Day 11, Monday, April 26 (Xizhou to Baisha to Shuhe)
Today was cold, very cold. Despite that, before breakfast, bundled up in my heavy coat and many layers underneath, I climbed up to the terrace to practice the Yang Style Tai Chi and to take some last pictures. As I looked over the landscape, I observed a line of women picking something, but I didn’t know what they were picking. Later, as we walked the narrow streetby the fields on our way to the bus, the aroma of pungent garlic assailed our noses. There was no question as to what the women were harvesting.
Farewell to the Linden Centre and a last note on beans
After our usual breakfast and after taking good-bye pictures, we exited the Linden Centre and followed our luggage which was piled up in the colorful horse-drawn cart. We bid farewell to Brian, Frank, and Neil. Jeanee and Lei Lei were coming with us to Lijiang and Shuhe. Gigi, the 3-year-old, rode in the cart, standing on the seat, guarding our luggage.
We boarded our bus while Frank loaded our suitcases and backpacks. I grabbed my backpack as it had been stored in the cart under a large, heavy suitcase, and I was afraid that the red balls that I had bought from the old lady in Xizhou had been crushed. Somehow, they were not, thank heavens!
We drove out of Xizhou over a farewell carpet of the fava bean stalks. The farmers were still strewing the wheat-like chaff on the streets, still picking out the beans after cars, bikes, motorbikes and pedestrians had pushed them out of the stalks, and still picking up the leftover chaff to feed to their cattle. We had eaten the soaked and then cooked beans on more than several occasions, alone and in various dishes, and they had been fresh and delicious. Maybe motorbike tires add a bit of flavor…
Along the way, Jeanee kept us from getting hungry by feeding us a variety Chinese junk food and candy. Most of the candy was made with dried fruit. My favorite of all were the ginger candies that looked like small, beige rocks. They were tangy and good. I became addicted and bought two packages to take home. I’m eating them very slowly to make them last. I’m hoping our local Asian Market carries them. She also had bananas and some really good, Chinese cookies that must have been made with almonds. Who says that cookies are American? Hey, pizza came from China…
Lunch at a local restaurant, an interesting Happy Room, and a funeral
After an hour or so on the road, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. I never learned the name of the town. It seemed small but a bit more sophisticated and certainly more tourist-oriented than Xizhou.
The restaurant was located on a lovely lake. To get there, we exited the bus on the road, walked under a lovely, traditional stone entranceway and walked along a wide, attractive, stone, tree-lined path that was bordered on one side by a lake and the other by a small stream. Small ridges over the stream connected buildings with the path. Barren mountains rose in the background behind the lake. It was as if we were in a park instead of a shopping area. At one point, on the lake side of the path, a low stone divider separated a square of water from the rest of the lake. A lovely little fan-shaped bridge led from the divider to a small platform. Bulbous red Chinese lanterns hung on all the shops. The restaurant was located towards the far end of the path.
Once at the restaurant, many of us ran for the bathroom which looked attractive enough in a small building with a colorful mural with what looked like cherry blossoms covered the outside wall. Unfortunately, that was the only lovely part of that bathroom. Inside that building were two very odoriferous two-holers (2 for men and 2 for women) of what turned out to be an outhouse with a tile (or marble) floor with two rectangular holes in it. On either side of each rectangle were slightly raised stones on which to place one’s feet. It was fairly clean, but the lack of plumbing and lime and the toilet-paper-filled, open waste-paper basket beside each hole, produced an almost overpowering smell. We tried not to breathe as two by two, cheek to cheek, we used the facilities, but laughter at the situation got the better of us. We decided that sharing such a facility definitely made us fast friends. I couldn’t resist a picture (minus humans).
My bathroom mate (who shall remain nameless) complained that she had been peeing on her pants in the Asian toilets. Since the rest of us didn’t have that problem, and since we assumed her plumbing was similar to ours, it was a puzzle. She found out why in that outhouse next to me. She wasn’t squatting low enough.
The restaurant was decorated in Bai style with black and white stylized murals on some of the walls. The tables were under roof around a central courtyard, but they were not closed off from the elements. Jan and I chose the table the farthest from the restaurant-wide opening, but it didn’t help much. It still was extremely cold, and we kept our coats on. Photos of the owners’ family and four children at various ages decorated the walls of the section in which our table was located.
The meal didn’t have many totally veggie dishes, so we reserved those few that were for poor Ken. By this time I had finally figured out that if there were two tables in a restaurant, Ken sat at one and Donna sat at the other one so as to get the most out of the vegetarian dishes that were served. Most of the dishes were very spicy (Lei Lei had chosen the menu). A mushroom dish was especially tasty! Love those Woodear mushrooms! (As I side note, I thought I wouldn’t be able to find them stateside, but upon my return, to my great surprise, I found some dried ones in the produce section of our local Publix Supermarket and so am still enjoying them although they are not as fresh.)
They served an excellent vegetable soup. After the soup, when usually there were no more dishes except a plate of fruit, they served us a few cold dishes of some vegetable. I tried it before Yinong warned us to be careful as in this restaurant uncooked veggies could be dangerous to our unitiated digestive tracts in large amounts. Shame. It was really good. I did not suffer at all, though, from my daring few bites.
