a bicycle ride to white dragon pool {& a tumble into a briar patch}

Sunday, February 8: After lunch, we borrow some bicycles from our hotel and head 8 km out-of-town in search of Bailong Tan, or White Dragon Pool.  This pool is formed by a clear underground spring and is believed to be sacred to the local Bai people.  It supplies drinking water to the villages in the Shaxi Valley.

We have a map in hand from the hotel, and Nancy has pointed us in the direction we need to go.  After a couple of wrong turns and a bit of a long haul getting out of the town limits, we’re riding south in rolling countryside, with terraced hills and farmland in every shade of green and brown.  We ride mostly downhill through this picturesque countryside, passing through a few small villages, and I’m thinking that returning to Shaxi is going to be a grueling gradual uphill climb.

In one of the villages, a mass of people have just been released from school or work.  Groups of older men, as well as teenage boys and girls, are on the move in the streets.  Some of the teenage boys in the village say something to us and start chasing after us.  I feel a little vulnerable here away from the tourist town of Shaxi, but at least Alex is with me.  We pick up our pace and soon outride the mischief-makers.  For some reason, this makes me feel a little uneasy.

Nancy has told us when we get to the bridge, we need to cross over it and head uphill to find White Dragon Pool.   We’ve been on the same road for the whole ride, but at the bridge we turn left and cross over.  It isn’t long before we have to get off our bikes and walk up the hill, as the incline is so steep.  I’m such a wimpy bicyclist. 🙂

countryside around Shaxi

countryside around Shaxi

a picturesque bridge

a picturesque bridge

As we walk up the curving road along the edge of the hill, we look back over the countryside through which we just rode.

a little river

a little river

countryside of Shaxi

countryside of Shaxi

Terraces are carved into the surrounding hillsides, making them look highly manicured.

rolling hills around Shaxi

rolling hills around Shaxi

countryside with a rounded bridge

countryside with a rounded bridge

farmland around Shaxi

farmland & villages around Shaxi

Near the top of the hill is a big stone carved with Chinese calligraphy.  The sign sits in the middle of a fork in the road; one of the forks heads north to Shaxi (the road we just rode south on), and the other fork goes further up the  mountain to our left, heading north on the opposite side of the valley.  Chinese people are posing for selfies and pictures of each other in front of the sign, so we figure it must be important, possibly the sign to White Dragon Pool.  We take the fork further up the mountain.

At one point we see another stone carved in calligraphy, but the little road leading up the mountain to the right of this stone is just a gravel track and doesn’t look like it could be anything as important as the White Dragon Pool.  We pass it by, thinking we still must have a way to go.

We’re now riding north and we can see the valley below us to our left, along with the villages we just passed through.  We have some fabulous views of the mountains, the valley with its tan, brown and green farmland, some of which is terraced.

farmland in the valley

farmland in the valley

terraced fields

terraced fields

Even though it’s breezy and cool, a glorious day all around, Alex and I have worked up a sweat bicycling, so we keep peeling off layers.  We end up rolling up our jeans to cool off.

Alex & his bicycle

Alex & his bicycle

me and my bicycle

me and my bicycle

It’s a fabulous ride.  The road is perfect for bicycling, smooth and newly paved, and it rises and falls gently, making for some easy downhill cruising with enough momentum to get up the next hill easily.  We have so much fun!

pretty fields

pretty fields

wispy clouds

wispy clouds

farmland

farmland

After a while, we start to wonder if maybe we’ve gone too far.  Quite a distance to the north, we see a man walking along the road.  We show him our map, asking about White Dragon Pool.  He points us in the direction from which we just came.  So we turn around and head back.  I tell Alex I bet it was that stone sign we saw along the way.

looking up from the road

looking up from the road

terraces

terraces

Here’s the view of the road back over the route we just rode.

the road on a ridge overlooking the valley

the road on a ridge overlooking the valley

Finally we come to the stone sign.  We ride up the steep gravely road to the right, where we park our bikes beside a little canal (much like an Omani falaj) and a ploughed field.

our biking road

our biking road

I have to say this doesn’t look like a famous place.  It looks like a place out in the middle of the boondocks.

our bicycles

our bicycles

Alex decides he’ll run ahead and see if there is a pool.  He runs along the canal for some distance.  When he returns, he says he didn’t see anything; he thinks we should just walk along the canal.  Where there is water, there must be a source.

