Tagged Lijiang

a gourmet tour of yunnan – july 24-28

Lofty mountains and flowing waters, a wildflower for your hair and a mushroom for your umbrella. Yunnan in summer is wet with dew and rain, but it is the perfect playground to discover all the wonderful things coming to life in fields and mountainsides! Come along with China Tea Leaves on this unique Yunnan tour, Summer of Mushrooms edition!

This five day tour celebrates the mighty mushroom, and all the many varieties which can be found in Yunnan province. Yunnan is wonderfully biodiverse, with microclimates, forests, and mountains harboring thousands of flora and fauna not found anywhere else on earth, including many, many varieties of mushrooms. Actually, epicureans from around the world source their funghi from Yunnan, including as much as 2,000 tons of matsutake which make their way to Japan every year (in China called 松茸 song rong).

We will fly from Shenzhen direct to Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m). There we will be picked up by private shuttle to head to Shaxi (沙溪 elev. 6890ft/2100m), a pristine valley with a well preserved Bai minority village and world class historical sites. Our hotel for two nights will be the Old Theatre Inn, located right inside a temple/theatre that served entertainment for the gods of the Bai people. Here we will be treated to a tour by a local guide to pick wild mushrooms, and for lunch we will cook a few dishes based on local produce and our own foraged mushrooms. We can also visit the famous Sideng market in the village, where your eyes can savor a rainbow of edibles, teas, herbs, as well as the diverse minorities of the region.

From Shaxi we will head back to Shuhe (束河 elev. 8000ft/2440m) near Lijiang, an old town located on the ancient Tea Horse Road. We will continue to eat our way through Yunnan, savoring mushroom hot pot with the summer’s bounty, fresh fruit, local walnuts and more. We can shop the markets of Shuhe and Lijiang for matsutake and black truffles to bring to friends and family back home. We’ll take a short hike on the Tea Horse Road itself, peeking in on wildflowers and mushrooms growing along our path. At last, mushrooming complete, we can lay back and relax in our courtyard home, sipping tea and letting the mesmerizing guqin take us on a mind-bending journey.

Wednesday, July 24: Morning flight Shenzhen to Lijiang, shuttle to Shaxi
Thursday, July 25: Local mushroom tour in Shaxi
Friday, July 26: Visit Sideng market in Shaxi, shuttle to Shuhe
Saturday, July 27: Tea Horse road hike in Shuhe, visit market in Lijiang (or Shuhe as weather alternate)
Sunday, July 28: Afternoon flight Lijiang to Shenzhen

Price: 3808 per adult (double occupancy), child price on request

Price includes: Local ground transportation in Yunnan, four nights (double occupancy) at quality courtyard hotels, meals, local guide fee, entrance tickets, travel insurance, and full service guide by Greta of China Tea Leaves. Does not include airfare to Lijiang. Contact me for current airfare and booking info.

Payment: by cash, WeChat or Alipay. Deposit of 1800 due at time of booking.

Reserve by July 5 and get a free limited edition Summer of Mushrooms t-shirt!

Minimum 5 people, maximum 8

Note: On this trip we are only picking and eating safe mushrooms, nothing hallucinogenic or dangerous. Puns are for literary purposes only. 🙂 Please pay attention to our local guide in Shaxi, who will advise us which mushrooms are safe to pick and consume.

Note: Much of this trip is at high elevation – 6890ft/2100m and higher. Travelers may feel effects of the elevation, but can usually adjust to normal activity level within 1-2 days. This itinerary does not include intensive hiking, but please notify us of any health conditions when booking. China Tea Leaves is not responsible for any injuries or accidents sustained during the trip.

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

If adding me for the first time, be sure to mention Trips or Yunnan in your introduction.

or contact me by email (chinatealeaves @ yahoo.com)

best of colorful yunnan – 5 days

Are you dreaming of a land of blue skies, colorful clouds, people living a quiet traditional life? A place where you can stretch your legs, climb green mountains, wade amongst wildflowers, and discover temples, new friends and always a bit of adventure? Sounds like a fairy tale, some kind of Shangri-La, you say?

