Lijiang.
It turned out that most of the guys I met were also staying at Timeless Lijiang, so my last night in Lijiang was spent having dinner with them in the hostel lounge and enjoying a few beers. It was a great experience. The next morning I was on the way to the airport towards the last city in my trip…Chengdu.