South of the Clouds: Around Shaxi in Yunnan, China

ShaxiA few days ago, Gadling told you about the historical charm of Shaxi, an intact way station from the ancient tea-horse road days. Though the little village offers plenty for a mellow day or two, part of what makes it so great is the quiet valley it sits in, as well as the surrounding hills.

Just outside the village’s walls runs the clear Heihui River, with walking paths on either side and arched bridges providing photo-ops. The paths are great for strolling, and you’re likely to encounter Bai villagers going about their daily routines. Follow any of the cobblestone roads across one of the bridges to catch a glimpse of rural life as you pass through tiny villages and farmland.

Around 4km from Shaxi is the even smaller village of Duanjia. Its theater was used as a model for Shaxi’s restored venue. Duanjia makes a pleasant day trip destination; rent a bike and enjoy lunch in the village.

%Gallery-112119%The hills are fabulous for hiking; we spent one day exploring Shibao mountain. Our bus dropped us off at the top, and we explored some Buddhist grottoes that escaped the Cultural Revolution. In one grotto a giant vagina is carved into the rock; that would be shocking enough on its own, but this vagina is slick with the cooking oil of pregnant women who come to pray for a smooth delivery. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed.

From the grottoes, a paved path leads down the mountain through a small, green valley. It should take just under two hours to walk back to Shaxi.

There are several multi-day trekking options, as well. Check out www.teahorse.net for more info.

Shaxi and the surrounding valley are undergoing a renovation to preserve their history as well as ready them for tourism. Now is the golden time to visit; much of the restoration has been done, but the village has yet to become overrun with tourists.

For more information on Gadling’s trip to Yunnan, click here.

Though our trip to Shaxi was funded by WildChina, the opinions expressed here are 100% our own.