Asia | China | Yunnan Province | Xizhou – Xizhou, a relic of the 50s.
We were told Xizhou is a must-see for its Bai architecture before coming to Dali, so we waded ourselves out of the swarms of drivers outside the hotel offering to take us to Er Hai Lake and Cangshan Mountain, and hopped onto a local bus for Xizhou with the pride that we were going off the beaten track. We got dropped off at a mini antique market selling anything from copper mirrors to Mao Zedong pins, all at outrageous prices compared to the Dali markets. Next door, the major attraction of Xizhou, Yang’s Court, was a huge disappointment, especially compared to the quaint and elegant Zhu’s garden in Jianshui. Aged cobweb gathered at the ceiling, and the center courtyard has been turned into souvenir shops. Tour guides with their little flags rushed from one courtyard to another, trying to gather their clients together as if they are herding ducks. Off the beaten track indeed.
The town of Xizhou, however, was a relic of the 50s. From the food stalls at the corner of the small town square, we wandered into some dusty residential streets lined with small shops selling daily needs such as plastic wash basins and straw shoes. The dark little wheat and rapeseed oil refineries made me think of what the older simpler times must be like. As the business district gradually transformed into residential area, Xizhou fell into the same quietness as a movie set after everyone has gone home. The houses were glamorous with their freshly painted white walls and glazed yellow tile roofs, but not a sound was heard except for the echo of the dogs’ barking in the narrow lanes. I would have gotten goose bumps if it wasn’t for the scorching sun above us. We knocked on the door of a family, hoping they’d show us around and tell us a little local history, but no one answered. Either the better-off ones in town preferred seclusion, or perhaps shutting their doors is the only way to enjoy their life.