Water was indeed an important factor in the people’s lives. Many springs wereconsidered holy, sites of silence and enchantment. Streets were bordered by canals inwhich sparkling rivulets constantly flowed. Some cafes would simply keep their bottlesof soft drinks cool by dipping it in the icy streams! Every now and then, the canals wouldeven be rerouted to wash streets.Lijiang was accepted in the UNESCO World Heritage List because it represented thecoming together of many cultures such as Naxi, Han Chinese, and Tibetan. Thesecultures lived in relative harmony, creating a vibrant community. This was clearlyillustrated in a small village where the painted murals in the temples showed theinfluences of different aesthetic schools.There was actually so much to do in the ancient town. At night there were performancessuch as concerts of traditional Naxi music. Sometimes a group of young people wouldgather around a bonfire and dance. It felt good to join them and simply twirl and spreadyour arms. Mayor Medina would say: “Para ka namang ibon na nakawala !”.Then there was the amazing variety of shops. On sale were all kinds of colorful fabrics,scarves, bags, handmade paper, tea, leather goods. I must admit that I bought a finelyembroidered jacket and wore it proudly to a conference reception. Everyone was too polite to tell me that my new purchase was really for women. After I found out the truth, Igave the jacket to my sister saying nothing about my social faux pas. My sister loved her gift.The food at the conference wasn’t the greatest. As we were often confronted with strange bubbling stews, it became customary to inquire about the contents. The wisdom of suchinquisitiveness became questionable, however, when we learned that one of our steamingtureens actually contained donkey meat. From then on, we all thought it best to follow thelead of another mayor, this time of the Nepalese town of Bhaktapur. I can still recall howhe would declare in a booming voice: “Don’t ask!”.