Noilly Prattle: China - Winter 2016 (looking for Godot?)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

China - Winter 2016 (looking for Godot?)

hot spring at Eryuan
     I mentioned in a previous post that we had seen some beautiful photographs of pear orchards (in a town called Eryuan a couple hours from Dali) at a temple exhibition. We took a bus to Eryuan in hopes of finding a pear orchard in bloom and met an interesting man on the bus, but it turned out to be a wild goose chase because it was too early for the pear blossoms and we all went to a hot spring instead.

       We heard that there was a “Pear Orchard Temple” a few kilometers outside Shaxi. Cato Inn loaned us a couple of bicycles and we went off in search of this "fabled" “Pear Orchard Temple”. Neither of us had ridden bicycles for years, but it was another opportunity for an adventure off the beaten path into the Shaxi countryside.

the end of a wild-goose chase
       The photographs we had seen indicated that it is very beautiful when the pear trees are in blossom, something like an apple orchard in spring, except that we are a bit too early for the blooms and there was no obvious orchard anywhere in sight. After asking several local people—by pointing to a rather rudimentary map and getting, of necessity, fuzzy pointing directions only (couldn't understand the rapid fire Chinese)—we finally found ourselves on a sloping dirt road that did indeed seem to lead to some kind of orchard of bare trees. After climbing the dirt road we finally had to admit that we were on another wild-goose chase and we simply turned backed and coasted down the slope.

giving the butts and legs a rest 
the Wicked Witch of the West

the little theater
       Then we decided to take a back road (off the main highway) that wound its way back to Shaxi through small farming villages. There as an old theater along the way. We stopped to rest and look around the theater and the surrounding countryside. It really felt like were in rural China at last, about as far as away from the congestion and pollution of Shanghai as imaginable. By then my butt was getting uncomfortably sore and my thighs were feeling the unaccustomed stress of sitting on a narrow saddle and peddling so we headed straight (as much as possible on winding backroads) back to Shaxi.

the countryside viewed from the side of the theater

people still do a lot of walking  . . .

. . . and carrying loads in the old way

the Orange Restaurant
Orange Restaurant interior
       After returning to the Cato Inn we needed to go out and find a liquor store since we had run out of the good plum wine we brought from Dali. We bought something with 35% alcohol for 12¥ (US$1.84); about what it was worth, it tasted worse than some medicines so we threw it out. In a somewhat disappointed mood we went out to dinner at the Orange Restaurant again and tried an item on the menu called “Shaxi Soil Pot” (a clay pot) that was very good. It was a kind of hot pot melange of noddles, various exotic and ordinary veggies and some pork strips. Garnishes on the side included: green onion, garlic, ginger and chile pepper. The small pot and a side of rice was plenty for two and cost 58¥ (about US$9.00)-- a pretty good mood elevator and a pretty inexpensive meal.

Shaxi Soil Pot

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