. Surrounding Shaxi is a beautiful countryside of forest covered hills, terraced fields growing rice, wheat, peas and numerous other vegetables arranged in neat, orderly rows, and lots of smaller villages dotted about where the minority groups of Bai, Yi and Lisu people live. There are also many different birds including colourful hoopoes and we keep hearing cuckoos which reminds us of early summer at home. We had planned to stay here for two days but liked it so much that we extended it to three!
We have spent our time here exploring the surrounding hills and fields on foot. On the first day we hiked up to Shibaoshan, a pine forested area containing some ancient Bai stone carvings. The following day we visited an interesting medicinal plant garden. And on the third day we went for a long walk through some of the surrounding villages, terraced fields and orchards, and up into the hills where we got a bit lost and followed a small stream down through a valley filled with large native trees.
For food, we have eaten mostly at a little place on the main street where we have enjoyed spicy noodle soup for breakfast and various vegetable stir-fries for dinner including some strange leafy vegetables we haven't come across before. We have also eaten twice at a little street stall where a woman dishes out this amazing bowlful of silken yellow bean tofu, noodles, pickled cabbage, chilli, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut sauce, coriander and a few other unidentifiable ingredients. It is a taste sensation and reminds us very much of the Shan tofu salad we tried in Burma which is not surprising given the relative proximity of that part of Burma to here.
Tomorrow we continue on south to the Bai town of Dali where we will spend one day before heading back to Kunming.
From chilly Shangri-La we journeyed south, first by bus to Lijiang then by another bus to Juanchaun, passing through purple lavender fields and orchards full of frothy blossom trees, and finally by minibus to the rural idyll of Shaxi. Shaxi was once an important point on one of the old Tea Horse Roads that linked south-west China, Laos and Burma with India via Tibet. Less well known but equally as important as the Silk Road, tea from Yunnan was traded for Tibetan horses. Entering Shaxi is like stepping back in time. The village is a maze of narrow alleyways and courtyard houses built of wood and mud brick. It is blissfully peaceful here. The only sounds are clucking hens, twittering sparrows or the occasional yap of a small dog. We are staying at the Tea and Horse Caravan Trail Inn, a gorgeous little place set around a plant-filled garden. For the equivalent of £8 we have a perfect room with beautifully latticed wndows, wood flooring and a modern tiled bathroom! And the best thing of all is that we are the only guests so for the first time in China we have been able to sleep without disturbance