How popular is this time-locked place? Lìjiāng’s (丽江) maze of cobbled streets, rickety (or rickety-looking, given gentrification) wooden buildings and gushing canals suck in over eight million people a year. So thick are the crowds in the narrow alleys that it can feel like they've all arrived at the same time.
But remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of the tourists will be in 20% of the places. Get up early enough and you can often beat the crowds. And when they do appear, that’s the cue to hop on a bike and cycle out to one of the nearby villages.