After Tiger Leaping Gorge, I parted ways with my friends to check out the town of Shaxi, an historic market town. According to an exhibit there, Shaxi was an important stop on the Tea and Horse Caravan Trail, "which existed as a commercial lifeline between Yunnan, Tibet, and beyond for over 1,000 years. Similar to the more highly acclaimed northern Silk Road, the Tea and Horse Caravan Trail acted as a breeding ground for cultural exchange and fiscal barter, facilitating trade in tea, horses, and other goods between diverse ethnic groups residing along the eastern edge of the Himalayan massif."
Now, usually I'm not interested in anything that happened over a hundred years ago. I'm just a modern type of gal. But after seeing so many fake-new Chinese cities in the South (old things repainted garish colors, construction, high-rises), I was interested to see what an authentically old town looked like. First, it involved taking a bus to Jianchuan, and then a smaller bus to Shaxi.
People really packed that bus full. Also, they smoked a lot. After a while, the guys sitting next to me told me that we had just passed Shaxi, so I hopped off and walked back into town. It was a very pretty and fairly isolated walk.
When I got into town, I was immediately disappointed. It just looked like any other gross Chinese town: little stores selling cell phones, dusty streets, someone fixing a motorcycle. Was this it? It couldn't be. So I asked around and finally made it to the historic part of town, which was just as "historic" as promised.
I also befriended some kids in the main square. They were busy throwing stray branches up at a large tree, causing edible seeds to fall down. Then they all scrambled to collect them.
A couple of them spoke Mandarin in addition to the local dialect, so I chatted feebly with them. I love talking to kids because they e-nun-ci-ate every syllable and they're sweet and non-judgmental. I gave them my camera for a bit so they could take photos too.
I checked out the old temple and theater, as well as the Shaxi Rehabilitation Project, which described the work they're doing for the area - a combination of tourism for economic reasons (it's a poor province) and sustainable community-building stuff like micro-credit.
Then I went to get myself some food. If you're wondering if I'll be coming back to America looking really svelte, the answer is in that giant bowl of rice.
After spending some more time with the local kids, I went back to my little guesthouse, which was a perfect place to spend the night. I read a while downstairs, and then went back to my beautiful dorm room with Japanese-style futons on the floor and powerful electric blankets.
All in all, it was a very peaceful day and night in Shaxi. The next day I got on a bus, headed back to Lijiang, and then, back to Kunming to meet up with Kim and Nick.
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