You would be right. And you can find your own paradise in the northwest corner of Yunnan province.

This is a condensed tour featuring the best of Lijiang and Shangri-La areas in 5 days. No extended hiking, so it’s great for families and kids!

Yunnan province is located in southwestern China, tucked between Tibet, Sichuan and Guangxi provinces, Myanmar, and Vietnam, and is one of the most diverse provinces in China, with dozens of ethnic minorities; flowers, mushrooms and other wildlife; and dramatic landscapes with the weather of eternal spring.

We will fly into Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m), a major stop on the ancient Tea Horse Road in western China. Our home base will be the old town of Shuhe, a village on the old Tea Horse Road, which connected Tibet to southern Yunnan and beyond, for centuries of trade of horses (from Tibet) and tea (from southern Yunnan). We’ll also visit Baisha, the former capital of the Naxi kingdom.

On our third day, we will head north towards to Shangri-La (香格里拉 elev. 10,370ft/3160m), the center of the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan province. You will really feel like we’re in Tibetan country, even though we won’t have crossed the border. Ladies in traditional pink headwear do their shopping and older folks grasp their prayer beads throughout the streets. We will visit a lively market, the old town of Dukezong, the largest prayer wheel in the world, and the Songzanlin monastery, which is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan.

We’ll come back down for our last night in Shuhe before flying out from Lijiang with colors and memories alive in our hearts.

Day 1: Fly to Lijiang, visit Shuhe
Day 2: Visit Baisha, former capital of Naxi kingdom
Day 3: Travel to Shangri-La, visit old town and prayer wheel
Day 4: Visit Songzanlin Tibetan Buddhist monastery, return to Shuhe
Day 5: Fly from Lijiang

Dates:

June 27 – July 1

or

July 2 – July 6

Stay tuned for available dates for this route in August and September.

 

Price:

3680RMB

3380RMB discounted partner price – available for ABNet members, SWIC members, and students of Purple Peony Studio

 

Includes:
3 nights in a high quality Naxi courtyard guesthouse, 1 night in a 5 star hotel in Shangri-La, (both double occupancy), private shuttle transportation, meals, entrance tickets, and travel insurance.
Not included:
Airfare (I can help book for a small booking fee)

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

If adding me for the first time, be sure to mention Trips or Yunnan in your introduction.

or contact me by email (chinatealeaves @ yahoo.com)

yunnan paradise – october skies edition

 
 For a limited time we can offer 1000 RMB off the above price – due to a drop in airfares. Contact us now to reserve your spot – chinatealeaves @ yahoo.com or via the WeChat QR Code below.

China Tea Leaves Guided Tour – Yunnan 9-Days 

Shuhe, Baisha, Lugu Lake, Shangri-La and Tiger Leaping Gorge

October 21-29, 2017

Personal Tour with Greta Bilek

Are you dreaming of a land of blue skies, colorful clouds, people living a quiet traditional life? A place where you can stretch your legs, climb green mountains, wade amongst wildflowers, and discover temples, new friends and always a bit of adventure? Sounds like a fairy tale, some kind of Shangri-La, you say?

You would be right. And you can find your own paradise in the northwest corner of Yunnan province.

Come with Greta Bilek, author of China Tea Leaves travel guides and explorer of China, on your dream trip to Yunnan province.

Yunnan province is located in southwestern China, tucked between Tibet, Sichuan and Guangxi provinces, Myanmar, and Vietnam, and is one of the most diverse provinces in China, with dozens of ethnic minorities; flowers, mushrooms and other wildlife; and dramatic landscapes with the weather of eternal spring.

I’m Greta Bilek, and I’ve lived in Shenzhen for nearly five years. During my time here, I’ve often traveled to Yunnan province, among other places, writing and discovering the hidden treasures of China. I’ll be your personal guide, taking you to my favorite places and sharing stories that open up the symbols, history and culture we will encounter. This is a small group tour (6-10 people), so we can relax into the pace of Yunnan life and discover places off the beaten track.

