When I started this blog I intended to begin with one of my favorite photos from my travels through Yunnan - it’s a snapshot of me riding a fluffy white yak, with blue sky and the Himalayas behind me standing as a stunning backdrop.
However, doing that would require me to fast-forward my journey along the Ancient Tea and Horse Road past a delicious 48 hours I spent in a sleepy little town called Shaxi.
Shaxi is a historic market town in Yunnan, known for its famous Sideng market square which was added to the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in 2001. I was lucky to arrive on market day, and got to experience the sights and sounds of this unique place where the local people come from all over the mountainsides to trade and buy their local goods.
However it wasn’t the market day that made this place so memorable for me - it was special because of instead of going along on the day-trip excursions that were planned for the day, I decided to follow my intuition and stay in Shaxi so I could wander, collect color notes, rest, try some restaurants, make photographs and really…..just soak up the atmosphere of this beautiful gem of a town along the road to Tibet.
Looking over the photos I made (especially my artistic self-portraits) I know that I did the right thing by taking the day for myself. I plan to write more in future blogs about the benefits of taking time on-your-own during retreats, so you can regenerate and nurture your creativity.
Here are some of my favorite things I tried during my 48 hours in Shaxi.
DARLING (COFFEE) SHOPS in PICTURESQUE ALLEYS
Some of my favorite sips in Shaxi were down alleyways lined with small shops and blooming flowers. On my way to the Square, I stepped into the Corvus Corax Cafe and ordered a mocha from their menu list. I picked this spot because they had a small sunny bench with blue cushions just big enough for two, right outside their shop. I curled up in the corner and enjoyed my coffee dressed with a heart on top.
I also had morning coffee at a little shop with windows directly overlooking the Square. It was so wonderful to see the square come to life, with shop owners pulling out their tables and getting everything ready for the day. My friend Jacqueline popped up unexpectedly in the window and joined me for coffee. Looking down at this coffee art, I first considered actually taking the day for myself. By the time my coffee was finished, I’d decided.
PHOTOGENIC CORNERS AROUND EVERY TURN
Taking the day for yourself means you have undivided time to wander and make photographs where you feel drawn to make them. Here are some of my favorites from my time in Shaxi.
Yin / Yang study of light, form and symbol captivating me. These studies are still developing.
Two Walls Expressing the Sentiment of Love // Shaxi, Yunnan, China
DELICIOUS PIZZA PLACES
Shaxi has many pizza places which was a fun surprise considering I hadn’t thought much about the flavors of home with all of the delicious Chinese dishes we were trying every day. The Mint Cafe has a lovely upper level where you can enjoy small pizzas, french fries and wide open windows with plenty of fresh mountain air.
LIVE MUSIC AT NIGHT (with the best Moscow Mule cocktail of my life!) + TRAIL CAFE
The Trail Cafe was so inviting, I went there twice. I loved the decor and the owners were so friendly!
The Trail Cafe is by far most charming once the sun has gone down. The owners are a beautiful young couple who have made their space incredibly inviting with warm lights, flowers everywhere, and live music wafting out of the open windows. The young musician charmed everyone in the room with his rendition of Neil Young’s Heart of Gold. I ordered sweet popcorn and a Moscow Mule, which is the best one I’ve ever tasted….the secret? Fresh ginger! I am already planning to create my own recipe at home.
LANDSCAPE HOTEL STAY
The Landscape Hotel is located right in the heart of Shaxi Old Town, a few minutes walk from the famous Sideng Square. My room was very spacious, and I was impressed with the large soaking tub and spa like atmosphere in the shower. There is also a restaurant on site, where I enjoyed trying a mushroom that turned out to be bread filled with some type of jelly. I’ve never seen such food magic before!
In the alley by the Square, there was a tiny bakery that sells fresh baked goods. After seeing my friend Fritz enjoying a bagel underneath an ancient tree, I decided to give one a try. The bakery had four options available. Several breads and of course, the epic Black Tea and Cream Cheese Bagel that Fritz recommended. The flavor was mildly sweet and tea-like, with cream cheese baked inside. I took a photo of it because it truly was edible art…..and of course, Fritz was right….every bite was heaven.
Next time I return to Shaxi, I will definitely take that day trip to see the natural stone formations of Shibao Mountain with its famed grottoes and temples. For now, I’m glad I took the day to myself to explore and experience the atmosphere of Shaxi, one step at at time.
HELLO FRIEND! I’m JENNA ERICKSON
Founder & Lead Travel Ambassador for OPEN AIR PLACES.
I’m loving every step of my journey along the Ancient Tea and Horse Road in Yunnan, and I can’t wait to share more about my final destination - the fabled Shangri-La, Tibet in my next blog.
Until then, join me on Instagram at @openairplaces or you can