Shaxi

shibao shan: the fabulous baoxiang temple

Monday, February 9:  Our last stop at Shibao Shan is the fabulous Baoxiang Temple, also known as “Suspending Temple.”  It was built at the end of the 13th century, when Yunnan was formally integrated into the Chinese Empire.

We climb a lot of steps through a monkey community to get to the temple.  We’ve heard the monkeys can be quite aggressive and that people have been injured by them, but we’re lucky that they don’t bother us.

monkeys on the steps to Baoxiang Temple

monkeys on the steps to Baoxiang Temple

Monkey meeting

Monkey meeting

We come to a huge rock where Chinese characters have been carved into the face.  I can imagine it says the name of the temple, but since I can’t read Chinese, I don’t know.

Stone rock carving at entrance to Baoxing Temple

Stone rock carving at entrance to Baoxing Temple

Finally, we pass through the main entrance, flanked by two white elephants.

The first hall we encounter

The first hall we encounter

Immediately, we can see the huge cliff looming over us, with its new statues of Guanyin and Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges.

Buddha on the cliff ledges

Guanyin and Maitreya on the cliff ledges

On either side of the two figures are two smaller temples built into the cliff face.

incense burner

incense burner

New statues of Guanyin and Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

New statues of Guanyin and Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Baoxiang Temple

Baoxiang Temple

Inside the halls are folk figures playing music in the countryside; they are accompanied by wildly patterned dragons and birds.

Inside one of the halls at Baoxiang Temple

Inside one of the halls at Baoxiang Temple

Colorful temple interior at Baoxiang Temple

Colorful temple interior at Baoxiang Temple

Colorful characters at Baoxiang Temple

Colorful characters at Baoxiang Temple

Cliffs above Baoxiang Temple

Cliffs above Baoxiang Temple

fountain at Baoxiang Temple

fountain at Baoxiang Temple

Baoxiang Temple

Baoxiang Temple

Luckily, it’s easy to climb up to the ledges to explore the temples and Buddha figures more closely.

Cliffs at the temple

Cliffs at the temple

Someone has a carefully tended potted garden in one of the temple courtyards down below.

potted garden

potted garden

Guanyin and Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Guanyin and Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

looking down on the rooftops from the ledges

looking down on the rooftops from the ledges

hall built into the cliff face

hall built into the cliff face

colorful characters in the temple on the rock face

colorful characters in the temple on the rock face

I have always wanted to go to the Datong Hanging Monastery, and since I don’t know if I’ll be able to get there during my time in China, maybe this will serve as the next best thing.

Guanyin and Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Guanyin and Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Guanyin on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Guanyin on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Baoxiang Temple

Baoxiang Temple

Alex stands beside Guanyin and Maitreya on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Alex stands beside Guanyin and Maitreya on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Looking down from the ledge

Looking down from the ledge

We climb the steps to the ledges and wander around for a long time, enjoying the views over Shibao Shan and the interesting interiors and exteriors of the temples.  There is hardly anyone here, except for us, the monkeys, a few Buddhist worshippers and some temple-minders.

Alex and the temple

Alex and the temple

Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Guanyin and Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Guanyin and Maitreya, the smiling Buddha, on the cliff ledges at Baoxiang Temple

colorful eaves

colorful eaves

inside another rock-face temple

inside another rock-face temple

colorful painting and character

colorful painting and character

a wise looking man

a wise looking man

Maitreya, the smiling Buddha

Maitreya, the smiling Buddha

on the ledges at Baoxiang Temple

on the ledges at Baoxiang Temple

Another temple built into the ledges

Another temple built into the ledges

colorful temple in the complex

colorful temple in the complex

another pavilion

another pavilion

It’s getting late in the day, so we meet our driver at the bottom of the steps.  He drives us back to Shaxi as the sun is setting.  We walk into the town, go to our hotel for a bit of a rest, and then go out for dinner at Mint Cafe, where we ate lunch earlier today.  I have some egg and vegetable soup because I feel like soup will settle my stomach.  But I add French fries to the order, which probably isn’t helpful.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll leave Shaxi, taking the bus back to Jianchuan (which Alex dreads because of the motion sickness he got on the way here), and then on to Dali. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Baoxiang Temple, China, Mint Cafe, Shaxi, Shibao Shan, Theater, Travel, Xingjiao Temple, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