We’ll be visiting Shuhe and Baisha, outside of Lijiang; Lugu Lake; Shangri-La; and the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

We will fly into Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m), a major stop on the ancient Tea Horse Road in western China. Our home base will be the old town of Shuhe, a village on the old Tea Horse Road, which connected Tibet to southern Yunnan and beyond, for centuries of trade of horses (from Tibet) and tea (from southern Yunnan).

Once we check into our courtyard hotel in Shuhe (束河 elev. 8000ft/2440m), all the knots of your hectic modern life will start to melt away, as we sip tea, listen to the ancient guqin played by Liping, and fall into a slow rhythm of life.

We’ll visit Baisha (白沙 elev. 8170ft/2490m), the capital of the region’s former Naxi kingdom, and today a small village that still holds its authentic, traditional feeling. We can chat with locals, taste local street food, and hunt antiques and fabrics in the shops of the old town.

Then we’ll hit the road to head to Lugu Lake (泸沽湖 elev. 9095ft/2770m), a clear lake in the mountains on the border between Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. This is the home of the Mosuo people, also known as the “kingdom of women” due to their specific matrilineal customs still practiced today. The clear blue waters dancing under your wooden boat and the Tibetan religion of the area will also leave their impression on you.

After going back through Baisha, we will head north towards to Shangri-La (香格里拉 elev. 10,370ft/3160m), the center of the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan province. You will really feel like we’re in Tibetan country, even though we won’t have crossed the border. Ladies in traditional pink headwear do their shopping and older folks grasp their prayer beads throughout the streets. We will visit a lively market, the old town of Dukezong, the largest prayer wheel in the world, and the Songzanlin monastery, which is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan.

From Shangri-La, we will head back south to start our two-day hike of the Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡 elev. 6230-8690-6890ft/1900-2650-2100m). This is one of the most renowned hikes in the world, a deep gorge along the Jinsha River, which becomes the Yangtze River as it flows through Sichuan province. Every view is breathtaking, gazing up at snow mountains so close you think you could reach out and touch them.

After one tough day of hiking, we will stay overnight in a guesthouse on the trail, and wake up to silent mountains looking on outside our window. We will continue hiking through farming enclaves, waterfalls and vistas to reach our shuttle back to Lijiang.

Our final night will be spent in Shuhe, before we fly back from Lijiang to Shenzhen.

After days dreaming in the heights amongst a rainbow of wildflowers and prayer flags, you will return to Shenzhen with a vision of paradise in your mind’s eye and a burning desire to come back to Yunnan province.

Day 1: Evening flight Shenzhen – Lijiang, stay Shuhe

Day 2: Visit Shuhe and Baisha, stay Shuhe

Day 3: Shuhe to Lugu Lake, stay Lugu Lake

Day 4: Lugu Lake visit, Lugu Lake to Baisha, stay Baisha

Day 5: Baisha to Shangri-La, Old Town visit, stay Shangri-La

Day 6: Visit Songzanlin Monastery, stay Shangri-La

Day 7: Shangri-La to Tiger Leaping Gorge, hike, stay TLG

Day 8: Finish hike TLG, return to stay in Shuhe

Day 9: Afternoon flight Lijiang – Shenzhen

All-Inclusive: Round trip Airfare (direct flight on Shenzhen Airlines), Ground Transportation, Hotels 8 nights (double occupancy), Entrance Tickets, Meals, Travel Insurance

10580RMB

(Note: Much of this trip is at high elevation – 7900ft/2400m and higher. Travelers will feel the effects of the elevation, but can usually adjust to normal activity level within 1-2 days. The Tiger Leaping Gorge hike has some steep inclines and is at high elevation. Hiking at this elevation is tough and incurs a real risk of altitude sickness. There are donkeys available on the trail for those who feel uncomfortable, for an additional fee.The trail is in good condition, and no special prior hiking experience is necessary. But this hike is best suited for those in good physical shape. Please notify us of any health conditions when booking. China Tea Leaves is not responsible for any injuries or accidents sustained during the trip.)

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

If adding me for the first time, be sure to mention Trips or Yunnan in your introduction.

or contact me by email (chinatealeaves @ yahoo.com)

putting the fun in funghi – a gourmet tour of yunnan

Lofty mountains and flowing waters, a wildflower for your hair and a mushroom for your umbrella. Yunnan in summer is wet with dew and rain, but it is the perfect playground to discover all the wonderful things coming to life in fields and mountainsides! Come along with China Tea Leaves on this unique Yunnan tour, Summer of Mushrooms edition!

