Three Days In Danba

Three Days In Danba Excursion to Danba

Three Days In Danba. From Kanding, Danba is approached through a deep valley where the road runs along- side a fast-flowing river. As you draw close to Danba, the first watch towers begin to appear on the hills on the other side of the river.

The towers

Danba Towers

The towers look a bit like industrial chimneys, but they are rectangular rather than round, though some of them have 6, 8 or even 13 corners. Some stand alone, while others form clusters. Their height ranges from 30 to 60 metres, the former being the most common.

Not much is known about the origin and use of these mysterious structures, which apparently can only be found in very few Tibetan areas. They are estimated to be between 200 and a thousand years old, and were almost certainly used for military purposes and to provide shelter for the population in times of danger.

The Aba prefecture of Sichuan province

However, the fact that some of them are huddled together in groups seems to contradict any military utility as look-out posts. Another theory therefore suggests that they might have been some kind of status symbols; their construction possibly related to the birth of a son. The Aba prefecture of Sichuan province seems to have the most, in particular the area of Danba and nearby Badi, where some 300 to 400 specimen remain. Many are still in an excellent state of preservation and can be visited easily.

Danba landscape and first towers

Danba itself is a rather ordinary small town with a great setting at the confluence of two rivers and towered by walls of rock. The town boasts several hotels, a number of small eateries, lots of shops and even a supermarket, as well as friendly inhabitants. Moreover, the surrounding countryside has a wealth of architectural gems to offer.

Traditional Houses Danba Region
Traditional Houses Danba Region

not really having a clue about what to see or do in Danba

Armed only with a couple of brochures we had picked up at the Tourism Fair in Kanding, and not really having a clue about what to see or do in Danba, we approached a local taxi driver and hired him for 130 Yuan for the afternoon.  He suggested that we should start our visit at a Tibetan village called Jiaju. The ride up there is beautiful: as you climb up the winding roads, the green hills surrounding you are dotted with small Tibetan settlements and punctuated by watch towers.

Jiaju Village

The architecture here is quite distinct, the farmhouses are sturdy square blocks, built in layers around an enclosed courtyard, and topped by towers and little turrets. The turrets and some of the layers are whitewashed, lending the buildings the wholesome appearance of cakes. In the available literature, this type of settlements is referred to as “stockaded” villages, though they are not surrounded by any actual fences. Perhaps “fortified” villages would be a more accurate description, given the high walls, narrow window slits and enclosed courtyards of the individual dwellings.

When we arrived at Jiaju, we were surprised to find that we had to buy a ticket to enter, and that the village had been listed as a potential Unesco Heritage Site. It is a stunningly beautiful place, though perhaps  a little too perfect for our liking. The houses are clean, spacious and beautifully decorated: the frames of doors and windows are carved and painted in bright colours, flowers liven up the courtyards and small prayer-flags flutter between the turrets. Nowadays, many of these houses double up as guesthouses and offer meals.

The Highlight

However beautiful the village, the real highlight of our visit to Jaiju was when we stumbled by coincidence on the local residents, rehearsing their songs  and dances for the Danba festival, which was going to be held a few days later. The performers were wearing their traditional costumes. In the case of the women this consisted of a long black skirt with embroidered borders and belt, plus a white blouse with oversized, trailing sleeves, used for enhancing movements when dancing.

Their heads were covered in black embroidered cloths too, and they wore lots of bulky jewellery in which amber, coral and turquoise stones predominated. Though they looked very pretty and authentic, we were amused to see blue jeans and t-shirts popping out from underneath most of the young girls outfits!

the men were swaggering about in Chinese tunics and baggy trousers

Meanwhile the men were swaggering about in Chinese tunics and baggy trousers, tucked into red and black hand-made leather boots with pointy, upturned toes. Oversized heavy Tibetan coats, with the characteristically long sleeves, were tied and draped around their waists or shoulders, while their heads were covered by curious, fur-lined pot-shaped hats with upturned flaps, or Mexican-style sombreros.

Rehearsals were being held on a small, stony platform, with the audience reclining on the grass of the surrounding hills. All performances, regardless of quality, were cheered and applauded: the young girls, twirling around gracefully, as well as the serious old men who pranced up and down the stage stiffly and gravely, thinking they were dancing. However, the show was definitely stolen by a group of squat little grannies who did a disco dance, albeit in slow motion, to American pop-music blaring from a couple of primitive speakers. 

the village of Suo Po

After this, we back-tracked to the village of Suo Po, which is only a couple of kilometres away from Danba and has a superb group of watch towers. To reach the village, you have to cross a wood and steel suspension bridge, completely covered in prayer-flags, flapping furiously in the wind. However, once you are there, Suo Po is the real thing; the village is rural, beautiful and unchanged. It seems prosperous enough, with lots of orchards and vegetable gardens, and plenty of livestock, such as chickens, pigs and even yaks, wandering around. The old farmsteads are huge, multi-storied buildings with court yards and flat roofs. Some of them serve as guesthouses too.

