Lijiang Old Town has many mid-range restaurants, mostly aimed at tourists. The closer you eat to a canal, the higher the likelihood of the restaurant having an English menu, and the higher the price. In the evening Chinese tour groups are encouraged to sing traditional songs, and try to outdo neighbouring restaurants. Fun, but if you’re hoping for a quiet meal try somewhere on the edge of the Old Town.
In the southern area of the new town, and behind the central snack street there are long rows of restaurants, marked by too many Chinese lanterns and flashing lights. These are very overpriced and judging by the looks of the patrons, not too appetising either.
For more authentic local food head to the outskirts of the Old Town, where there are many hole-in-the-wall restaurants. The food here is tastier and cheaper, and they’re geared to winning return business from the town’s workers. They may look less appealing, but with the smaller menus and high turnover, there’s far less chance of being poisoned.
If you need a Western food fix there are numerous coffee shops, a burger place and the ever present KFC and Pizza Hut, mostly near the youth hostel area in the north east of town.
For the best restaurants, we were told to go into the new town, where the wealthy locals eat. We tried to do this on Christmas Day, but got distracted by a Brazilian restaurant at the Crowne Plaza with Chinese characteristics. It turned out to be a match made in heaven – large hunks of meat on skewers cooked with a mixture of Brazilian marinades and Chinese attention to detail.
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