Sated, we walked by the lake again and boarded the bus and took off for our next destination, Baisha where the Naxi people live (pronounced Nah shee). We passed a funeral in the freezing rain. It was strange as the procession was made up only of men. Some carried a closed white casket as they silently trudged down the road, rain dripping down their faces. Only a few carried umbrellas.
Baisha and Dr. Ho Shi Xiu
Baisha is a small village in the mountains, but it has been made famous (and become a tourist spot by those in the know) due to one man—Dr. Ho Shi Xiu. Dr. Ho had made a worldwide name for himself with his cures over the decades and has been written up in Time Magazine and Lonely Planet among other magazines and newspapers.
As in other small towns we had visited, misted mountains of the Himalayan foothills towered in the background. When we arrived, it still was raining and was, if possible, even colder. We descended from the bus and walked down a wet and slightly muddy cobble-stoned street to Dr. Ho’s home. Lining one side of the street were small stands and tourist shops that hoped to make money off of the people who visited Dr. Ho. They mostly sold the usual tourist items. One sign painted on wood advertised all kinds of Western delights for lunch, all in English. There are clever entrepreneurs everywhere!
Jan and I spied some pillowcases that were not of the usual variety or colors offered and briefly stopped at the stall to look. I wanted to get eight for the dining room, but they were too heavy to lug that many in my already overweight suitcase. We left a disappointed young vendor who was still reducing the price as we left to return to the street where the rest of our group had gathered.
We continued our walk through the town, occasionally losing one or another to peruse the contents of a stall. Large trees (Mulberry??) with pink and white flowers and willows dripping with rain lined the sides of the road. I took a picture of Alice looking wet but lovely as she stood under one of the flowering trees.
On an open stoop, sheltered under a sloping, corrugated roof, four men played Mah Jong while four more watched the game intently. They played fast and furious with much loud talk, many wide gestures, and a lot of emotional involvement. Beside one of the men sat a small metal brazier filled with wood chips and perhaps some coal. He and the others occasionally warmed their hands over it.
The men played Mah Jong on a concrete porch right next door to Dr. Ho’s house. Signs tacked to the outside on either side of the open doorway along with the usual blessings, announced that this was the “Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinic, Lijiang.” Dr. Ho’s house, like most others we saw in small villages, was not closed up and thus exposed to the elements. And, that particular day, the elements were bitter, damp, and cold.
The cold permeated every corner of Dr. Ho’s living room except the one with a brazier like the one the Mah Jong players used. Dr. Ho was 88 years old yet upright and strong. His face, with a pointed white beard, belied his advanced years. He wore a white coat and a warm gray head-hugging hat. White hairs stuck out from under the hat. Shawn filmed the entire interview with his video camera. Dr. Ho showed us the many newspaper clips written about him and the red banner awards he had received over the decades of his practice. He displayed them in large frames that lined all the walls of his living area. Stuck in the bottom of the collages of articles were the cards of businessmen who had visited him. I left mine so that he had one from a business woman as well. Dr. Ho spoke very good English although sometimes with strange pronunciation of words that required puzzling out before understanding the meaning.
Dr. Ho talked about his long career and many startling cures he had been able to effect. He is a “family-trained physician” which really entails much more training than does a traditional Western-medicine trained doctor. A family-trained physician begins his/her studies as a very young child of around six years old. By eight, they know hundreds of herbs and remedies and how to read tongues and pulses. There are over 100 (127, I think, right Gigi?) different rhythms of a pulse to read. By the time a family-trained physician reaches his/her teens, he/she has read over 10,000 pulses and knows thousands ofherbs and remedies. I guess it is kind of like a 20-year internship.
After he spoke of his career and successes and theories, Dr. Ho did a private “reading” for each one of us. Because I was standing near the doorway of his study, I was first. He read my tongue, took my pulse, looked at my hands, had me speak, and said, as the other physician had, that my blood and chi were not in harmony, but it wasn’t too bad and seemed to be improving. He said that my blood pressure and cholesterol were excellent (thank you Western drugs), but that I had structure and sinus problems, just as the other doctor had said.
Dr. Ho stood up and went to a side table that had herbs lining the back, took out a bilious green powder and spooned some into a thin plastic bag. He made up two bags. Then he handed me a piece of paper with directions in Chinese on one side and English on the other. He took back the paper briefly to stamped it with his chop, telling me that that would allow the medicine to clear customs. After I donated 100 RMB for his consultation, he told me that if I liked the medicine, his e-mail was on the bottom of the sheet.
As a side note: When I returned home, I tried the stuff in an infusion. It has the same horrible taste and smells almost identical to San Qi, an herbal medicine that the other TCM doctor had recommended. I already had bought some, so if Dr. Ho’s medicine is, indeed, San Qi, I have a goodly supply.
This struck me as the ultimate in the mix of modern and traditional Chinese, the ancient combined with the new. Imagine, an e-mailing 88-year-old family-trained Chinese doctor complete with a pointed white beard, who lives in a tiny Chinese village high in the mountains, in a thin-wood home open to the elements, and who burns coal/wood chips in a large metal bowl for heat.
