Tag: Shaxi

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.



monument valley

red earth

Midway between the tourist magnets of Lijiang and Dali, is a green valley where rice fields are threshed by hand and locals still far outnumber tourists. This is the Shaxi (沙溪) Valley, by now discovered by international tourism but still unspoiled. Outside the village, itself a remarkable model of sustainable small-scale tourism, we managed to escape even further into the folds of mountains, untouched by the ravages of time.

A country road led out of the main town of Sideng, and we located a long path extending out seemingly towards nowhere in particular but for the hills. We parked our bicycles next to an unmanned security booth and set out following the instructions from our guesthouse. Here in these hills, we were told, lies a temple with a sacred stone the shape of a bell, and ancient stone sculptures of the gods from dynasties nearly forgotten. These buddhas were hidden so well in the hills that centuries later, the zealous Red Guard could not find them in their iconoclastic tear across the country.

buddha niche

door guardians

A creek flowed down and out of a rocky valley, crossed by a red sandstone bridge the color of the earth. A pavilion with curved eaves peeked out from the rock formations lining the sides of the valley, some sheared off in smooth planes, and some like bulbous waxy gourds standing upright. A small niche sheltered a Buddha figure at the base of one of these stones, looking much like the knotted head of the Buddha, a common metaphor for this type of stone. We spotted what we thought was our destination, a structure of red colored wood clinging to the face of a mountain. On we pressed, across rope bridges and up stairs climbing steeply along the precipice.

The structure we had seen from below turned out to be merely the door guardians of the temple complex. Behind fine wooden screens, we could see two fierce images carved into the red sandstone cliff face. We took a short break at a clearing overlooking the greater valley below, sharing sunflower seeds and local style yogurt. A Korean hiker materialized from the crevices of the gorge, the only other human we had seen for hours.

valley guys

The sun beat down through clear blue skies on orange earth and young pine needles. Our path led us up to the mountain ridge, into denser woods and then back out. A look out pavilion and trail map confirmed our arrival in the temple area proper. Another valley dropped out below us, with a temple of many levels and courtyards and emerald green hills shifting shades in the cloud dappled light.

temple levels

Inside the temple, another Buddha head stone was dedicated to Guanyin. The collection of the most rare sacred statuary was enshrined along a covered grotto, including figures of buddhas, and a Guanyin (goddess of mercy) which formerly held a child in the same way the Theotokos Mary is portrayed. The final figure was an enigmatic article, a dark object representing the female reproductive organ. Local records note that couples would visit the place and ask for help in conceiving a child.

stone bell
the stone bell

We found a pavilion overlooking the green rolling hills and picnicked on Shaxi baba and Yunnan cheese. An afternoon out of time yielded treasures from start to finish.

beyond the clouds


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.


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.


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. Worries about food safety and PMI levels were about the farthest thing from our minds, clear water flowing under cerulean blue skies.


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.