Why not make your taste of Lijiang a TASTIER one?

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If billiard tables could talk…

…ours would like to take this opportunity to thank one and all for your generous outpouring of love and TLC. He’s ever so hungry for more rowdy and drunk challanges to be laid out on his top; and he won’t be able to call it a day if his pockets aren’t filled. On a more serious note though, he’d like to remind all the guys out there to refrain from rubbing up against him. That level of intimacy, is only reserved for his special lady-cue.


Kicking Up a Kiwi Storm at the Black Dragon Pool

Now you might have heard horror stories with regards to the ticketing Nazis at Lijiang’s famed Black Dragon Pool. Yes, we’re referring to those (insert un-pleasantry of choice here) masquerading as sweet little angelic things, all decked out in their tribal garb. Not only do they demand you fork out an exorbitant sum of 80 Yuan as a ‘preservation fee’, these ladies give you massive hell in the process.

Well, in the midst of dodging from Lijiang’s version of the Gestapo (and being real cheap ba*tards), our dash for safety somehow landed us right smack across a quaint establishment we soon came to know as Through the Window Café. Discreetly tucked away in the most inconspicuous corner of the Black Dragon Pool, the café would’ve certainly gone unnoticed if not for the boisterous yet non-threatening shouts of, ‘Hello, do come in!’, from within. It turns out that this mystery pair of vocal chords belonged to non-other than Stephen, the jolly Kiwi (New Zealander for those fancying political correctness) who runs the show.

One might think that Through the Window Café gets its namesake from some twisted form of poetic romanticism; well, that is certainly not the case here. The café is so aptly called since you literally have to climb in through the window as a construction error left the eatery door-less. For the vertically challenged though, Stephen has taken due caution by placing a series of steps by the window so you won’t rip your pants attempting to get in.

The fare served here does not differ much from your run-of-the-mill western eatery. What is indeed notable though, is the finer touches the affable Kiwi puts into running the place. When we ordered a beer, Stephen ensured that is was served in a nice chilled glass for optimum enjoyment, a rarity in China indeed.

Everything on the menu is home-made and done from scratch, even the Ketchup is no exception. That is why he takes much pride into emphasizing the amount of TLC (tender-loving care) that goes into making his pizzas and burgers; as well as how each dish would be a great treat for your taste-buds. And no Siree, lying he is certainly not.

Besides donning his apron and cooking up a storm in the kitchen, Stephen flips a three-sixty by night and slips on his dancing shoes in an attempt to rule to dance floor. As a parting farewell, he reminded us once again about the weekly Salsa classes he conducts; and the dire need for male dancers to partner his female majority. Yes, not only does the man do a mean pizza, it looks like his Latin Salsa chops ain’t that bad as well.

Going Local – Lashi Lake 拉市海

Fancy an abandoned sampan?

If anyone were to compile a list celebrating Lijiang’s unsung heroes, it is without doubt that the humble Lashi Lake would emerge tops. Lashi’s the kind of place that makes muted appearances on maps and receives little (if not zero) attention from the travel guide book fraternity. Thankfully though, Panba’s got our very own born and bred Lijiang-er – Guwen (who whips up a mean Fried Bittergourd and Egg Dish by the way) to lead us in our quest into the vast and somewhat arduous unknown.

A trip down to the lake can be done by bike or a hired vehicle. We’d recommend the latter though…especially for those who’ve done the Tiger Leaping Gorge trail and thought they might have keeled over and died from a cardiac arrest mid-way.

Seeing that both our guests and staff weren’t up for a date with the Grim Reaper, we sought out the more practical (ie. lazier) alternative. The mini-van/pick-up hybrid, which departs from Zhong Yi Market 忠义市场 , plies the route all throughout the morning and late-afternoon. And unless you’ve been hitting a patch of bad luck lately, settling the fare at its standard rate of 10 Yuan shouldn’t be much of a hassle.

After half an hour of literally rocking it out in the back of the truck, the little hidden utopia that is Lashi dawned upon our visions. Nestled just beneath the backdrop of the iconic Jade Dragon Mountain, the lake proved itself worthy of its dark horse status, reflecting all the splendor that surrounds it – rolling hills, galloping horses and even the occasional wrinkled Naxi lady.

Negotiating your way through the numerous plantations and touts can prove to be some sort of a challenge; and that is discounting the constant need for skirting your way around the ginormous steaming piles of…souvenirs…the local horses so kindly leave behind. Be forewarned though, that in the midst of these fields and horse stables are strategically positioned locals waiting to execute their trademark move – hidden hand, cunning fee collector. You see, most of these farmers have bought up land surrounding the most picturesque spots of the Lashi Lake. Therefore, making your way inroads would result in you having to crossing their land; and having to fork out exorbitant amounts ranging from 30-50 Yuan. Thankfully though, the farmers don’t really enforce this policy once you’re out of their line of sight.

Once you’ve reached the edge of the lake, treat yourself to a nice afternoon picnic, some good ol’ kite flying or you could do what we did…reward ourselves to an hour long cam-whoring session. If you’re a fan of organic produce, be sure to try out some of those preserved Hawthorne Fruits that the old Naxi ladies hawk along the banks. And no, unlike their counterparts at the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the old ladies here do not peddle any Ma-Li-Wan-Na.


Gaeten, our Belgian guest, unintentionally partakes in our cam-whoring session

Guwen - the defacto guide of the day

Qiqi, our guest who hails from the Anhui province, gets cozy with the locals

For the Love of HEAT. :)

Today we brought Belgian guest Gaetan to one of the parts of Lijiang that is rarely ever seen by tourists. In fact, the only other foreigners you are likely to meet here will almost definitely be teachers at the nearby Yunnan University Tourism and Culture Institute. Why then, did we bring Gaetan here; you probably ponder – Well, for lunch, of course.