shibao shan: haiyun temple & the shizhongshang grottos

Monday, February 9: After Alex and I walk around Shaxi Old Town and finish our lunch, we go with a hired driver (for 200 yuan) to Shibao Shan, or Stone Treasure Mountain, a nature reserve and religious sanctuary.  It was one of the first to be protected by China in 1982.  There are a good number of well-preserved temples on this mountain, some dating back 1300 years to the once powerful Nanzhao Kingdom during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

Our first stop is the Haiyun Temple.  This is an active Buddhist temple where people are bustling about hanging red lanterns for the Chinese New Year.  The people here are friendly, offering us cups of tea, hot freshly roasted walnuts, and a snack that seems to be a cross between a square of styrofoam and a Rice Krispies treat. We are made to feel welcome and end up hanging out here for a while, snacking and enjoying hot drinks with our amiable hosts.

Character at Haiyun Temple

Character at Haiyun Temple

There are a lot of colorful characters at this temple, but I have to say I don’t know who they are.

Buddha in Haiyun Temple

Buddha in Haiyun Temple

More fierce warriors at Haiyun Temple

More fierce warriors at Haiyun Temple

Tough characters

Tough characters

a happy group

a festive group

Inside the main hall of Haiyun Temple

Inside the main hall of Haiyun Temple

We can see a view of Jianchuan, the town where we changed our bus from Lijiang to come to Shaxi, from this mountaintop temple.  Sadly, none of my pictures turn out because we’re facing into the sun.

Trees and blue sky over Haiyun Temple

Trees and blue sky over Haiyun Temple

Some of the colorful characters have strange and inscrutable looks on their faces.

Sarcastic face?

Sarcastic face?

And some of them look incredibly disappointed.

Another of the cast of characters at Haiyun Temple

Another of the cast of characters at Haiyun Temple

Main hall at Haiyun Temple

Main hall at Haiyun Temple

Inside the main hall of Haiyun Temple

Inside the main hall of Haiyun Temple

I love some of the rich paintings on the walls.

Drummer

Musician and drum

painting on the wall

painting on the wall

And, in case you hadn’t noticed by now, I’m always captivated by the painted carvings under the flying eaves.

colorful structure

colorful structure

Alex sits down for a while to enjoy the warm fire and the roasted walnuts.

Alex eats hot walnuts with the locals

Alex eats hot walnuts with the locals

Courtyard at Haiyun Temple

Courtyard at Haiyun Temple

flower power

flower power

Haiyun Temple

Haiyun Temple

Alex full of walnuts

Alex full of walnuts

festive red flower

festive red flower

We finally tear ourselves away from the warm hospitality of Haiyun Temple to head to Shizhong Temple, also known as Stone Bell Temple.

the gate at the entrance to the path to Shizhong Temple

the gate at the entrance to the path to Shizhong Temple

We hike down a seemingly infinite number of steps and then on a paved trail about 500 meters to the temple.  We walk through dense forest until the vista opens up, offering sweeping views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

View on the path to Shizhong Temple (Stone Bell Temple)

View on the path to Shizhong Temple (Stone Bell Temple)

When we get near the entrance, we find some strange, organ-shaped rock formations.

Shibao Shan got its name, “Shibao,” from the surfaces of the red rocks on the mountain that look like a tortoise’ s back; these rocks sometimes appear to be lions, sometimes elephants, and sometimes clocks.

rocks on the path to Shizhong Temple

rocks on the path to Shizhong Temple

When we hand over our tickets, we’re told “No photos.”  Signs everywhere instruct the same. I really hate it when places don’t allow you to take photos.  I can understand if they don’t want you to use a flash, as I know light can damage artwork.  But I feel it is uncalled for to prohibit all photos.