This five day tour celebrates the mighty mushroom, and all the many varieties which can be found in Yunnan province. Yunnan is wonderfully biodiverse, with microclimates, forests, and mountains harboring thousands of flora and fauna not found anywhere else on earth, including many, many varieties of mushrooms. Actually, epicureans from around the world source their funghi from Yunnan, including as much as 2,000 tons of matsutake which make their way to Japan every year (in China called 松茸 song rong).

 

We will fly from Shenzhen direct to Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m). There we will be picked up by private shuttle to head to Shaxi (沙溪 elev. 6890ft/2100m), a pristine valley with a well preserved Bai minority village and world class historical sites. Our hotel for two nights will be the Old Theatre Inn, located right inside a temple/theatre that served entertainment for the gods of the Bai people. Here we will be treated to a tour by a local guide to pick wild mushrooms, and for lunch we will cook a few dishes based on local produce and our own foraged mushrooms. We can also visit the famous Sideng market in the village, where your eyes can savor a rainbow of edibles, teas, herbs, as well as the diverse minorities of the region.

 

From Shaxi we will head back to Shuhe (束河 elev. 8000ft/2440m) near Lijiang, an old town located on the ancient Tea Horse Road. We will continue to eat our way through Yunnan, savoring mushroom hot pot with the summer’s bounty, fresh fruit, local walnuts and more. We can shop the markets of Shuhe and Lijiang for matsutake and black truffles to bring to friends and family back home. We’ll take a short hike on the Tea Horse Road itself, peeking in on wildflowers and mushrooms growing along our path. At last, mushrooming complete, we can lay back and relax in our courtyard home at the Lazy Tiger Inn, sipping tea and letting the mesmerizing guqin take us on a mind-bending journey.

 

Wednesday, August 30: Morning flight Shenzhen to Lijiang, shuttle to Shaxi
Thursday, August 31: Local mushroom tour in Shaxi
Friday, September 1: Visit Sideng market in Shaxi, shuttle to Shuhe
Saturday, September 2: Tea Horse road hike in Shuhe, visit market in Lijiang (or Shuhe as weather alternate)
Sunday, September 3: Afternoon flight Lijiang to Shenzhen

Price: 6988 per person (double occupancy)

Plus – If you book 2 or more people together, receive 100RMB off per person in your group!
For example – book 2 together, 200RMB off for you and your friend. Book 4 together, 400RMB off for each person! Maximum 600RMB off the original price.

(price above if booked by August 16. after August 16 dependent on current airfare and other last minute fees)

Price includes: Round trip airfare from Shenzhen, local ground transportation in Yunnan, four nights (double occupancy) at quality courtyard hotels, meals, local guide fee, entrance tickets, travel insurance, and full service guide by Greta of China Tea Leaves.

Payment: by cash, payment to be made by August 16

Minimum 6 people, maximum 8

Contact Greta on WeChat (lilies-of-the-valley) or by email (chinatealeaves@yahoo.com) to book your spot.

 

Note: On this trip we are only picking and eating safe mushrooms, nothing hallucinogenic or dangerous. Puns are for literary purposes only. 🙂 Please pay attention to our local guide in Shaxi, who will advise us which mushrooms are safe to pick and consume.

Note: Much of this trip is at high elevation – 6890ft/2100m and higher. Travelers may feel effects of the elevation, but can usually adjust to normal activity level within 1-2 days. This itinerary does not include intensive hiking, but please notify us of any health conditions when booking. China Tea Leaves is not responsible for any injuries or accidents sustained during the trip.

 

 

yunnan paradise – china tea leaves tour of lijiang and shangri-la

China Tea Leaves First Guided Tour – Yunnan 9-Days 

Shuhe, Baisha, Lugu Lake, Shangri-La and Tiger Leaping Gorge

April 22-30, 2017

Personal Tour with Greta Bilek

Are you dreaming of a land of blue skies, colorful clouds, people living a quiet traditional life? A place where you can stretch your legs, climb green mountains, wade amongst wildflowers, and discover temples, new friends and always a bit of adventure? Sounds like a fairy tale, some kind of Shangri-La, you say?

