Saturday, February 7: When we hop on the bus in Baisha, we ask the driver, “Shuhe?” He waves us to the back, which is the usual way Chinese people let you know you’re in the right place. I never know if I’m pronouncing Chinese names properly, thus I never know if people understand where I want to go.
On the bus, we chat with an American expat who is working in Lijiang. I’m so envious. What a place to work! If I were working in Yunnan province, I’d definitely think twice about leaving China. Nanning, on the other hand, I will easily be able to leave. Guangxi and Yunnan are two different worlds.
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has listed the Old Town of Shuhe as an important component of Lijiang. It is a well-preserved example of a town along the tea-horse ancient road that led to Tibet. Leather products were the town’s specialty. Shuhe is one of the earliest settlements of the ancestors of the Naxi people. It is called “the hometown of springs,” and the Naxi minority regard the streams as holy.
The bus drops us shortly on the edge of Shuhe, and we wander into the labyrinth of streets to see what the town is all about.
We stop at an adorable family run cafe where Alex has an apple-carrot juice and I have a mango smoothie. We enjoy looking at the framed photographs on the wall of the family’s holidays in Yunnan.
There is a deep pool at the end of the town called Long Pool (Dragon Pool); it’s the source of water that winds through the village in neat canals.
We are both delighted with this adorable town and wish we had come earlier.
We don’t have any particular aim here, so we just wander aimlessly. I love meandering through this quaint town, enjoying the old wooden buildings, the colorful scarves and ponchos in the shops, the red lanterns and yellow flags, the signs with their artistic Chinese characters, the chalkboard menus, the potted plants and ivy, the bare weeping willows and trees, and the reflections in the canals. This town has a lot fewer tourists than Lijiang, which is a much bigger town.
We catch a bus back to Lijiang for 10 yuan, a much cheaper fare than the 80 yuan we paid a taxi to get to Baisha. On the bus, we meet a Chinese mother traveling with her son; he is on holiday from his university in Shanghai. The mother can’t speak English, but the son can, and he asks us a lot of questions about our travels. I think it’s marvelous that as a mother and son traveling together, we meet another mother and son from a different culture and are able to have a lively conversation with them.
Back in Lijiang, we’re dropped at the north gate and we make our way back slowly to the south end of town. This time, we take a street we’ve missed on our walks before now; this street is like Shuhe’s in that it has a stream running beside the streets.
We find these ethnic Naxi ladies sitting on a bridge. I am so disappointed later to find how blurry the picture turned out. 😦
Back in the square near our hotel, the sun is going down and a warm and waning light is setting over the pavilions.
We go later to the restaurant where we ate dinner our first night in town. This time Alex orders yak meat with peppers and I have steamed mountain fish with the head still on. Despite the fish’s ugly face, the fish is tender and succulent and smothered in a most delicious sauce. We both enjoy our meals immensely.
After dinner, we get cozy in our hotel room, where surprisingly we find an English movie on TV: James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies. This is one of the few nights during our travels that we can find anything worth watching on Chinese TV.
Tomorrow morning we’ll be taking a bus to Shaxi, a town midway between Lijiang and Dali. We have to take a long-distance bus to Jianchuan and then change buses to get to Shaxi. I dread it, as I always hate taking buses in China, but there is no other way to get there. I just have to take a deep breath and hop on the bus!