Tours are operating in Portland, China, and Cambodia! Click here for our COVID-19 Health & Safety precautions.

Featured Destination: Why You Must Visit Shaxi, Yunnan China

Article by Lost Plate Food Tours

Pin it

Share on pinterest

Share it

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Pin it

Share on pinterest

Share it

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

For thousands of years, Yunnan people communicated and traded with each other along what’s known as the “Tea & Horse Road.” This ancient trading route stretched for over 4000km, and served as a link to places like India, Tibet, and Central China. While it became famous for its most traded commodities, tea and horses, it was a way of life for local nomads and small minority groups in the region.

It may sound like a hard life, but to us there’s something romantic about the notion of living life on the road, being powered by your own feet (well, or your horse’s feet), and living off of the land. Meanwhile, passing through some of the most remarkable landscapes and cultures found anywhere in Asia – or perhaps the world.

It sounds like a distant life in another world, but is it?

Welcome to Shaxi

Footage taken by Uncovering Cities during one of our Dali-Lijiang trips.

Back in the day, if you were traveling along this said road, a guaranteed stop would have been Shaxi. Hidden in the mountains between Dali and Lijiang, Shaxi is not only directly on the Tea & Horse Road, but it is also home to multiple salt mines which made the area even more valuable to traders.

Fortunately for us, large highways and high-speed train lines don’t come within 50km of this beautiful place (at least for now!) – cutting it off from the modern traveler’s path. That 50km feels even further as you wind along a two-laned road, over a mountain pass scattered with quaint villages. It’s not an easy place to get to (hint: unless you join one of our trips from Dali to Lijiang, where we stay in Shaxi for two nights).

What is Shaxi Like Today?

Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Bai People

Nestled in a quiet valley cut off from the rest of the world, it’s also abundant in agriculture and livestock, making it one of those places you dream about finding – mostly because these types of places are always somehow ruined by over-tourism and tacky development. Today, you’ll still find locals herding goats while they graze in the fields, tobacco growers hanging their crops on long bamboo poles to dry, and farmers wading through rice terraces in their tall rubber boots.

Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Rice Fields

And thanks to a Swiss conservationist, it feels just as magical as it might have 100 years ago. Jacques Feiner brought awareness to this place, eventually getting Shaxi on a watch list of the 100 most endangered sites in the world, which prompted funding from the Swiss government alongside the local government to authentically restore Shaxi to its former glory. This isn’t another “fake old town” like you find in so many places throughout China. It’s a perfect blend of the old and the tastefully renovated, marrying the two into a world where you can’t tell the difference.

Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Old Town Door

Imagine walking down one the many pedestrian-only cobblestone lanes, some only as wide as 1 meter, a creek of pristine clear water flowing to your side, all leading to the town square. There, you’re greeted with towering shade trees and a Qing dynasty era stage complete with unique wodden architecture and charm. Locals say you’re not a real local unless you’ve performed on the old stage.

Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Old Theater Stage

From there you continue, passing through archways and winding lanes, to the river where you’ll find a 300+ year old crescent-shaped bridge. The bridge is still one of the only ways across the river, where the local Bai people do their farming, and the orignal stones show the wear-and-tear from ancient Tea & Horse Road traders. When we visit, we ride across while exploring the countryside by bike for a leisurely afternoon adventure (with a side of cheese tasting and coffee drinking at local purveyors).

Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Bridge

Of course, the real highlight is THE FOOD!

Yunnan food is already special and unique, but the dishes we try in Shaxi are on another level. Think pan-fried goat cheese dipped in your choice of salt or sugar, local fish fried with pickled papaya, and deep fried ginseng root – just to name a few. Check out what else is on the menu…

Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Cured Ham
Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Cured Sausage

Locally cured ham legs and sausage.

Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Lemongrass Ribs

Pork ribs fried with lemongrass.

Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Lima Bean s

Meticulously stuffed lima beans with pork.

Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Chicken Hotpot
Why You Must Visit Shaxi Yunnan China Copper Pot Rice

Organic chicken hotpot served with homemade pickles and copper-pot rice.

Between meals and activities, you can stop by Peter’s Kitchen, run by a friendly Canadian, to grab a glass of wine and a freshly baked dessert with a scoop of homemade ice cream. Line up in the morning at a local bakery that is only open for hours each day before they sell out. Or cafe hop at one of the dozens of coffee shops in town to get your caffiene fix.

How Can You Experience the Best of Shaxi?

With us! Our 8-day trip along Yunnan’s Tea & Horse Road from Dali to Lijiang spends two nights in Shaxi. We’ll feed you with all of the above until your heart’s content, cycle across the bridge and through the countryside to taste artisan cheese and drink coffee with a view, recommend the village’s best cafes, and enjoy plenty of free time to soak it all in. Two days will fly by before you know it…until we move on to Tiger Leaping Gorge and your mind is blown away all over again.

If you’d like to learn more about our all-inclusive trip from Dali, through Shaxi and Tiger Leaping Gorge, to Lijiang, click here for more details and to view the full itinerary. Contact Us with questions or to reserve your spot on one of our next trips.

Related Posts:

Zaxee Shangrila Yunnan Winery Vineyard

Zaxee Winery: Our Favorite Shangrila Winery in Yunnan, China

Xizhou is the name of a village just outside Dali’s old town in China’s Yunnan province. Baba is local slang for bread. Xizhou Baba is the greatest thing since sliced bread – literally! As you walk along the cobble stone streets of Xizhou, it won’t take you long to recognize old charcoal ovens that bake this famous local street food. Peek inside a Baba shop, and you’ll see fresh dough being kneaded and prepared by hand. You’ve got to try this addictive snack yourself!

Read More »
Xizhou Baba Best Street Food in Dali

Xizhou Baba – The Best Street Food in Dali, Yunnan China

Xizhou is the name of a village just outside Dali’s old town in China’s Yunnan province. Baba is local slang for bread. Xizhou Baba is the greatest thing since sliced bread – literally! As you walk along the cobble stone streets of Xizhou, it won’t take you long to recognize old charcoal ovens that bake this famous local street food. Peek inside a Baba shop, and you’ll see fresh dough being kneaded and prepared by hand. You’ve got to try this addictive snack yourself!

Read More »
Market Day at Dali's San Yue Jie Street in Yunnan, China

Watch: Market Day at Dali’s San Yue Jie Street in Yunnan, China

Join us as we visit San Yue Jie, a street just outside Dali’s old town that transforms into a market every week. The street itself is named after the 3rd month of the lunar calendar, which holds the biggest festival of the year for the local Bai minority people – and the weekly market is the best place to experience their local life and culture.

Read More »

Sign up for our newsletter!