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Baisha

Baisha main street

Baisha main street (click for larger size)

We had a day trip to Baisha from Shuhe. It’s only a short taxi drive away but you do feel as if you’re beginning to move away from the theme park-iness of Lijiang and Shuhe old towns (they are not theme parks, but they are pretty full on tourist traps).

Which is not to say that Baisha isn’t tourist-oriented. There are plenty of road-side stalls selling the usual yak bells, yak bone combs and spoons, roof cats and the like. There are a decent amount of eating places as well. It’s just that it’s a smaller place with more day visitors than people staying.

Road side eatery

Road side eatery

You’re a lot closer to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain here. There are treks to the mountain from the village. Depending on who you believe the mountain has been climbed only once by an American team or there is a cable car and donkey trail to the summit. It’s possible that both are true (but refer to different summits).

The village was once the capital of the powerful Naxi people. There are murals here dating back to the middle ages and an embroidery school keeping alive ancient Naxi traditions. With our unusual lack of forward planning we managed to miss both of these.

Main square

Main square

We did, however, visit the office of the famous Dr Ho. The doctor and his son have a formidable talent for publicity. Bruce Chatwin spent time with them in the 80s and they have diligently collected testimonials from those who have followed him. These include Michael Palin during the filming of his Himalaya series.

We also visited Dr Ho’s new house – a courtyarded timber building covered in celebrity testimonials. He’s obviously doing pretty well, but it’s hard to be critical – he was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution.


Dr Ho’s house wasn’t the only new development. New timber-framed buildings are springing up. We liked this one because it also serves as a meat drying frame…

Meat being air-dried

Meat being air-dried on the upper floor

We did do a bit of shopping. I bought a yak bell – starting price 390 kuai, final price 60 kuai. Now all I need is a Yak.

Unfortunately the Mysterious Shop was closed.

Mysterious shop (apologies for the lack of focus)

Mysterious shop (apologies for the lack of focus)

We did get to meet some local people. They were happy to be photographed.

Women in traditional Naxi costume

Women in traditional Naxi costume

we wandered out of the town down to the valley floor. The view of the mountain was much clearer from here. The bridge over the river had been repaired with stones that had religious images on them.

I think Baisha was one of my favourite places. We got slightly stranded there waiting for a free taxi. While we sat in the sun we watched two men working on a pig’s guts, cleaning the entrails in the stream. Dog after dog came to watch the men at work, none of them daring to dart forward to try and steal some of the offal. It was like watching children with their noses up against the sweet shop window.

 

Lijiang

That's me

That’s me

This is a picture of me – just to prove I was actually there.

There, in this case, being the old town of Lijiang. In the background is the 18,000’+ Jade Dragon Snow Mountain which dominates many of the local views.

We stopped in the old town. It’s been here for 800 years but was largely rebuilt after a major earthquake in 1996. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist destination for Chinese visitors. The new city has been massively redeveloped in the last few years.

We spent three nights in a beautiful courtyarded inn. It was cold (the city’s at about 7,500′) but the air is clean and crisp.What you can’t see is the stinking cold I have (and still have). The beard is there because there wasn’t room in our luggage for my razor.

We didn’t get to see the Mu Palace, but it’s fun just to wander the cobbled streets and window shop in the endless touristy shops.

If you’re there and missing Western food (of course you won’t be) I’d recommend N’s Kitchen in a little square near the centre (No. 17, Jishan Alley). It’s on the first floor, so it’s easy to miss. It’s also a place where you can get advice on local cycling and walking and maybe employ a guide.

Here are a few pictures from our visit…

There weren’t many Westerners about. We stopped to watch some traditional Naxi dancing in Square Street and became something of an attraction ourselves. People wanted to be photographed with Pat because she was a foreigner. We should have charged 10 kuài.

Pat with new friends. Naxi dancing in the background

Pat with new friends. Naxi dancing in the background

We spent Christmas Day in Lijiang. Christmas dinner was a meal on the outdoor terrace of a restaurant. It was a pretty special Christmas.