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“Take your time and soak up the atmosphere”

Yunnan Shaxi Ancient Town
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Private Full-Day Highlights of Dali Tour
Ranked #1 of 64 things to do in Dali
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Derby, England
Level Contributor
135 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 114 helpful votes
“Take your time and soak up the atmosphere”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 19, 2012

Shaxi is a delightful town that hasn't yet been taken over by restaurants and souvenir shops. On market day (Friday) it's packed with locals doing their shopping and on other days it's all but deserted, so unless you're averse to markets I'd recommended you try to incorporate rather than avoid - it's the real thing.

When we mentioned to a fellow guest at our hotel in Dali (Gurong) that we were going to spend three nights in Shaxi he said 'Why?'; after all, he and his wife were just going to stop off for a couple of hours on their way to Lijiang. To be honest I didn't really know (not at that time having read Ringwood 61's very eloquent contribution below), other than that we try and make it a rule to stay at least three nights in any location so that we're not always on the move and can feel we've got the measure of the place.

As always the weather makes a big difference, so if your visit coincides with an inclement spell then you may indeed wonder why you bothered, but we had glorious sunshine at the time of the late October rice harvest and the pastoral setting looked idyllic. It isn't of course for the locals who toil ceaselessly in the fields just to make ends meet, but it's how life will have been for very many generations.

In the event three nights was about right, giving us one day for the market, one day to explore locally, and a few hours spare to visit Shibao Shan. On our 'day off' I hired a bicycle from our lodgings (Old Theatre Inn), not least as it was an opportunity to see if I could still ride after nigh on forty years (which I could, save that in my youth one only had three gears!). I had an enjoyable day - if somewhat saddle sore afterwards - but it's true that even a bicycle seems too rapid a form of transport in this environment. The best way to explore the nearby villages is undoubtedly on foot and lingering as long as possible in the process. My wife stayed nearer to base and simply read on the terrace and pottered around the nearby fields, and reckoned it was the best day of our entire holiday.

So there you have it. The image you retain of Shaxi will very much depend on whether you make it a quick stop-off or a key destination in its own right. If the latter appeals then try and visit soon before the new motorway opens (or better still wait until immediately after it does open!), as it's a sad fact of life that the improved accessibility and dramatic reduction in journey-time from Dali to Lijiang will mean that far more tourists will make the short detour to Shaxi and, in the process, will ultimately destroy the very character of the place they come to see.

NB We should all be grateful to the Swiss whose research and conservation efforts a few years back led to repairs being carried out to the old town (Sideng) - see exhibition in the temple across the main square from the theatre (free for foreign visitors on production of passport).

Visited October 2012
4 Thank Chris_and_Jean
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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209 reviews from our community

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English first
Western Australia, Australia
Level Contributor
85 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 90 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 18, 2012

We visited the ancient town of Shaxi on our way to Lijiang from Dali. Shaxi was a trade station on the Tea and Horse Caravan Road, part of the Silk Road, and much of this history is still evident. Old cobble-stoned alleyways still look like they did hundreds of years ago. Many of the buildings including old inns have been restored in recent years - sponsored by Swiss & Chinese governments (according to our guide). Some historical photos and restoration work progress are on display in the Xingjiao temple building - worth having a look.

The Xingjiao temple is located opposite to the stage for Chinese Opera, across the town square. The temple frequented by Silk Road travellers has 3 sections, each separated by a courtyard with interesting plants & very old tress. One section of the building was for Buddhists, one for Taoists and one for Muslims. Fascinating co-existance!

Awesome town to spend an afternoon exploring.

Visited October 2012
3 Thank travelmaker4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hong Kong
Level Contributor
134 reviews
48 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 92 helpful votes
“Great getaway from mass tourism”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 18, 2012

This town is almost a forgotten place. Few tourists come here and they don't know what they are missing out on.
You will enjoy walking the old streets and finding out what simplicity really means. Great to see during the day and also in the evening as the main square is still alive.

Don't forget to visit the museum across from the main building on the square. Not much to see on display but they have nice courtyards.

Lose your watch and enjoy...

Visited August 2012
2 Thank JeffBHongKong
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Paris, France
Level Contributor
11 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Excellent town”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 10, 2012

Very nice place, impressed by authenticity, calm, confortable, very happy about the place. i recommend to everybody.

Visited July 2012
Thank Olivier R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Adelaide South Australia
Level Contributor
15 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
“Shaxi and surrounding countryside - we loved it!!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 29, 2012

Shaxi is about spending time to soak up the experiences, explore the countryside, walk, cycle - not just a quick trip to the town. The town itself is small and is being restored. It came alive alive on the Friday market day which we loved. The animal market on one side of the river was very interesting with local farmers arriving with sometimes only one mule, horse or goat to sell, others with small trucks holding several cows or horses. Pigs and piglets were also in abundance. On the otherside of the river, winding through the town square and streets were local produce, clothes, tools, street dentists, wig makers etc. The town was packed, mostly with locals, some in traditional dress. Just sitting and observing, sharing smiles and greetings was a memorable experience. It is easy to get out of the main town and explore the neighbouring villages by foot or bicycle. Foot is best as you have time to walk along the paddy fields, watch the farmers (many of them women)at their daily chores whether it is ploughing, planting rice, harvestinggrain or vegetables,watching over goats feeding. The local people are very friendly. The countryside is beautiful and pretty untouched by development at this stage. We loved the peaceful,quiet of the countryside and the privilege of gaining a small insight into local farming life. We stayed 3 nights at the Old Theatre Inn which is 4k's from Shaxi and set amongst the local farming communities. A great choice.

Visited May 2012
2 Thank ringwood61
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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