Very popular among the Chinese, be they of Lijiang, Beijing or Shanghai (where is is apparently especially popular) especially the young adults and college students, is the devilish Chinese creation known as 麻辣烫 (Ma La Tang), which is basically a spicy soup that has anything you want in it. It is like a mini, one-person serving of Hot Pot soup, noodles if you would like as well.

One begins their little hell ride by grabbing a basket, in which you would place what you would like to put into your soup, as shown in the above picture. The flavor of the soup isn’t vastly changed by what you choose, so just take whatever you feel would taste great in a spicy soup.

In order to understand the experience of Ma La Tang (which literally translates to Numbing / Spicy Soup), one must first understand that is isn’t so-spicy-that-it’ll-make-your-mouth-go-numb. Instead, almost all Ma La (Numbing / Spicy) foods contain this incredible little spice known among those who are familiar with it as the Szechuan Pepper or 花椒 (Hua Jiao).

This beautiful spice is, sadly, little-known in the West, especially because it was temporarily banned in the USA when it was found to be capable of carrying a bacterial disease that could potentially harm the foliage and citrus crops in the US. It was, however, never an issue of harm for human consumption.

The Szechuan Pepper has a beautiful lemony scent, and creates a crazy little experience which is tingly and subtly numbing, which happens to match the spicy heat of chilli in a manner that one would probably find hard to describe (the word “whoa” actually feels pretty appropriate here). This is something rarely experienced anywhere outside of China, and so it would probably be inappropriate to declare oneself to be passionate about food until one has at least experienced it.
The soup itself is a strong, super-tasty broth, and you can actually tone the spiciness down if you’d like, since it is added afterwards; all you need to do is tell the chef when you hand him/her your basket of tasty goodies. Keep in mind that if the numbing, tingly effect is strong, water can taste rather strange. We would happily recommend that you buy yourself a cup of sweet, iced bubble tea to accompany your spicy soup, because in our opinion, they blend beautifully and soothe your tongue (so you can eat even more). :)

Welcoming the New Addition to Panba…

Hurray! Welcoming the new member of the Panba Family, the all-important Billiards table. Finally sent in, specially ordered, we now have yet more for you guys to do to pass time when you have gotten back from your little adventures in Lijiang and don’t quite want to go to bed just yet.

The billiards table has proven itself to be a beautiful addition. You may (or may not) have noticed previously that the tables  you have played on in the past (or at other locations) have been rather, well, crappy. Luckily for you, we hate crappy tables as well, which is why we spent extra moolah to get what we feel is be among the best tables that you’d be able to get in China.

There are guests who pretty much almost spend their entire (awake) hours of each day playing pool, which is in some part, testament to its quality. On the other hand, it has also actually turned out to be an amazingly effective way to make friends with the other guests in the hostel. Even people who have never played billiards in their lives get to learn more about it from those who do, and of course, from that, everyone eventually becomes FRIENDS!!

And that, after all, is exactly what Panba wants! Hurray!


Feel like a cuppa?

Of the simple things in life, few are more enjoyable than a good, passionately-made cup of coffee. Often we get guests who are serious coffee-lovers, who moan and groan about the difficulty of finding a great cup of coffee in China. In our opinion, the problem isn’t due to the coffee being unavailable, but rather the fact that serious cafes can be hard to find. 

Yunnan, after all, is well-known for its very own Yunnan Coffee Beans, much-loved by locals and tourists alike. Due to the altitude of Lijiang, the water just-so-happens to boil at 80-90 degrees Celsius, which also just-so-happens to be the perfect temperature to brew coffee at, as any coffee expert would tell you. The problem is, however, where do you find the good stuff? That is where the adorably-named Love Letter Cafe comes in.

Recently-open, only a month ago by Wang, a simple, modest guy who just loves to make (and drink) coffee, this is where the majority of Lijiang’s best Yunnan coffee beans go. Not just that, however. He also has Blue Mountain coffee beans of a beautiful grade. There are few places in Lijiang where you will get to learn more about coffee and/or simply learn about how to enjoy it.

If you consider yourself a coffee-lover, it would be a shame if you do not pay the Love Letter Cafe a visit when you come to Lijiang.

See more of Lijiang’s Hidden Gems here!

New Reviews!!

Mark & James at the Tiger Leaping Gorge

It is actually usually with a tinge of sadness that we read the reviews that we get from guests of Panba. This does not really have anything to do with whether they are good or bad, but rather due to the fact that we don’t really want to see anyone leave, since we treat every guest (whenever possible) as our friends. Either way, we appreciate each and every review, whether it is high praise or constructive. Here below we have the review from the two English studs, Mark & James.

I cannot praise this hostel highly enough – from the moment we arrived we were made to feel at home and amongst friends. The hostel has a team of hard-working staff who will go way and above the call of duty to make sure you have a brilliant time in Lijiang. The hostel interns, Ken and Linda, took us out to various restaurants and bars and old town sites, with their local knowledge always coming up trumps and always providing great company. When we arrived the hostel was very quiet but within a couple of days it had really filled up and there was a lively atmosphere in the evenings with people from allover sitting in the lounge drinking and listening to music. We’ve been travelling for 2 months now and this is our favourite hostel – if you had as good a time as us, you will be sad to leave!!

Andy after taking a photo at the Black Dragon Pool

Here we have the review from Andy & Kate Brennunstuhl, the adorable Polish couple who stayed at Panba a couple of days ago.

The staff at this hostel are friendly and extremely helpful, the atmosphere in the public areas is great! The rooms are very clean, although it was very cold so some additional heating in the room would have been great. The beds have electric blankets though and the water is very hot! I would definitely recommend this place as the hostel to stay at in Lijiang!