There are many places within China to explore without going to the typical touristy traps that the Nationals so enjoy spending their time at. Spending a little time researching these locations can bring you to dome pretty magical places. Places that will change your
heart and soul for the rest of your life. Yunnan is definitely one of them in my book.
The purpose of this road trip was to visit small villages of the Yi and Naxi peoples in the Lijiang area. Lijiang old town is pretty huge in itself and has lost a lot of its old world charm to over-touristed hoards of people. Can you blame them? Tourism brings an influx of
new money and new problems to boot! Staying in a quaint little town called Shuhe was nice for it was lower keyed than Lijiang, while still providing some modern conveniences. The more we walked around during the evening while
not out and about photographing the surrounding area, there were many construction projects going on simultaneously readying itself for a tourist boom. I give it a couple of years for this to become a little Lijiang and am sure glad we hut thus place before it does, but for now, I recommend
making the trip to Shuhe.
We headed for a small little Yi village, Xuehua cun high in the mountains near Yulongshan. From Shuhe, it only took about and hour
and 1/2 by van and we were immediately transformed into the past where the this particular Yi clan still practice traditional ways farming and a simple way of life. I was quite surprised to see most of the women wearing traditional ethnic clothing as their everyday wear. Although some put on their festival best, most wore clothing a bit more toned down and a bit more tattered, but nonetheless very detailed stitch work and colors. They were very welcoming to us during our stay for the day inviting us into their homes, sharing tea prepared right before us in the rooms central fire pit. We were also treated to a traditional Yi lunch which was simple yet absolutely delicious! When photographing one of the elder men of the village, we began to understand that his 2 son’s left a few years ago for a better life in Lijiang; with the recent passing of his wife, he noted that he has become very lonely. While posing for us in his home, you can just feel a sense of gratitude for paying attention to him and enjoyed out company for the a couple of hours. It really showed
in his face and attitude while hosting us.
Back to Shuhe for a night only to head even higher into Yulongshan to a place called Baoshan. Making our way up and over the other side of the mountain, 5 hours on unfinished dirt roads on single track in many places, that seemed to switcback like a snake slithering from side to side.
As we approached Baoshan itself later in the day, as we turned a corner, we were greeted by the majestic Jinsha River. It’s claim to fame is that it’s
one of the main rivers feeding of of the Yangtze. Baoshan itself is built along the curvature of the mountain in which it sits making it quite the journey to trek down to the guesthouse from the parking lot. The efforts, however, is worth every step. The people are friendly, the
food fabulous and the views breathtaking. You’re quickly transformed into the past where time seemingly stands still. Sunrise was special as the sun slowly and steadily shine over the surrounding hilltops. What you’re given was a surreal start to a new day. Getting back up to the parking lot is not small feat as what must go down, must go up. A slow steady climb along the winding stairs were
assisted by our Pack Mules happily (or perhaps not) carried our luggage on our behalf.
One our way back to Shuhe, we stopped overnight along the way at an even smaller Naxi village, Wumu. With a road just being put in, we had to transport via a flatbed tractor the rest of the way. Ever bit of the journey to Wumu was worthwhile as this charming village was dripping with friendly faces, some who have never seen a foreigner before.
Places like Wumu and Baoshan, as it is today,
won’t last long. Already, we see capitalistic ventures threaten the authentic charm as paved roads are starting their journey towards these places, changing them and the people forever. Good? Bad? I guess it all depends on your perspective, right? I’m just glad we got to experience these places when it was pure and innocent.