Friday, July 08, 2011

Shaxi- A Trip Back in Time

We decided to make a quick stop in the old town of Shaxi. Caravans heading across the Orient would stop in at this main town, back in the day, to stock up on supplies and practice a bit of their kung-fu. Only three of these caravan oasis remain, and Shaxi is the best preserved one. And the only one with a surviving market. And we love markets. We arrived via minivan to a nearly deserted town. A few people went about their daily business, chopping up pigs and repairing old leather shoes by hand, but for the most part, it was a ghost town. The side streets were narrow and made of large cobblestones. It was very atmospheric. You could almost hear the clippity clop of horse drawn wagons gone by. It would have been a very bumpy buggy ride.

We wandered down the narrow lanes, exploring the nooks and crannies. We strolled along the riverside with the stray dogs. Many pictures were taken. Where was everyone? In the early evening we found ourselves in the town square. Surrounded by multiple alleys of uneven cobblestone, the square in inaccessible by vehicle. There were a couple of chairs set out in front of a shop that looked like it might serve drinks, so we sat down with a couple teas. We had found the action. Everything that is anything takes place in the town square! By everything, we mean entertaining youngsters and their doting grandparents, energizer dogs and rambuncious puppy brawls, all five tourists, relaxed, tea-sipping shop keepers and a group of elders, so old they look like perhaps they personally witnessed the times when Shaxi was an important stop on the caravan route. It was a real 'slice of life' experience and sitting there, soaking it all in while sipping our tea is one of our fondest Chinese memories.

Friday morning we woke up to a ruckus. We went down to the street and were shocked to see it full of people, bustling about. It was like a completely different town! The main street was lined with market stalls selling everything from nails to mangoes. There were dried goodies and grossies, cookies, tools, baskets, live animals, brooms, dentures, steam buns, special local noodles, fruits, veggies and many, many things we didn't recognize. The town was alive, and it was the most fantastic, genuine energy. We spent the entire morning wandering through all the various market clusters. People were so friendly and welcoming. They waved, smiled and gave us samples. They were after my heart, clearly.

Shaxi felt real. It wasn't touristy. There was one cafe with English on the menu, and even then you still weren't 100% sure what you would be getting on your plate. As corny as it sounds, we really felt like 48-hour locals.

ps. Happy Birthday Laura!!

pps. Sooo.. China Post is refusing to mail anything to Canada because of the now resolved postal strike, or according to the lady in the post office, 'the stamps don't work.' For all those in Canada expecting a postcard from China, cross your fingers that someone sends the memo to China in the next couple weeks!

1 comment:

Gina said...

Shaxi sounds really cool!