We are constantly moving! What happened to a holiday where you could just go somewhere for week, laze around, read a book, maybe go for a swim and just take it easy. No. We had to do China. Massive distances, slow transport and self imposed time restraints. So off we go again. I need a weekend! (Insert this on any given travel day!)
Jianchuan is a small nothing town between Dali and Lijiang. Its call to fame is that you get off the bus here to go to Shaxi Valley. Another cute traditional area, but there is a nice walk through the mountains with different temples and rock carvings. We are opting not to stay in Shaxi, as there is also supposed to be a nice section of town here as well.
Checking into a hotel across from the bus station went without a hitch and then it was off for a walk around town. It was easy to find the old town, but it is undergoing the same renovations as everywhere else. Some of the old streets are in their original condition. Mud brick walls falling apart due to lack of maintenance, lime washed walls covering other sections, then there is the “new” old section. This is currently under construction. It is one whole street that every roadside building is identical. Door, table for your wares, and a window behind to lock up for the night. This was repeated as far as the eye could see.
It was also every empty. There were hardly any people to be seen at all, and the whole town had the feel of a ghost town. Walking through, we made it to the new town, and this is just the same as any other place in China. Tall buildings, advertising, construction and still no people?
Having done that, we went off to find the mountain of 999 steps and 1000 lions. It is supposed to be nearby. Following the directions from a blog caused us to walk forever along a road and took us right out of town. The start was nowhere to be seen. We were now past the next village and decided to give up.
During the walk we had seen a pagoda off in the distance and decided to see if we could make it there instead. Taking a couple of interesting decisions to try, we ended up walking in fields. There were a few people around and when we were going to go further in they took an interest, so we pointed to where we wanted to go. They couldn’t quite understand why we wanted to go there, as if it wasn’t interesting at all, but pointed off in the opposite direction. This confused us, but with a few more hand signs we were sure that was the right way to go according to them. It just didn’t seem right.
Either way, we followed their advice, crossing underneath the freeway nearby (The pagoda is on this side of the freeway) and walked along a stream. There was a school here, with nothing around, speakers blearing out something for no-one to hear (propaganda..). Following the road from here through a small village of half a dozen houses with a few weird looks from the locals.
Back under the freeway, and we were fairly close to the pagoda. Now we just had to climb the hill. At least there was a road, and we knew it was open as there was a man and boy at the top, so we would be able to go up!
Passing all the statues of the Chinese Years, we made it to the top. Passing the man and boy on the last steps (after moving to the side so they didn’t walk into us) we were at the base of the pagoda.
The pagoda was locked up tight. We walked all around it, and there was no way in. The main door was bolted shut. The man must have been the caretaker. Would have been nice if he said something as we passed him. “We are in China”. A refrain that we need to keep saying. (We do not understand the people here, their intentions, and they do not seem to understand ours, or common courtesy…) Still, it is a nice view from up here.
Taking a few pics of the countryside, we made our way back down. At the base, we decided to walk around the hill to a different way back to town. This was a good choice, as we came across the weirdest thing ever. The Pagoda was only the start. Apparently they were planning on building a whole Confusion temple entertainment complex back in the day. There is a small monastery nestled into a section of the hill, and past that, a carved statue of Confucius. On each side were a series of rooms and shrines that had been finished, but nothing done with them.
A bit further on was a fake cliff water feature without the water. This was kinda funny, as before we were wondering if the background rocks were real or not, and here it was confirmed. The whole thing is fake. The paper-mache rocks were breaking apart, and you could see the wire frame underneath, where that still existed.
It was a surreal experience in all. Then as we were walking away we passed the abandoned building site that was being made for the suburb surrounding it. Plastic disintegrating on the fences, cement machines rusting in the long grass and an abandoned guards hut slowly rejoining the earth.
After that it was a rather disappointing walk back to town and the main square. This square could have been anywhere, any communist country. The only thing giving away that it was China and not former Yugoslav was the signage. We found dinner and call it a night.