The Monkey year | Looking back and forward

One more year has passed. 又过了一年.
In Spring and Summer, I had the opportunity to lead small groups in Yunnan and, in the same time, go back to places I had not been in a long time, discover new ones and meet new people.

View of the Shaxi Valley from the top of Shibao shan

View of the Shaxi Valley from the top of Shibao shan

Forever Yunnan

Yunnan is my favorite Chinese province for travel. With its diversity of landscapes, ethnic groups, cuisines and its unique history, this borderland province has attracted the curiosity of travelers for decades. In a just a week, you can travel from the high plateau on the foothills of the Himalayas populated by Tibetan people, go through the cradle of ancient kingdoms situated around and above the Erhai lake, and down into the green valleys of Xishuangbanna, on the border with Laos.

The monastery of Ganden Sumtseling and its reflection in the Lamuyang Lake, near Shangrila

The monastery of Ganden Sumtseling and its reflection in the Lamuyang Lake, near Shangrila

Last Spring and Summer, still searching for off-the-beaten paths ancient villages, I discovered the old salt village of Nuodeng (诺邓), the unknown town of Zhoucheng (州城) not to far from the Chicken Foot Mountain in Binchuan County – which is different than Zhoucheng 周城 north of Dali old town -, or the capital of calligraphy of Fengyu between Xizhou (喜州) and Shaxi (沙溪). I sat on a long bus ride from Chuxiong to go central Yunnan’s salt capital of Heijing (黑井), re-discovered Zhongdian (中甸) aka Shangrila (香格里拉). I also went west towards Burma to rediscover Tengchong (腾冲) and its surroundings, particularly the village of Yiluo (绮罗). Before heading back to Yunnan, I wrote a few articles about the small town of Baxin (坝心) that I had explored the year before.

The Huilan Pavilion in Baxin, Honghe prefecture, Yunnan

The Huilan Pavilion in Baxin, Honghe prefecture, Yunnan

Unfortunately, I did not have time to go back to Cizhong (茨中), a small village home to a strong community of ethnic Tibetan and Lisu catholics, famed for its century-old church. Unfortunately, the harmony of the village is threatened by the construction of a dam.

Cizhong, Yunnan

Guests Posts

During this Chinese year of the sheep, two authors contributed to Travel Cathay. The owner of Sapore di Cina, Furio, shared with us his trip to Hemu (禾木) a village situated in Xinjiang province’s Kanas Nature Reserve.

Shanghai-based Pavel Dvorak wrote three articles about ancient villages in Shanxi and Hunan province.

I had hoped that other authors would step up and share their stories about off-the-radar towns and villages of China, but I guess I was too optimistic. The offer is still on. So, if you feel like writing about Chinese places that are not listed in the Lonely Planet, read how you can contribute.

Lushi, Yunnan

What’s coming

The good news is that Jordan Porter has accepted my invitation to write articles for Travel Cathay. Based in Chengdu for several years, Jordan organizes Chengdu food tours to wake your taste buds. With Chengdu Food Tours, Jordan’s goal is to give experiences centered on food culture, the origins of ingredients, and making of food.

Jordan does not only know the city of Chengdu and its surroundings, he also traveled extensively into the rugged landscape of the Sichuan province’s Tibetan frontier. I’m glad Jordan has accepted to free up some time to share his passion for food and his knowledge of off-the-beaten paths places in Sichuan. Basically, Jordan will show us that there is a Sichuan to be seen beyond the pandas, the Mount E’mei or the giant seated Buddha of Leshan.

For the Chinese New Year, we will be off to a good start with an article written by Jordan about a remote Qiang village of the Sichuan mountains. He will follow with other posts in which he will share his knowledge of food culture. In the meantime, you can enjoy mouth-watering pictures of authentic Sichuan food on Jordan’s IG.

Although I am not living in China anymore, I go back regularly and still have a few stories about ancient villages. I also started a series of articles about the different gods and goddesses we find in temples across China and Xishuangbanna in south Yunnan and I intend to keep them coming.

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

The Xingjiao Temple in Shaxi, Yunnan

The Xingjiao Temple in Shaxi, Yunnan