In this picture below, where Alex is running back to meet me, notice the tree and the briar patch on the left, between the canal walkway and the steep road downhill.  When we leave this place, little do I know that I will have a little accident in this briar patch. 🙂

Alex runs back from running ahead to check out the pool

Alex runs back from running ahead to check out the pool

We leave our bikes and walk along the canal, finally coming to this little pool.  It seems neglected and overgrown, and certainly not what we expected.  A dirty, grumpy-looking old man is picking up branches, but he interrupts his chore and walks boldly up to us, circling around us as if we’re some kind of enemy combatants. We don’t know what he wants, or who he is, but he certainly doesn’t seem to like the look of us!  He is giving us the evil eye big time.

White Dragon Pool

White Dragon Pool

a big old tree hanging over White Dragon Pool

a big old tree hanging over White Dragon Pool

Bridge over White Dragon Pool

Bridge over White Dragon Pool

Alex, being the fitness nut he is, feels compelled to climb on the branches of a big tree overhanging the pool.  Suddenly, the old man, who has been following us at a safe distance, starts waving his arms and yelling something at Alex in Chinese.

Alex in the tree

Alex in the tree

Alex tells the man we’re descended from monkeys and are meant to climb.  Of course the old man can’t understand a word of English.  Alex is upset that this man, who does not seem to be working here in any official capacity, has appointed himself as the guardian of this place.  He has been nothing but unfriendly and threatening to us the whole time.  Not that of course he could physically do anything to us.

bicycle & bridge

bicycle & bridge

White Dragon Pool

White Dragon Pool

little temple

little temple

Here’s a picture of the little old man who has made it his business to harass us.  You can’t see him very well.  Maybe it’s for the best. He’s a very unpleasant character.

the grumpy old man

the grumpy old man

temple

temple

Before leaving, I walk down a little path along another branch of the canal.  There really isn’t much to see, so I turn around and we go back to our bikes.

path and water canal

path and water canal

We are decidedly unimpressed by this place.  We head back to our bicycles and Alex does one parting handstand before we leave.

Alex does his signature handstand

Alex does his signature handstand

Alex gets on his bicycle and immediately heads down the steep hill.  Lagging behind, I also get on my bicycle. Rather, I attempt to get on.  I’m straddling the bike at the top of the hill and wondering if maybe I should walk it down.  The hill looks awfully steep.  I feel a little unsteady, but I lift my feet from the ground and put them on the pedals.

Immediately, I lose my balance, and fall face down into the briar patch. This happens in a split second.  I don’t even have time to break my fall.  I yell out something I won’t repeat here.  I’m lucky I didn’t poke an eye out, with all those brambles and branches poking in every direction!  I holler to Alex who comes back up the hill and helps pull me out of the briars, which are sticking to me all over the place.  I look down and see I have a nasty scrape on my right calf.  Yikes.  I can tell that’s going to hurt.

I’m pretty shaken by that tumble, but I dust myself off, walk my bicycle down the hill and get back on.  We see a little shop near the entrance to the pond; we stop here to buy some water, so I can wash off my scrape.  Then I guzzle down some of the water.  We hop back on the bikes and continue back down to the fork, and then back toward Shaxi by way of the road in the valley.

heading back to Shaxi

heading back to Shaxi

There’s a pretty little rounded bridge that we stop to take pictures of.

looking down at the pretty bridge

looking down at the pretty bridge

a stop by the bridge

a stop by the bridge

curvature

curvature

Finally, we head back down the road through the farmland and villages and back to Shaxi.  As I thought, it’s more difficult going back as it’s almost all uphill.  As we’re riding, my scrape is beginning to burn.

farmland

farmland

tower and tree

tower and tree

terraced hills

terraced hills

Back at our hotel, we turn in our bikes to Nancy and Cato.   I show Nancy my nasty scrape, and Cato immediately goes to check out the bike; I suppose he’s thinking I may have damaged it.  Nancy thinks I should see a doctor, but I’ve had plenty of scrapes such as these in my life.  I know that as long as I keep it clean and wait, it will heal.  Luckily, Nancy has some rubbing alcohol and some bandages.  Back in our room, I wash the scrape thoroughly and put on the bandages.

our hotel room at Dali Shaxi Cato's Inn

our hotel room at Dali Shaxi Cato’s Inn

Our room at Cato's Inn

Our room at Cato’s Inn

After a bit of a rest, we head out to the main square, where we see the old stage again in the waning light.

