Driving around Yunnan in the spring is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. There were rolling hills filled with lilac and white azaleas, small yellow rapeseed fields and every now and then a few trees filled with pink or white blossom. Truly stunning. After one such drive I was lucky to go to Shaxi. A tiny village I had never heard of before but that I will not forget for its size and simplicity. By Chinese standards where a small city houses several million people the sleepy town or village of Shaxi with only a few thousand was remarkable. I imagine this is what the old China used to look like. A few quaint, narrow streets that lead to the main square, where there were a couple of coffee places and a few shops. You could make a loop and reach the river and walk along its banks only to find your way to the main square again.
It was here that I felt the cold the most though. It was decreed that houses or offices would not have heating south of the Yangtze and boy, it was freezing at times. If you stay at some dapper hotel then they use the aircon to heat the place but we were staying in very modest places and it was really cold. Nobody had heating, any restaurant would be in the open air or have a couple of walls missing so there was absolutely nowhere to go to warm up.
The town is very special but for how long? Practically every single building along the river bank had been torn down to build something new. There were rumours one of the building sites was a luxury hotel. Locals claim they have learned from their neighbour and don’t want their town to become a new Lijiang but when there is money to be made, can the momentum be stopped. I think not. And this will probably be one of those places I will bore people to death with tales of how sleepy, rustic and picturesque it was when I visited it.