You would be right. And you can find your own paradise in the northwest corner of Yunnan province.

Come with Greta Bilek, author of China Tea Leaves travel guides and explorer of China, on your dream trip to Yunnan province.

Yunnan province is located in southwestern China, tucked between Tibet, Sichuan and Guangxi provinces, Myanmar, and Vietnam, and is one of the most diverse provinces in China, with dozens of ethnic minorities; flowers, mushrooms and other wildlife; and dramatic landscapes with the weather of eternal spring.

I’m Greta Bilek, and I’ve lived in Shenzhen for nearly five years. During my time here, I’ve often traveled to Yunnan province, among other places, writing and discovering the hidden treasures of China. I’ll be your personal guide, taking you to my favorite places and sharing stories that open up the symbols, history and culture we will encounter. This is a small group tour (6-10 people), so we can relax into the pace of Yunnan life and discover places off the beaten track.

We’ll be visiting Shuhe and Baisha, outside of Lijiang; Lugu Lake; Shangri-La; and the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

We will fly into Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m), a major stop on the ancient Tea Horse Road in western China. Our home base will be the old town of Shuhe, a village on the old Tea Horse Road, which connected Tibet to southern Yunnan and beyond, for centuries of trade of horses (from Tibet) and tea (from southern Yunnan).

Once we check into our courtyard hotel in Shuhe (束河 elev. 8000ft/2440m), all the knots of your hectic modern life will start to melt away, as we sip tea, listen to the ancient guqin played by Liping, and fall into a slow rhythm of life.

We’ll visit Baisha (白沙 elev. 8170ft/2490m), the capital of the region’s former Naxi kingdom, and today a small village that still holds its authentic, traditional feeling. We can chat with locals, taste local street food, and hunt antiques and fabrics in the shops of the old town.

Then we’ll hit the road to head to Lugu Lake (泸沽湖 elev. 9095ft/2770m), a clear lake in the mountains on the border between Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. This is the home of the Mosuo people, also known as the “kingdom of women” due to their specific matrilineal customs still practiced today. The clear blue waters dancing under your wooden boat and the Tibetan religion of the area will also leave their impression on you.

After going back through Baisha, we will head north towards to Shangri-La (香格里拉 elev. 10,370ft/3160m), the center of the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan province. You will really feel like we’re in Tibetan country, even though we won’t have crossed the border. Ladies in traditional pink headwear do their shopping and older folks grasp their prayer beads throughout the streets. We will visit a lively market, the old town of Dukezong, the largest prayer wheel in the world, and the Songzanlin monastery, which is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan.

From Shangri-La, we will head back south to start our two-day hike of the Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡 elev. 6230-8690-6890ft/1900-2650-2100m). This is one of the most renowned hikes in the world, a deep gorge along the Jinsha River, which becomes the Yangtze River as it flows through Sichuan province. Every view is breathtaking, gazing up at snow mountains so close you think you could reach out and touch them.

After one tough day of hiking, we will stay overnight in a guesthouse on the trail, and wake up to silent mountains looking on outside our window. We will continue hiking through farming enclaves, waterfalls and vistas to reach our shuttle back to Lijiang.

Our final night will be spent in Shuhe, before we fly back from Lijiang to Shenzhen.

After days dreaming in the heights amongst a rainbow of wildflowers and prayer flags, you will return to Shenzhen with a vision of paradise in your mind’s eye and a burning desire to come back to Yunnan province.