Shizhong Temple is home to the Shizhongshang Grottos. The Shibao Shan rock carvings represent the spread of Mahayana Buddhism from Tibet into Yunnan. Representations of the bodhisattva Guanyin and other Buddhist images are carved into the rocky mountainside.  They’re magnificent cultural relics, but of course you’ll just have to imagine them since I can’t take photos.

At Shizhong Temple

At Shizhong Temple

It seems the “no photo” signs are specifically meant for the grottos.  I do respectfully obey the rules, even though I don’t like it one bit.  However, I do take some photos of the outside of the temples.

Shizhong Temple

Shizhong Temple

walkway up to Shizhong Temple and the grottos

walkway up to Shizhong Temple and the grottos

Across the valley, we can see more temples and unusual rock formations.

view across the valley from the temple

view across the valley from the temple

There are paths going off in all directions here, but we decide to take one to Watching Bell Terrace.  We can see the pavilion on the hilltop, so we traipse off in that direction.

Watching Bell Terrace

Watching Bell Terrace

From the terrace, we see more lovely views of the mountains and rock outcroppings.

View from Watching Bell Terrace

View from Watching Bell Terrace

Watching Bell Terrace

Watching Bell Terrace

View over the mountains to Watching Bell Terrace

View over the mountains to Watching Bell Terrace

View across the valley to interesting stone formations

View across the valley to interesting stone formations

Finally, we head back toward Shizhong Temple, where we see a strange brain-shaped rock formation.  I don’t know if this is natural or man-made.

a brainy rock formation

a brainy rock formation

On the way out of Shizhong Temple

On the way out of Shizhong Temple

We hike back through the forest and climb the endless steps; we’re hot and exhausted by the time we arrive back to the main gate.  Then we head to my favorite temple in Shibao Shan, the “Suspending Temple,” also called the Baoxiang Temple.

The Baoxiang Temple was built on a ledge of a nearly vertical cliff and can only be reached by a long flight of stairs.

Categories: Asia, China, Haiyun Temple, Shaxi, Shibao Shan, Shizhong Temple, Shizhongshang Grottos, Stone Bell Temple, Stone Treasure Mountain, Travel, Watching Bell Terrace, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

a morning stroll around shaxi

Monday, February 9:  After having a good Western breakfast of homemade bread and bacon and eggs, we take a walk around the old town of Shaxi.  As we walk down the street, we see this pretty little nook, but we don’t know what the business is.  It never seems to be open.

A cute little nook on the street in Shaxi

A cute little nook on the street in Shaxi

In the Market Square, the two most significant buildings face off against each other across the square, the Theater and Xingjiao Temple.  First, we stop at Xingjiao Temple. We pay the entrance fee and go inside.

Entrance to Xingjiao Temple

Entrance to Xingjiao Temple

Inside and to the left of a courtyard is Tian Wang Dian, translated as the Heavenly Wings Hall, also known as the Second Hall.  It is a column-and-beam structure.

Tian Wang Dian, or the Heavenly Wings Hall

Tian Wang Dian, or the Heavenly Wings Hall

The courtyard is leafy and shady.

courtyard at Xingjiao Temple

courtyard at Xingjiao Temple

Da Xiong Bao Dian, or the Main Hall, is the last building on the axis at the end of the courtyard.  It is made of timber frame, creating the skeleton of the hall.  The bracket construction keeps the structure together and is flexible, making it earthquake resistant.

Looking at Daxiong Bao Dian, or the Main Hall

Looking at Daxiong Bao Dian, or the Main Hall

In May of 2010, the Main Hall was renovated and the five Buddhas were remodeled.  It is said the five statues from north to south are Ratnasambhava Buddha, Ayshobhya Buddha, Vairocana Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, and Amoghasiddhi Buddha.  This is one of the major Buddha combinations in Tantric Buddhism.

Three of the five Buddhas in Da Xiong Bao Dian

Three of the five Buddhas in Da Xiong Bao Dian

The inside and outside walls of the hall are decorated with paintings from the Ming Dynasty (1417 A.D.).  The paintings are representative of Tantric Buddhism and are an embodiment of the ancient Bai style of painting, containing both local and national characteristics.

