Friday, 11th April, 2014
Recovering in the grounds
Street scene in Dali
The day before yesterday we were tossing up between a bike ride around Lake Er Hai or a day trip to local villages and watching cormorant fishing. Fate decided and I spent the day in bed feeling violently ill. Fortunately the hotel was lovely and John stayed to look after me. We had to move rooms in the afternoon because the hot water stopped working but I only went for a walk around the hotel complex which is immense. John joined me in our self enforced diet so that we did not go out for dinner. This morning I woke up feeling a lot better but it was John’s turn to feel ill. I joined the group walk around the Old Town which is 4 square kilometres. We walked up on to the North Gate and I could see the Three Pagodas and the lake in the distance. We passed souvenir shops, tea houses and masseurs. Had we been eating we would have visited Foreigners Street full of cafés serving pizzas and cappuccinos.
Two others in our group starting feeling queasy. We decided it must be a combination of altitude (2052 m) although altitude sickness should not really kick in until 2500 m and strange food, water, jet lag, tiredness etc. Our guide Jane wants us to eat like the locals and serve ourselves with our own chopsticks but we rebelled and said that it would be too easy to spread germs so she relented and we now use serving spoons although continue to eat with chopsticks. Fortunately our bus to Shaxi from Dali was a comfortable 31 seater but John sat in the front seat should he need to make a quick dash for the door. The scenery was different today with high mountains, fertile valleys cultivated to the last square inch, many labourers in the fields, pigs, goats and small villages. There were vast areas of pine trees and also eucalyptus lining the roads. The road was an excellent freeway with long tunnels under the mountains but after the turn off to Shaxi it became narrow and quite hair raising sitting in the front seat as we were. The road workers were not willing to move their bitumen furnace off the road so I was sure we were going over the edge.
“Shaxi was a crucial node on one of the old Tea-Horse Roads that stretched from Yunnan to India. Only three caravan oases remain, Shaxi being the best preserved and the only one with a surviving market (held on Fridays).
The village’s wooden houses, courtyards and narrow, winding streets make it a popular location for period Chinese movies and TV shows,”
Excerpt From: Planet, Lonely. “Lonely Planet China.” Lonely Planet.
Shaxi Town Square
Our hotel in Shaxi
Shaxi was having its Friday market and was quite a contrast to Dali. While Dali was immaculate, with colourful buildings, streams and ponds beautifying the streets and shops selling the things Chinese tourists like to buy, Shaxi is in much more of its original state. While well maintained and clean, the shops are selling to the locals and are open fronted, in contrast to the glass plated windows in Dali. The mess from the markets was cleaned up by this evening. The market was different in that it did not try to cater for tourists although there are a few backpackers staying in the town. We saw cafés that sold hamburgers, sandwiches and cappuccinos. On our afternoon walk to the bridge we saw a large number of students sketching the local architecture and they were very good too.
Accident on the bridge
On the six hundred year old bridge another of our group succumbed and passed out. He is around 35 and comes from London ( Serbia originally). We held him up so he didn’t fall off the bridge into the doubtful water below and wiped his forehead with wet tissues until he came around. He was very pale but made it to dinner tonight. John was persuaded to come to the meal as I told him a bowl of rice would be good for his stomach. There were two tables, one normal sized for the invalids and one low one for the fit and healthy. The food was delicious but alas we left a lot at “the grownups table”. We asked Jane to assure the chef it was not because the food was bad, we were just sick. There was a delicious dish made from grated potato as well as omelette and tomato, peas in the pod, sliced marrow, pork and onion sprouts, pork sausage/bacon and a spicy green dish. Jane asked the chef to tone down the chilli in deference to our tender stomachs. The food so far has been sensational. Even though some only ate a bowl of rice at $6 a head no one begrudged paying for the food.
Tomorrow we have a five hour hike to a temple as a warm up for Tiger Leaping Gorge. Here’s hoping all the invalids have the strength to make it.