We had hoped to get on some bikes on our first full day in Sideng village in Shaxi, Yunnan province. Except we woke to rain which wasn’t in the plan. We had fun having Cato’s Inn breakfast – sort of a buffet – and lovely. Later we went wandering around the town, including a look through a small museum inside the tower/theatre building. This was open on request at the temple place across the square. There was something nice (and revealing) about the informality of that.
The South Gate is a more recent reconstruction. It’s hard to tell. Which is not usually the case in China where restoration tends to mean reconstruction which seems to mean rebuild to look like it used to be. In Shaxi there seems to be more intention to patch and fix and re-use.The little museum had some information on the history of Shaxi and it’s place on the Tea and Horse Caravan Trail. Yunnan was definitely a strategic location.
My alleyway fascination continued…
The remarkable thing with these photos – with hindsight – is the absence of crowds. Sometimes tour groups of 10 or 20 people would pass through the square and at the time that seemed intrusive. Compared to what we would experience later on on our travels, this was nothing. Shaxi was uncrowded, relaxed, wonderful.
The thing I found most interesting about the temple was a lot of explanation of the planning for the redevelopment and restoration of Shaxi. It was a joint project with the Swiss I think. It seeks to recognise what is special about Shaxi and to try to develop the valley without destroying what is special about it. It is the old tourism dilemma, how to not kill the goose. China is not doing so good at this so far but it is early days for them. Shaxi does seem to be trying hard to keep something of the old.
There is a lot of construction evident around the village, particularly of accommodation. But it all looks like small scale – two story courtyard style. We felt privileged to be beating the rush. We realise that we are part of the problem. Or more bluntly, we are the problem. We want to see the unspoilt. And spoil it doing so. This is the tourism dilemma; for China, for New Zealand, for everywhere. They are trying to get it right in Shaxi. We hope they manage it with some success.
Sideng really is more of a village than a town. The edge of town is not far away from anywhere. Our guesthouse was a couple of minutes walk from the river and another minute or so from a wonderful bridge that is as real and old and relaxed as anyone could imagine.