Painting from the Ming Dynasty in Da Xiong Bao Dian

Painting from the Ming Dynasty in Da Xiong Bao Dian

The restoration is not only of historical significance but, as many villages are still Buddhist, the restoration has also brought enormous cultural and religious significance.

Da Xiong Bao Dian

Da Xiong Bao Dian

We return to the square after leaving the temple, and we come across a lively wedding party. Some of the stragglers are setting off firecrackers.

A wedding party on the streets of Shaxi

A wedding party on the streets of Shaxi

the stragglers at the wedding party

the stragglers at the wedding party

We continue walking to the east, in hopes of finding the Bai Temple. The town’s streets are delightfully clean with moss-edged streams running through them.

Shaxi street

Shaxi street

Shaxi street

Shaxi street

Finally, we reach the Bai Temple on the northeast corner of town.

Bai Temple

Bai Temple

Entrance to the Bai Temple

Entrance to the Bai Temple

Chinese ladies at the Bai Temple

Chinese ladies at the Bai Temple

Inside the Main Hall are some very colorful characters.

Characters in the Bai Temple

Characters in the Bai Temple

Inside the Bai Temple

Inside the Bai Temple

Inside the Bai Temple

Inside the Bai Temple

In the Bai Temple

In the Bai Temple

Important Bai personage

Important Bai personage

And outside, we find incense burning and old ladies preparing offerings for the gods inside.

incense

incense

Inside the Bai Temple

Inside the Bai Temple

As we leave the Bai Temple, we come across a boisterous group riding by in a truck.  The driver makes a drinking motion and waves for us to follow them.  We can’t join them, sadly, because we have a driver picking us up soon, and we just have time to grab some lunch before we meet him.  The driver will take us this afternoon up to Shibao Shan, or Stone Treasure Mountain.

Some folks going to the wedding

Some folks going to the wedding

We come across a pretty little bridge and stream on the east edge of town.

a little bridge on the outskirts of the town

a little bridge on the outskirts of the town

on the edge of town

on the edge of town

Alex on the bridge

Alex on the bridge

Shaxi street

Shaxi street

horsemen in the square

horsemen in the square

We stop for lunch at the Mint Cafe.  I order a tuna sandwich, which surprisingly comes with corn in it.  Alex has beef and mushrooms on rice.  When we return to the hotel, I have a bout of diarrhea; I promptly take an Imodium.  I end up with stomach cramps for the rest of the day.

delivery man

delivery man

Another view of the Xingjiao Temple

Another view of the Xingjiao Temple

Soon after lunch, we head up to Shibao Shan, a nature reserve and religious site that was one of the first to be officially protected by China in 1982.

Categories: Asia, Bai Temple, China, Da Xiong Bao Dian, Heavenly Wings Hall, Main Hall, Mint Cafe, Shaxi, Tantric Buddhism, Tian Wang Dian, Travel, Xingjiao Temple, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , | 24 Comments

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.

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

a morning of travel & arrival in shaxi

Sunday, February 8:  This morning, we leave our hotel in Lijiang at 9:40, so we can catch the 10:30 bus to Jianchuan.  There is a new expressway between Lijiang and Jianchuan, so we arrive at 11:55, sooner than we were told we would.  The expressway makes for smooth driving and the scenery along the way is pastoral and soothing.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a country with so many tunnels, and this route has its share.

In Jianchuan, the bus station is small, not really much of a station at all.  In fact, it’s only a parking lot crowded with buses of all stripes.  We run to the bathroom, where we have to pay a toilet-keeper .200 kuai to use the toilet before getting on another bus to Shaxi.  We have to use the dreaded trough-type toilets, which are the most disgusting things imaginable.  They basically have waist-high tiled walls, no doors and a trough that you squat over.  Water is supposed to run through them but often doesn’t, meaning the stench is nauseating.  I will be glad to leave China and never have to see these kinds of toilets again.  In all the countries I’ve traveled, 26 in all, I’ve never encountered anything as bad as these.

