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17 February 2011 @ 11:59 am
Shaxi Market Day: Carry it on Your Back  

I'm a bit tired and possibly getting sick, so this entry will be more of a photo essay than a word essay. As you can tell by my overall eloquence, the journey to Chengdu has done wonders for my eloquence.  I'm going to catch up on blog / travel posts sequentially, starting from Shaxi before getting to Chinese New Year and (finally) to this most recent stretch from Shangri-la to Chengdu through western Sichuan

After the VIA conference and a day spent in Kunming, Jonas and I spent a very long day getting from Kunming to Shaxi. 沙溪 Shaxi is in northwestern Dali prefecture, and southwest of Shangri-la by ~5 hours. It's an old town that had been on the famous Tea & Horse trading route, with a well-preserved 'old town' and under preservationist funding (and orders) to keep it that way. Nonetheless, unlike Lijiang (and ol' Shangri-la), Shaxi is not over-run by tourists, or at least wasn't when we were there. Our guest house was very welcoming too: HorsePen46. The other (mainly Chinese) guests welcomed us into their midsts, to the point that, on our first night of arrival, just a few minutes after stumbling in the doors at 10 p.m., we found ourselves playing a few rounds of a competative version of Uno. ["yu-no!"]

Our big draw for going to Shaxi was to see the weekly regional market day, and we were not disappointed. People dressed in all manner of ways and lugging all manner of items passed by us in a constant tumult. When we went out early morning in search of breakfast the market was already getting busy; by mid-morning it was at full steam, with the entirety of the town converted into 3-4 seperate markets, and selling everything from vegetables and livestock, to bricks of tofu covered in mold (ewww), to fireworks for the upcoming Chinese New Year (a.k.a. Spring Festival), to saddles and ropes and clothing.

The quality of some things seemed questionable, such as the cheap jugs of 3%-alcohol wine. Or the fireworks that someone else at our hostel bought: the type that shoots colored balls of flame out of the end of the tube that you're holding in your hand (dangerious much?) worked fine--albeit that sometimes the flame balls landed at your feet and sometimes 20' ahead in the river--but the sparklers refused to light, and when a few in the bundle finally did begin to burn, after a few sparks they went out again and were deemed to be 假的, fakes. Nonetheless, Jonas and I both bought decent gloves and found other items too, like a calendar.

And everyone, everyone (except us) was carrying baskets on their backs. Greenly-blooming basket:

Not just a good place to put your purchases, but also to hold your child:

But why stop with baskets, when you could carry larger items---like a dresser or washing machine??

Aside from the market, Shaxi was a relaxing place to be. We got absolutely delicious hot chocolate at Allen's Cafe--with milk the owner said was fresh from the cow--and spent a good few days wandering around the town's back alleyways. Our hostel owners even took us on a hike in the surrounding countryside, to 石宝山,Rocky Treasures Mountain, and cooked all the guests a nice dinner. Since Shaxi is only a 4-hr bus ride (to Jianchuan) + 40-minute van ride from Shangri-la, I foresee going there for some weekends this spring. I'll be sitting inside the bus, unlike these chickens who rode on the roof for the chilly journey from Jianchuan to Shangri-la:


Current Location: Sim's Hostel, Chengdu
Current Mood: lethargiclethargic
wingraclairewingraclaire on February 20th, 2011 04:32 am (UTC)
What awesome baskets!

I'm with you in spirit - last night I joined in a competitive game of Apples to Apples!
Jonas CrimmJonas Crimm on February 20th, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
Great picture of my incredulation (word?) at the refrigerator thing on that guys back. I felt incredulated. Fully.