I donated 100 RMB and let the next person into his “office” for their personal tongue and pulse diagnoses. Both TCM doctors had given me the same diagnosis with the difference being that after a week of daily Qigong and meditation, the qi and blood were closer in harmony.
As I went outside, I noticed that quite a few Chinese had filtered into the living room area, apparently waiting for the Doctor’s consultation. Others received their diagnoses and came out with their own bags of Chinese herbs. Dr. Ho’s TCM remedy for sinus and blood and qi balance in my backpack, Jan and I walked through the chilling rain to the bus. I stopped at the same stall as before and bought, much to the delight of the vendor, two pillow covers that now adorn the living-room couch, perfectly matching its colors and giving the couch flair. I should have closed my eyes to the weight and bought two more for our other couch and a red one for my mother’s. She would have loved it. Ah, hindsight!
As we left Baisha in the bus, a large number of school children, boys first, then girls ran past the parking lot. They all wore red and white jogging outfits that didn’t look nearly warm enough for the day’s weather. The children rushed by in front of us, jabbering, jostling, and playing as all kids do when released from school.
Shuhe (Altitude of 8,500 ft.)
Once on the bus, it didn’t take us long to reach Shuhe, a charming town whose vendors hoped for the overflow of tourists from the nearby tourist vacation city of Lijiang. We checked into our charming hotel with lovely tree-filled courtyards. The largest of these courtyards even had A small, clear stream with bridges criss-crossing it, meandered through the largest courtyard. Covered paths circled all the gardens with stone benches all along the sides, connecting it all. The pathways were all made from alternating brown and white stone tiles (marble?). Even though this was Naxi country, black and white Bai murals decorated built up stone walls that always were topped with the Chinese fluted design. There were even designs in the outdoor stone tiles. The total effect was delightful and peaceful and welcoming.
As usual, in our room we found the ubiquitous “vibrating” condoms (meaning “ribbed”), water heater for purification, but no heat! None at all! Jan and I couldn’t get the thermostat to work. We were told later that it only worked for four hours every evening and that some (like ours) didn’t even heat at all. We did have lovely, warm comforters, though. The only problem was going to be removing clothing.
We met downstairs and walked to find a place to eat. Since there were 14 of us, we had to find a place that could accommodate all of us. We stopped at one place, but the smoke of cigarettes and the noise of patrons who already filled the place drove us elsewhere. All the restaurants, by the way, were open to the elements, and patrons all wore coats and jackets.
At another restaurant, we were about to leave as clouds smoke filled our nostrils when the owner ushered Lei Lei up very narrow, steep stairway, (reminiscent of Dutch stairways) to the upstairs room where, she assured us smoking was not permitted. How would we know? The air was so cold, any stale smoke would have long-since been absorbed. Lei Lei came down and told us it was acceptable, so we all clamored up the steps to sit at two tables. We were the only patrons upstairs. No one removed a single stitch of clothing.
Yinong, touched by a bug of some sort, was having stomach difficulties and returned to the hotel. Lei Lei disappeared down the steps and re-appeared a few minutes later with a bottle and glasses in her hand and a grin that spread from ear to ear. We all (even usually non-drinking I) partook of the gut-warming local hooch. I don’t know what it was, but it sure felt good at the time.
Our usual saucer-sized plate, small bowl, and tea cup were wrapped in plastic which took a carefully aimed chopstick to break open. We were served lots of Pu-er tea to keep us warm—good stuff. Dinner (in coats) turned out to be delicious and varied, my favorite being a light garlic, tofu, and Chinese celery dish that unfortunately didn’t stay warm long. Our soup, again light and delicious, arrived in a metal bowl sitting on a burner to keep it warm. I wanted to toast my hands over it, but refrained. They served the rice in a large, wooden bucket with a serving paddle.
Sated, after dinner a few of us wandered the streets to see what was being offered. I bought some of that yummy ginger candy Jeanee had given us in the bus, but couldn’t remember which color bag Jeanee had had, and so, influenced by the vendor who encouraged me to get the red one. I didn’t know the Mandarin word for Spicy, but she seemed to think that I’d like the red better, so bought the “red” kind. It was so spicy, I gave it to Ted the next day. I had forgotten that I was in a Province where the food was typically even spicier than Sichuan! Of course, the vendor would think the spicier one was better. I also bought a lovely Pashima wool red scarf to wrap around my neck for warmth and, except for the day in Kunming, wore it for the rest of the trip.
Back at the hotel, we found that Linda had shoved Shawn out of the room and was performing aromatherapy to help Yinong. We all sent Reiki to her long distance. The next day, Yinong was fine.
Jan and I shivered out of our clothes and dove under our warm comforters. Along with PJs AND long johns, I wore my new scarf wrapped around my head as I had lent my hat and black jacket and blue jacket to Lei Lei who had not brought any warm clothes. Jan wore her husband’s sweat top with hood to bed. We weren’t taking any chances. The “heater” said 19 degrees Celsius, but it lied. We could see our breaths. The beds were typical Chinese hard, but we found them very comfortable.