Day 1: Evening flight Shenzhen – Lijiang, stay Shuhe

Day 2: Visit Shuhe and Baisha, stay Shuhe

Day 3: Shuhe to Lugu Lake, stay Lugu Lake

Day 4: Lugu Lake visit, Lugu Lake to Baisha, stay Baisha

Day 5: Baisha to Shangri-La, Old Town visit, stay Shangri-La

Day 6: Visit Songzanlin Monastery, stay Shangri-La

Day 7: Shangri-La to Tiger Leaping Gorge, hike, stay TLG

Day 8: Finish hike TLG, return to stay in Shuhe

Day 9: Afternoon flight Lijiang – Shenzhen

All-Inclusive: Round trip Airfare (direct flight on Shenzhen Airlines), Ground Transportation, Hotels 8 nights (double occupancy), Entrance Tickets, Meals

7128RMB

(Note: Much of this trip is at high elevation – 7900ft/2400m and higher. Travelers will feel the effects of the elevation, but can usually adjust to normal activity level within 1-2 days. The Tiger Leaping Gorge hike has some steep inclines and is at high elevation. Hiking at this elevation is tough and incurs a real risk of altitude sickness. There are donkeys available on the trail for those who feel uncomfortable, for an additional fee. But this hike is best suited for those in good physical shape. The trail is in good condition, and no special prior hiking experience is necessary.)

yunnan mushroom hotpot

mushrooms cooking

China has a wide a wide variety of hotpot cuisines, coastal to inland, mild to red hot. The most famous is Sichuan or Chongqing style hotpot, brimming with chili oil, whole peppers, and the numbing sichuan peppercorns. We have also enjoyed various Guangdong style hotpots in Shenzhen, based on a mild seafood broth or rice congee for cooking morsels in. But Yunnan offers a flavorful and whimsical hotpot, based on the prized mushrooms of the region. We enjoyed a delightful hotpot meal of this type in Lijiang, at 石锅渔 (shi guo yu) restaurant, near the south gate of the old town.

straw lid

We sat down to a table with a stone pot (石锅) embedded in the table, which was quickly sanitized with a blast of steam. Our fuwuyuan added a broth with chicken pieces and a parade of mushrooms. Many mushrooms were named in Chinese by likening them to animal parts: sheep tripe mushroom (羊肚菌), cow liver mushroom (牛肝菌), but still bore the reassuring (to this vegetarian) character of fungus (菌 jun). And then there were the truffles. Maybe a pint of whole black truffles (黑松露 hei song lu) were added to the simmering soup. On top our waitress placed a woven conical lid, like an elfin hat, to contain the flavours brewing inside, and set a timer for twenty minutes. This cooking implement is actually one of the Eighteen Oddities of Yunnan, a traditional list of the quirks of this colorful province.

lid off

Twenty minutes later, the straw lid was removed, and we tucked into the nutritious pot, dipping the mushrooms and chicken bits into a sauce of fresh ginger, ground peanuts, cilantro and green onion. The broth poured over a steamed rice pilaf was washed down with cold Dali beer, conjuring happiness on many levels.

The mushroom season is just beginning in Yunnan, so if you visit from now until September, your hotpot can be even more delightful.

market mushrooms

journey to the west

We transferred planes at Kunming, the green capital of Yunnan, where the lines of a grand ultramodern airport came into view and then receded as we huddled back on another 747 bound for Lijiang. As we boarded, attendants handed us herbal candies for altitude adjustment and a bottle of water. Rows of wide brimmed hats and backpacks laden with hiking gear gave away the Shenzhen city slickers’ plans to escape to the wild side of Yunnan. Our journey to the west had begun.

lijiang valley
viewing shuhe and lijiang from the old tea horse road

Yunnan (云南 literally south of the clouds) in southwest China is one of the most diverse provinces in China, with 25 of China’s 56 ethnic minorities represented here, and innumerable rare types of wildlife and edibles flourishing in its river valleys, plateaus, and mountain foothills. The province borders Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Tibet Autonomous Region, and Chinese provinces Sichuan, Guizhou, and Guangxi. The peoples, landscapes, and cultures of Yunnan are as varied as the mental pictures this list summons.

shaxi market
the weekly market of shaxi, drawing women from the diverse villages in the nearby mountains