The bus to Shaxi is a small rattle-trap affair that waits in the parking lot until it’s full to the brim.  At 12:15 we take off for Shaxi.  After forty-five minutes of bumping and grinding along windy and potholed two-lane roads, we arrive in Shaxi at 1:00.  Alex, who is prone to motion-sickness, isn’t one bit happy about the ride and is already dreading the thought of repeating the ride when we leave.

When we arrive at the entrance to Shaxi, we have no idea where our hotel is.  We pull our suitcases down the cobbled streets, in the general direction of the town’s interior.  We ask a few people along the way where Dali Shaxi Cato’s Inn is, using my Booking.com printout with the name in Chinese.  We’re waved along by various people, indicating we’re going the right way.  Suddenly, there on the street, we encounter the same group of tourists we met in the Naxi Orchestra Concert Hall in Lijiang.  They tell us we’re heading in the right direction.  It doesn’t look like much is going on in this town, and I ask one of the women how they like Shaxi.  She says, “It’s lovely. Go on a bicycle ride in the countryside!”

At a corner of a big square, we ask a young man sitting at a restaurant about Cato’s Inn.  He smiles and says, “That’s me!  Follow me.”  We follow him down the street to his hotel, where he checks us in and introduces us to his sister Nancy, who speaks excellent English.

Cato’s Inn has a rooms surrounding a lovely courtyard.

Courtyard at Cato's Inn in Shaxi

Courtyard at Cato’s Inn in Shaxi

Our room is on the middle level at the far end of the courtyard.

Our room is on the middle level above the courtyard

Our room is on the middle level above the courtyard

We ask Nancy where a good lunch place is and she tells us to go down the road to Woodfish, to the spot where we met Cato.

streets of Shaxi

streets of Shaxi

We grab a seat outside at a small table.  Alex orders Kung Pao chicken with rice and I order pasta with a vegetable sauce. It takes us quite a long time to eat our large servings.

Alex, waiting for lunch at Woodfish

Alex, waiting for lunch at Woodfish

Woodfish

Woodfish

We’re entertained during lunch by some cute little goats beside the restaurant.  They remind me of my goat friends in Oman.

little goats join us for lunch

little goats join us for lunch

goat friends

goat friends

more goat friends

more goat friends

Alex at Woodfish

Alex at Woodfish

After lunch, I wander into the square and take pictures of the ancient theater.  It’s quite an impressive structure that proudly dominates the square.

Shaxi Theater

Shaxi Theater

Shaxi, pronounced ‘Shah Shee,’ is a culturally diverse town, home to the Bai and Yi minority people.  It once played an important role as a busy trade station on the Tea and Horse Caravan Road, an important branch of the southern Silk Road. Just over one thousand years ago, this ancient trade route connected Tibet with Eastern China. In exchange for teas from Yunnan, Tibetans traded their famous breed of horse to Song Dynasty officials in eastern China, who were busy defending their territory from invaders from the north. Thus the Tea and Horse Caravan was born. Shaxi became the main trade station along this route (Teahorse.net: Shaxi hotels and travel: Yunnan). 

Shaxi Theater

Shaxi Theater

Tibet and China no longer trade along this route, but Shaxi still has that border-town feel. Old cobble-stoned alleyways wind through the town. The World Monuments Fund has listed Shaxi as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world; therefore, Shaxi has undergone massive efforts to preserve ancient architecture and culture.

Shaxi Theater

Shaxi Theater

We like the town immediately because it’s not crowded with tourists.  It definitely feels off the beaten track.

Shaxi Theater

Shaxi Theater

Directly across from the stage in the square is Xingjiao Temple.  We don’t go in today because we have more important things to do.

restaurant in Shaxi's central square

Temple in Shaxi’s central square

After taking my quick pictures of the square, we head back to the hotel, where the owners have told us they have bicycles we can use for free. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Dali Shaxi Cato's Inn, Jianchuan, Lijiang, Naxi Concert Hall, Shaxi, Tea and Horse Caravan Road, Theater, Travel, Woodfish Restaurant, World Monuments Fund, Xingjiao Temple, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

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