Shuhe on the Tea Horse Road

Tucked into the mountains just beyond bustling Lijiang city is Shuhe Ancient Town – notable as the start of the mountain horse paths carrying tea out from Yunnan to the world.  For a moment, I thought I was in Banff in my Canadian home of Alberta, until the traffic on the road reminded me I was in very remote China.

Like Xizhou and it’s bigger neighbor Dali Ancient Town, Shuhe is overshadowed by its famous neighbor Lijiang World Heritage Town.  But that’s what makes it really lovely – a favorite for wedding photos!

It is the custom in China to pose for wedding photos days before the actual wedding – often in costumes, traditional or ultra-modern.  There is a thriving industry encouraging couples to produce a unique wedding story for themselves.

Shuhe is set on a stream rushing out from the mountains cool and clear.  The setting is pleasantly natural – with trees, gardens, and ponds that have sheltered and served for ages.

In the middle of the greenery, the central walking street meanders then branches off across streams and into stone pathways.

Apparently, mountain bells are a big deal here – its seems hikers often get lost and the bells are a way to stay connected.  We call them “bear bells” in Canada and wear them to warn bears of our approach – but there are no bears in the mountains of Yunnan.

But tourist development is coming to Shuhe Ancient Town, with new hotels, parks, museums, and signs.

What I liked most about Shuhe was the bracing fresh mountain air, and the reminder that once life was more simple – as with the three wells, the first for drinking, the second for washing food, and the third for washing bodies. Rules!

On my travels, food often captivates me.  Some meals are so delicious – like yak meat, sauteed pumpkin and sugar rolls all special to Yunnan.  And then I think I could make a living suggesting English edits to menus – you can see the sausage that I did NOT order.

So after a delicious lunch with my guide, I was off to see “big” Lijiang Ancient Town.

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