Our plane would take us from Kunming over rolling mountains on to Lijiang, an old merchant town along the ancient Tea Horse Road (茶马古道 cha ma gu dao). This ancient trade route was carved north-south through the region, to carry tea in past millennia from the southern part of the province at Pu’er near Burma into Tibet and beyond, and horses from Tibet into China. It was a kind of southern parallel to the northwestern Silk Road, which took silk and porcelain from central China west into Central Asia and Europe. These trade roads were a path to other lands and cultures, taking Chinese treasures and ways out into the world and receiving peoples and ideas in return. This international exchange has shaped China and Eurasia since the Han dynasty, for over 2,000 years.

tea horse road
following the ancient tea horse road

Chinese history is accented by individuals who made these journeys, for commerce, for scholastics, for exploration. In the eighth century, a monk named Xuanzang went on an expedition from the Chinese capital throughout India in search of original Buddhist scriptures, and brought back new words and ideas, and inspired the epic tale Journey to the West. Marco Polo’s father and uncle pursued business in Central Asia, but ended up as emissaries for Kublai Khan and the Pope, bringing religious teachings and culture east and west. In the twentieth century, Peter Goullart fled political turmoil in Russia and was able to secure a post in the Republic of China government, setting up rural cooperatives in Yunnan province. But his greatest legacy was accomplished through his book Forgotten Kingdom, a kind of true life Lost Horizon, in which he describes the peoples, traditions, and complex social and business structures which he found along these crossroads. This book is a major reason the west knows the existence of this corner of the world in Yunnan province.

Whatever takes you out your door—necessity, business, or adventure, you are bound to discover something you unexpected. Travel the world. Come to China. You never know what you will discover.

 

beyond the clouds

image

Wake up every morning to banana pancakes and local berries, a blue mountain filling your window. A land of plenty, a Shangri-La of simplicity. And it really exists, nearer than far, farther than near. We’ve just returned from a twelve day adventure through Yunnan province, through Shuhe (Lijiang), the Tiger Leaping Gorge, Shaxi, and the Erhai Lake of Dali prefecture.

image

This is the major tourism corridor of Yunnan province, and there were areas thumping with Chinese tourists in Lijiang and Dali, but the days were also filled with moments listening to the mysterious twang of a guqin in a Naxi courtyard, gazing on the sea of stars over the rice fields of Shaxi, and imagining creatures materialize and shift form in the sunset clouds of Dali.

image

We didn’t hear pop music for twelve days, except for our own rendition of the Beatles and Eagles on a lone guitar by red lantern light. Food safety and PMI levels were about the farthest thing from our minds, clear water flowing under cerulean blue skies.

image

Today my thoughts try to hold on to the images and moods of Yunnan before they slip into another shape. Further posts will explore the many scenes and highlights of our expedition. With chance and perseverance, I will see you again in Yunnan.

 

Falling in love in Lijiang – the old town of Shu He part 1

Shu He AlleywayThe village is small, but it’s easy to get lost in the maze of shops and stone streets. Every fourth shop is leather goods, every seventh shop carries drums and ukuleles. There is puer tea and local clothing, scarves, purses, shoes, dried yak meat, and silver jewelry. And in between the tiny shops there are cafes, restaurants and bars, and small grills offering skewers of tasty meats. Naxi women sell produce on the street. While clearly the focus of today is targeted at the tourist, you can still reminisce and envision the tea and horse road market place booming with a different kind of commerce. But whether yesterday or today, the focus is on trade.

Shop keepers still use the water that runs down from the mountains through the clever canals in the village to wash their dishes and even their produce. If you walk too far down the river, this will become a little less charming than it otherwise seems. Horses still walk the streets, but these days they are usually leading Han Chinese princesses from a far away city. Clutching a Louis Vuitton purse while dressed in rugged clothes and tights, they are ready for a half-day’s journey.

It is a simpler way of life – not to be idealized, for the shop keepers often keep 12 hour days – but the pace is definitely slower, the smiles more frequent, and the air open and clean. There are artists who have come to live here – to eek out a living or while away the days. Sometimes you’ll walk by and the person running the shop is watching the latest drama on their smartphone, but in other shops, especially the ones selling the drums, the shop keepers turn on local Naxi music, and play along with it on their merchandise. The simple melody of a flute and the accompanying drum brings a sturdy, steady pace to life.

Part of a continuing series on Yunnan and Lijiang – see here for the previous post.