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Published: March 12th 2009
Dusk in The Old Town
9th March 2009
Way back when we were in Udaipur, in India, we met some good friends from France who shared some secret knowledge with us.... tales of a tiny and beautiful town called Shaxi, 4 hours south west from Lijiang....
We set off with the names of 2 towns written down and a hand drawn map. A little dubious (with our tendancy to get lost), we were pleasantly surprised when, lo and behold, 4 hours later we arrived - via Jianchuan - in Shaxi. If Lijiang is old China for the tourists, then Shaxi is for China. It is a tiny town (village?), with pebble stone streets and a little town square that wouldn't look out of place as a western or eastern film set. It's very beautiful. We found a place to stay - again on recommendation from Anna and Raphael (merci beaucoup) - with Mr Liou and his family. The family speak almost no English, and we speak very little and very poor Chinese, yet we sat and had a really nice 'discussion' about where we had been, and where he knew. Mrs Liou fed us well our first night, before we had an evening stroll through the
The Square, and the moon.
quiet town, with only the moon as light.
10th March 2009
We slept well, waking up to a Noodle soup breakfast waiting for us. After Mr L had made us a very strong Italian Coffee he seemed keen to share with us, we walked out through the town walls and into the surrounding farmland for a gentle stroll - very much with relaxing in mind. It felt more like the 'real' China walking amongst the locals tending their land and chatting amongst themselves. There was no interest in us and we could watch on uninterrupted.
The night before there had been some mention (when we say mention we mean some pointing at pictures in a book!) about a mountain temple that was nearby and worth a look. We debated whether we would do anything touristy here as we were enjoying doing nothing, but, as the clock struck 12 noon we broached Papa Liou about maybe going to the mountain. Our international gesture for walking was interpreted as a bicycle and the next thing we knew we had hired two bikes, been scribbled the sign we should look out for and been made to buy two small bottles of water.
Our family for two days!
On reflection it was as if these people had never cycled anywhere before because we couldn't have been any less equipped for what lay ahead...
We were told that it would be a 2 hour, 12km trip to the temple, where we could look around for an hour and then head the 2 hours back. 10 minutes in it dawned on us that this mountain temple was actually up a mountain....the clues in the title....and so this ride would be slightly up hill....45 minutes later and roughly 500 metres higher up, we were sweaty - this was our hottest day in China yet - and a little annoyed (to say the least). On reaching the 12km mark we then realised that it was a further 2km to the ticket office - at an even steeper incline. On reaching this there were lots of signs for places we didn't recognise of various temples at various distances. Being optimistic we headed for the nearest temple a mere 60 metres away. Wrong temple!
Back on our bikes with rather sore bottoms(!!) by now we headed another 1.5km to the next temple. On reaching this we realised that this wasn't the temple from the
Guarding the town square.
pictures either but feeling a bit worse for wear we decided to climb the 100 steps to have a look. After avoiding a sinister monkey and dodging an expensive parking fee for our bikes we reluctantly headed to the final temple - a steep 8km climb away.
4km in, with the day drifting away and a now 20km return journey, we admitted defeat and turned ourselves around. Just to put into perspective how steep this ride had been; on our return we cycled for approximately 10 minutes of a 75 minute downhill journey. All in all we had cycled 40km, on a rest day, without actually seeing what we had set out for. All this on bikes more suited to Mary Poppins than Lance Armstrong. We ended the day in a tiny empty bar with red faces in every sense!
If anyone knows how to relax please send on the details!
Despite being disappointed we hadn't reached our final destination, the views and temples that we passed were stunning and it was just nice to be out on a bike so this more than made up for the hard slog. Maybe Anna and Raphael can show us their photos of the final mountain temple next time we meet up!
Love and miss you all
H and D
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