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October 3rd 2012
Published: October 3rd 2012
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We stayed in Shuhe by chance. Shuhe is a small village about 15 minutes from Lijiang. It also has a lot of guesthouses, restaurants, and shops but it is on a smaller scale than Lijiang and I thought it was absolutely charming. Probably the highlight of our trip. I had booked a hotel in Lijiang, so I thought. But the hotel I liked was in Shuhe so we ended up in Shuhe by accident and I am so glad that we did. We arrived on a rainy night and couldn’t see much but after a very warm welcome at the hotel were shown to our room and just loved it. The bed was very special, made from tree trunks. There was a sitting area, it was comfortable and cozy.

We never spent a long time in any of our rooms in China. We were never sick so didn’t have to stay in the room. The weather wasn’t great for much of the trip so we had no early morning trips to rush off to and only one early morning flight. We usually took it easy in the mornings and then would head off for a day of walking. We walked streets, parks, hills, lakes. Looking back, this was definitely our main activity. We would be out walking from morning to evening and by the time we got back to our hotel after dinner (and yet another walk to help digest the food) it would be about 10 o’clock at night.

Because I liked the room in Shuhe so much and because we were hardly there, I felt obliged to watch a few videos. I only saw one and Micha was asleep after five minutes. I took about 10 videos with me but we only watched a few. We watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris in Pingyao and in Shuhe I watched a comedy, The Hangover. Good thing that Micha was sleeping. I watched the whole thing (usually we watch half a video before falling asleep and watched the rest the next day). I watched it in shock and disbelief (is this popular culture? Am I completely cut off from reality?). I hardly cracked a smile, but have to admit that on some level it was pretty funny.

The hotel was full of flowers. There were bunches of roses and lilies in the reception, white roses draped around the swing in one of the courtyards and going up the stairs to the honeymoon suite, flowers growing in pots at the entrance and around the swimming pool in another courtyard. (The hotel had a small swimming pool but, at least when we were there, nobody used it. It’s supposed to be very hot in Lijiang in summer. It wasn’t hot while we were there, but it wasn’t cold either. Nice weather for walking.)

The people on the desk were extremely nice and helpful. They offered tea tasting in the lobby. We didn’t join because it was always in the evening and we didn’t want to be awake all night. It looked like a pleasant, no-pressure to buy, way to pass some time. We bought some tea in a shop in Pingyao. We drank it the whole trip. Micha said it was very good. I am not a tea connoisseur. I prefer something with flowers in it. I usually only drink lemon and water. All of the hotels we stayed in had an electric kettle and complimentary coffee and tea. Micha didn’t like the coffee in China. If you are a coffee drinker, it’s best to bring your own.

The hotel didn’t have a restaurant. I saw some of the guests eating noodles with the staff in the morning but we passed on that and went out to eat. One morning we ate from the breakfast stands around Shuhe. We had some quail eggs on sticks and baba – the Naxi fried bread, very tasty but shame that it’s fried as it’s fairly greasy. Another morning we ate baba with a meat filling. Baba comes with a sweet or savory filling.

Moon cakes are enormously popular in China. Also very expensive. There is a brisk trade in gift boxes, from small, modest offerings to fancy mini-suitcases of them. I also considered buying them as gifts but didn’t think they would be appreciated, they were quite tasty but didn’t warrant being carried thousands of miles home with me. Many shops have someone offering samples outside of the shop. They are supposed to be made mostly with red bean paste but the ones we sampled in Yunnan seemed to be fruit and nut paste.

Shuhe, like Lijiang, also has canals running through the streets and lots of weeping willows dipping their leaves into them. There are many restaurants but we found a restaurant we liked and ate dinner in the same place every evening. We had mostly vegetable dishes and fried rice, all very good. In the evenings, the bars have young Chinese singers and bands. I think they stay open to quite late, but you couldn’t hear them in our quiet street.

One evening as we made our way to the table for dinner, the noise in the restaurant seemed to reach a crescendo. The restaurant was full and there was a very noisy party of Chinese tourists, quite boisterous and a bit drunk. We sat down and ordered a few things. As indicating what we wanted on the menu was enough and there was no need to speak, I didn’t say much. I just said that I didn’t want the food to be too hot. There was an immediate hush. The drunk people looked a bit embarrassed. I don’t know how they heard me above the noise but they did and immediately stopped talking … talking about us! There had been a great deal of merriment with other tables also joining in. There was no chance of my being able to understand them. I may of heard something about a “laowai ha, ha, ha” but that was pretty normal and really, I didn’t take offense. I wondered if we are always the source of so much good-natured hilarity?

There are many music shops. Young Chinese on holiday like to sit in open front shops and play the drums together. There are also shops with Chinese bird-like flutes. Every shop would serenade you when you walked past. The shop owners would coax light, floaty melodies from their flutes and I could hardly make any sound at all, Micha managed a few off-key squawks. We bought a few scarves and shawls while in Shuhe but they wouldn’t bargain much. Prices were not so low. I wanted to buy a cow-bell from one of the Naxi women. It looked fairly new, she asked for a ridiculous price and when I offered her half (which I also thought was too much), she reduced her price by one yuan. We argued back and forth for a while but she just wouldn’t come down in price, offering me a reduction of one yuan each time. After I had bargained her down the enormous sum of five yuan, I decided I didn’t want the bell after all. She didn’t call me back. She didn’t care. I wonder who buys these things?

Shuhe had a morning market in the center selling mostly vegetables and fruit. All looked beautiful and tasty but also a lot seemed to be too big – suspiciously big – there seems to be a heavy hand with the fertilizer here. Most of the sellers were older Naxi women. They sell enormous amounts of mushrooms and fungi here. It is dried or fresh. Every type, size, shape, even color that you can think of. I even saw some mushrooms being sold in Dali that had a blue-green ring around the cap – certainly looked to be poisonous, maybe they are for medicine or something.

One afternoon we took a taxi to the Naxi village, Baishe. There wasn’t much to see there. The locals were not too friendly. We were ushered into an embroidery showroom as soon as we arrived. The pictures were really nice. I could see quite a few that I would have liked for my house but at prices between $500-1000, that was out of my price range. I suppose it was open to bargaining but I can just imagine how many hours that would take to get to the right price and I think it would still be too expensive for me. Just after we left, a tour bus of older Israelis were disgorged at the entrance of the showrooms. I wonder if people like that buy such expensive souvenirs? I don’t think so somehow. I wonder who does?

The center of the village had a poor market and a few cafes. The people really didn’t look very happy to see us, they looked fed up with all the tourists. It didn’t seem that they have so many. The back streets weren’t so interesting but the scenery around Baishe looked fantastic so instead of taking a taxi back to Shuhe we walked to the road through the fields to pick up a taxi on the main road. The way was lined with wild flowers, the fields were full of corn divided by rows of sunflowers. The background was blue mountains and misty clouds. Marijuana was growing wild everywhere. Not just in Yunnan, we have seen it everywhere we have been. Everything is used in China, so I went on to the internet to see what it is used for. The government is encouraging cultivation as a means to lift people out of poverty. It is widely used in the production of clothes.

There is an old bridge in the center of Shuhe where people often stop to take photos or play music. If you turn off at the bridge you will come to Shuhe’s gardens. Very green and beautiful, full of butterflys when we were there. Fruit sellers line the canals. We somehow almost missed this area entirely. We only found it the morning of our last day. We had a train in the afternoon so were able to spend the entire morning wandering around. I cannot describe how lovely it is. Many brides and grooms were there having their photos taken and I also took some photos of them.

I was very sorry to leave Shuhe and Lijiang. I would like to come back and spend some more time here.

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