Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Famous Dr. Ho


I decided to take an "easy" day of wandering around Lijiang and the surrounding area in between my day up the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and heading out to make my attempt at the Tiger Leaping Gorge.  However, you know how things go...just when you think it will be "easy"...

I spent most of the day walking, it seemed.  I had already thoroughly perused Lijiang itself, and some other travellers the day before had highly recommended going out to little Baisha, a tiny village nearby with a big history.  In fact, it was the capital of the Naxi culture until Kublai Khan annexed the area to China in 1271.  

I had directions from the receptionist at my hostel, but for once, she was wrong...not really her fault; there is major road construction going on in Lijiang, on some of the major roads, so all of the bus lines are also skewed.  According to her directions, I should be able to get bus 6 out to Baisha from near the Black Dragon Pond Park, already a good half hour walk, but easily doable. I made it significantly longer by trying to take a "short cut" and getting completely turned around and wandering through several modern streets before meandering back into the old town and figuring out where I was. 

 But once I finally got to the park I saw no sign of a bus.  Maybe one of the other gates of the park?  So I walked alongside the (large) park, all the way around to the back side of it.  I saw a couple of stops for the 4 and 13 buses, although not the actual buses themselves, but still no 6.  Keep walking.  Well past the park, drifting off into the modern part of Lijiang where tourists are a rare sight.  Walk some more.  Ask one person about the bus, get sent in a vague direction although I think he didn't know and was just panicking.  Finally stopped some other people, a mother and son--she didn't know, but wanted to help, so she stopped yet more people, and finally I got directions to walk a block into town until I got to a big roundabout, then turn right, and there should be a number 6 bus stop.  Noooo where near the park at all.  But, I've come this far...

These people were correct.  I found the bus stop with no problem, but a number 6 bus was pulling away just before I got there.  I'll just get the next one...another half hour down the drain.  Good thing I always carry my kindle.  I finally did make it out to Baisha, though; by this time it was two in the afternoon and I was starving.  I bought an orange from a man with a cart and stuck it in my bag, thinking I would stop to eat it when I found a convenient place to sit.  I was going to go into a temple compound that boasts ancient frescoes on the walls, but I needed a city pass that I had inadvertently left at the hostel, and I didn't want to pay another fourteen dollars for another one.  

So...what else to do in this village, now that I've come all the way out here?  There were several shops selling batik table cloths and bedspreads and scarves and all, and others selling a variety of antique-shop junk that probably isn't as old as they said it was.  There were several cafes obviously aimed at foreigners; I kept thinking I would stop at one to eat but I never did.  

Just when I was feeling thoroughly bored and regretting a lot of wasted time getting out there--I mean, the old buildings were authentically old, but I've seen old Chinese buildings before--I saw a row of large framed newspapers leaning against a small wooden building.  As I stopped to read them--several were in English--out popped a little man in a lab coat with a goatee and glasses.  I had read in the guidebook about Dr. Ho, the famous herbal medicine practioner of Baisha, but didn't figure I'd actually see him--not how my day was going.  But here he was, and he was as chatty as usual.  He shuffled his framed articles and letters and all around, showing me various ones he thought would interest me--I felt like I should step in and say, "Let me get that!  You sit down!" as he is in his late 90s, but he didn't need the help.  He seemed to have more energy than me, popping in and out of his little pharmacy and the tiny courtyard in front.  I sat on the bench with him for a while and he explained his philosophy of well-being.  According to what I've read, he speaks four or five languages, which he has picked up over the years in his eagerness to chat with whoever may come by, and in fact his English was quite good.  

Here's an article about him in the Telegraph: 

After my chat with Dr. Ho, I decided that that had been my highlight for the day and as I didn't want to buy any batik or dubious antiques just now, and I didn't want to risk not getting a bus back into town, I might as well head back.  The bus ride back was not so pleasant, as going into town it was crowded and I was squished against the bar behind the driver alongside several workmen the whole way.  I didn't particularly want to walk the more than hour back that it had taken me to get the the stop where I'd gotten on in the first place, but in retrospect that would probably have been faster.  I went a couple stops past there; I remembered seeing a stop for a bus 4 and 16 closer to the park, so I got on a bus 16, but it immediately turned the wrong direction so I hopped off after one stop.  I then waited for a number 4 going the right direction, but apparently those don't come along too often.  Another half hour wait...and then when I did get on one, because of the road construction, it didn't go anywhere close to where I thought it would.  I road for a while until I came to an area that seemed vaguely familiar.  It turned out to be the bus station where I first arrived in Lijiang--a good fifteen minute taxi ride from my hostel.  But it was a nice day and I didn't want to go to the hostel, anyhow, just back into the old town...

I knew I was somewhere to the west of the old town, so if I just walked east, surely I'd hit it soon.  So I did.  Turns out I was a lot west...I probably walked the better part of another hour.  But at least I saw plenty of parts of Lijiang that most tourists don't see that day, including a very large statue of Chairman Mao...

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