It’s no secret that I LOVE China at the moment. I was there 5 times last year as well as visiting Macao and spending most of the year in Hong Kong and I currently have a multiple entry visa for the world’s most populated country. I’m now going to uncover a gem of a place for you to relax and experience some old style Chinese culture in Yunnan Province, AWAY from the crowds. That’s right, Shuhe Old Town in Yunnan Province is off the beaten track, even if it’s next door neighbour city, Lijiang is most definitely not.
First things first, how do you get to Shuhe Old Town?
Well being able to speak Chinese will help immensely of course, but in the likely event that you don’t here’s THREE ways you can get to Shuhe (bear in mind you will need to be in the city of Lijiang in order to get to Shuhe):
1. Local Minibus:
In the city of Lijiang, head to one of the main roads called Fuhui Lu. This can prove difficult by the way and the only thing of note is that there are a lot of hi-fi and electronic shops on this street and that it’s wide. Keep walking until you get to a street called Shangri-la Dadao. This is also a wide street and a main road with a view to the mountains. Turn right onto this street and walk a few hundred metres. On the left hand side at some point there is a bus station, I’ve pictured that street, and the bus station below:
Opposite the bus station (not directly I might add, but close enough) you will notice Blue minibuses pulling over every now and then. These head directly to Shuhe Old Town!
Show the driver a map or the Chinese writing of Shuhe and that should confirm if its the correct bus or not. Hop in! The minibus will leave when its full. The journey takes 20 minutes or so and has some epic landscapes in behind! The bonus is that the price is only 2 RMB (as of December 2012)!
The least preferred option, but this could be your only hope – simply hail one down, bargain your price and head to Shuhe Old Town. You might want to tell the driver you need a hotel too so he can drop you off near a hotel. There is actually a Hostelling International in Shuhe, though I stayed in a much cheaper, more local place! Don’t pay more than 30 RMB for a taxi – seriously we got one for 16 RMB at night.
3. Ask your hostel to pick you up:
If you do stay at the Hostelling International, the K2, at the time of writing their website is not yet up and running, you can always ask them to pick you up at a cost and arrange things from there. There is also a hostel called Nomads in Shuhe. Please note that the entrance in the photo below is the main entrance to Shuhe Old Town and there is a tourist information place near to it (this is signposted) – likely they can put you on the right track accommodation wise too.
Where to Stay in Shuhe Old Town:
We didn’t stay in the K2 or the Nomads, we stayed in a place with a Chinese name, something like Zee Yau (Freedom Life Hostel) which was more local, cheaper, and very remote – on the edge of town basically. Around a 15 minute walk from the entrance arches to Shuhe Old Town. By the way, it helps having a girlfriend who can speak Chinese and organise these types of trips allowing me to get to remote parts of China. There’s a photo near the bottom of this post, and the cost was 120 RMB per room per night (there were 2 of us).
So once you’ve got to Shuhe Old Town, relax in the friendly ambience of a typical Ancient Chinese Town which sits against a backdrop of mountains which eventually become Tibet.
What is there to see and do in Shuhe?
1. Pub Street
Lively by day and night, Pub street has a vast array of bars and restaurants. It is not busy and very easy to find a quiet bar to relax. Food is served almost everywhere here. The more local the pub, the cheaper it will be! You cannot miss Pub Street in Shuhe as it’s bang in the middle of the town and has a pretty setting with a river running along the middle of it. This is a true chill out zone. You’ll enjoy it!
2. Music Square
You want to hear some Chinese tunes by night? Head to this music square and join the locals. By day there’s also local guys singing in and around the square.
3. Food Street
It wouldn’t be China without a Food Street now would it?! This street is quiet in the morning, getting busier by lunch time and can be cosy and crowded by night. I’m not giving you directions to these places by the way, as quite simply Shuhe Old Town is small and you WILL find them easily! They are even signposted!
4. The Main Square
Even a small town like Shuhe has a main square. Tourism is big here so the main shops are near the square.
5. Three Wells
On the edge of town, this is basically what the locals traditionally used as their means of water. One well is clean and safe for drinking, the second one is for washing and the third one is for waste. Bear in mind, I could be totally wrong there as well!!
6. Ride a horse!
Take a step back in time and pay the locals to hop on a horse. Get your black and white camera ready for a vintage picture!
China is cheap for souvenirs and Shuhe is a decent place to bargain hunt but I was travelling light on this occasion I didn’t buy any. Traditional Tibetan and Yunnan gifts are available. There is a special shop for rugs and mats which I found interesting. You could hunt around for cabinet fillers for hours here!
What to eat and drink in Shuhe Old Town:
1. Barbecued food
A lot of the local market stalls in Shuhe sell barbecued food. Take a chance if you like and just point to something and eat it. I tried lamb skewers, spicy yak skewers and pig blood rice skewers. These are all on sticks.
The range of foods is awesome with the typical dried fish and squid featuring a lot. It’s all so cheap. A skewer can cost as little as 2RMB! Cheap, tasty and instant!
2. ‘Peach Tea’
OK so that’s not the real name of this product, but for 4-5 RMB you can get a hot cup of peach tea!! I had this early morning and it goes down a treat. It was winter and this was a worthy replacement to coffee. If you look around the main shops and cafes near the main square you might find the exact place I tried the peach tea. Worth it.
3. Dali Beer
If you like to think you’re a ‘beer connoisseur like myself, head to Pub Street and night and try the local beers. Most of the Yunnan Beer is from Dali as far as I could tell so I had a Dali beer. It went down well, however sometimes I’m caught up in the moment and loving my surroundings, so don’t expect the beer to be amazing. But try it! I wanted to experience Pub Street by night so I had a beer there, but you can get a Dali beer to takeaway for about 8RMB!
So that’s kind of it in a nutshell! The Old Town of Shuhe is totally worth seeing and it is quiet and relaxing. If you want to relax in Yunnan, Shuhe is a great place to do that away from the madness of Lijiang Old Town (the streets can be over touristy) and the Tibetan influenced Shangri La. This is a kind of photo drenched post as the pretty streets of Shuhe are a photographers dream, so here’s a photo taken by a passer by who caught myself and my girlfriend posing in the square!
Where I stayed – Zee Yau (Freedom Life Hostel) for 120 RMB per room per night
Best Food – Barbecued meat from the stalls
Beer – Dali Beer from Yunnan Province
English speakers? – Not really!
Expected expenditure per day – Can be done on 150 RMB easily, but budget for 200 RMB
My Videos –
Main Square in Shuhe:
Minibus from Lijiang to Shuhe:
Peach Tea in Shuhe:
Pub Street by day:
Pub Street by night:
You can view the rest of my videos from Shuhe here!! (I took a lot)
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