Old theater in Shaxi's square

Old theater in Shaxi’s square

the old theater

the old theater

We pick one of the restaurants on the perimeter of the square, the Old Tree Cafe, where I order eggs with tomatoes and Alex orders pork dumplings.  I have a Carlsberg beer, while Alex gets a fruit juice.

restaurant where we eat dinner

Dinner at the Old Tree Cafe

After dinner, we head back to our hotel.  We’re both exhausted from our day of travel and our long bike ride.

in Shaxi's square at dusk

in Shaxi’s square at dusk

another restaurant in the square

another restaurant in the square

Tomorrow, we’ll explore more of the town and Shibao Shan, or Stone Treasure Mountain.

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Categories: Asia, Bailong Tan, China, Dali Shaxi Cato's Inn, Old Tree Cafe, Shaxi, Theater, Travel, White Dragon Pool, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “a bicycle ride to white dragon pool {& a tumble into a briar patch}

  1. Some lovely landscape photos here Cathy, the terraces, the round bridge, the mountain views, and I rather liked the pool, looked alright to me with the sweet little bridge, but obviously not what you were expecting. How far out of town did you ride? And I hope your scrape didn’t give you any problems later on. Do you cycle regularly? I would imagine if you don’t that you’d have a few aches and pains after that ride!

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    • Thanks, Jude. The bike ride was about 8 km each way. It took about 10 days for my scrape to heal, but after the first few days of burning pain, it was a non-event. I ride a bicycle every day in China; it’s my only transportation, but I don’t ride it far. I did have a few aches and pains because it was more than I’m used to. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think a bicycle ride like that would be beyond me nowadays. I thought the Dragon Pool looked like a nice place to visit – without the grumpy old man. And if you end up with a scar, at least it has a story behind it.

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    • I love riding bicycles out in the countryside, but I wouldn’t be up for going too far, Carol. Mike is an avid biker; he bicycles with the Reston Bike Club every weekend, often 60-100 miles! I couldn’t do that, and have no desire to. The pool was okay; I just felt it wasn’t very photogenic what with its disheveled look.

      I don’t seem to have a scar, luckily. 🙂 But I do have that funny story!

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  3. I’m hopeless on a bike and fell off into a ten foot ditch a few years ago, luckily not too far from home! You’ve reminded me of an accident I had at Kota Kinabalu, walking on the seafront I tripped on a raised flagstone and landed heavily on my wrist. For a flash I thought I’d broken it, but it was only painful for a few days. Like you I was lucky, it could have spoilt my holiday!

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    • Oh dear, Gilly! A ten foot ditch? That’s a long fall. You’re lucky you didn’t get seriously injured! I’m glad your wrist wasn’t broken when you fell at the seafront. I’ve also taken a couple of bad falls, landing with my knee bent in an awkward position under my body. The several times I fell like that, anybody watching would have thought I’d broken something for sure, but each time I was lucky to be able to get up, dust myself off and keep walking. How easily an accident like that could ruin your holiday!

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  4. What an adventure! I’m impressed with your bike riding skills, even if you did have a crash. I rode a bike into a hedge in Gengenbach, Germany while Mr ET rode on, blissfully unaware of my predicament. Luckily I didn’t sustain any injuries. I hope your scrape has healed up okay.

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    • That’s funny, Carol, that you rode into a hedge while your husband rode on blissfully unaware. That sounds like something Mike would do if I fell. My scrape has vanished now, luckily, and all is well. 🙂

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  5. If at first you don’t succeed, Cathy! Love that little low bridge, and the humpbacked one. 🙂

    Like

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