the views from the top were spectacular

To get to the group of watch towers we had to climb up through the village, picking our way carefully over rocks and shrubs, accompanied by some village children and a couple of stray dogs. One of the topmost towers is hexagonal and perfectly preserved. Two local boys unlocked one of the towers for us, showing us how to work the ancient locks, as well as the remains of some ancient paintings, barely visible in the dark room at the base. They also allowed us to climb the tower, first on sturdy wooden ladders, but finally balancing precariously on a tree trunk with footholds carved out in it. However, the views from the top were spectacular and most certainly worth the effort.

Our destination was Badi

The next day we spent again with our driver, this time paying him 180 Yuan for the whole day. Our destination was Badi, one of the villages we had been told about by Mr Lee, the famous tourist guide in Chengdu (see the Chengdu section). Badi is no more than 35 kilometres from Danba, tucked a way in another valley, accessible only  along a pretty poor stretch of road. In fact, the year before there had been major landslides at Badi and the surrounding area, killing more than 50 people, including 4 tourists from Shanghai, an event we were blissfully unaware of.

Ba Wang

On the way to Badi we passed the unremarkable white-tile village of Ba Wang, which houses a highly recommendable ancient temple and monastery that the monks claim is more than 800 years old. The carved and painted columns topped by animal heads, such as bears and stags, lend the temple a mystic and medieval atmosphere, which is quite moving.

The real treasure of the monastery

The real treasure of the monastery is to be found in a back gallery, guarded by a heavy curtain: there are some large colourful wooden statues, but more importantly, the walls behind the statues are covered in ancient, beautiful frescos depicting Buddhist scenes. Unfortunately, most of the frescoes are extremely deteriorated and the monks have no way or funding to restore them.

Badi, when we eventually got there, turned out to be not so much a village as an area, covering a group of small hamlets on both sides of the river and connected by swaying plank bridges with colourful prayer flags. The countryside is incredibly green, lush and fertile, with abundant fruit trees: you can find apples, pears, pomegranates, as well as chestnuts. There are endless opportunities for hiking in this area. You can choose, as we did, to go along the river from village to village, or climb into the mountains where there are more villages, watch-towers and breath-taking views.

“Model Family House for Tourist Reception”

Returning towards Danba, we stopped for lunch at what was called a “Model Family House for Tourist Reception”; agro-tourism Chinese style . The house was beautifully painted and decorated and boasted a wonderful covered terrace, where we ate a typical Tibetan meal, surrounded by plants and flowers. There were shredded potatoes, dishes of spicy cabbage, fried green peppers, purplish stalk vegetables, and cold noodles.

The old lady, our host, really impressed us by knocking up some tasty vegetation food; especially given that this is real meat-eaters’ paradise. We were particularly partial to the Tibetan flat bread, filled with strong goats’ cheese. Our driver meanwhile was happily tucking into portions of smoky dried pork and belly fat. We washed our feast down with strong local liquor, of which our driver luckily tasted little, and salty yak-butter tea.


Finally, about 6 kilometres outside Danba, we visited the temple at Zhonglu, the biggest and principal monastery in the area. When we arrived, the monks were sitting cross-legged on the floor, eating an unappetising dinner of watery soup, with bits of meat floating in it. In spite of this, they were very welcoming and relaxed about our presence.

Much to our regret

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Much to our regret, we had to leave Danba the next day. As we were heading out, just about all the Tibetans from the surrounding villages were making their way into town, dressed in their finest traditional clothes, adults as well as children. It was the Danba festival, and everyone was moving towards the sports stadium for a day of singing and dancing.

We consoled ourselves by saying that having seen the authentic thing at Jia Ju, it couldn’t possibly be as much fun to see  it again in a more organised format. What’s more, watching everyone pouring into town for the festivities was good enough entertainment for the day.

Danba Practicalities:


Hotel “Mei Ren Gu”, in the centre of town, overlooking the gushing river, is a friendly and clean family-style hotel with its own restaurant in the basement. Rooms are very reasonable at about 80 Yuan, though the toilets are squats.

There are plenty of other places to stay in town, some even looking rather flash. There are small restaurants, snack-bars and shops as well.


There are some direct buses linking Kanding and Danba, but they do not run every day. An alternative solution is to take a share-taxi to Guza for 10 Yuan a person, taking about 30 minutes, and to pick up a mini-van from there, about 35 Yuan for 2 to 3 hours. Returning to Kanding, the situation is similar.

For excursions, it is relatively easy to hire a taxi for a day; expect to pay between 150 and 200 Yuan.


FROM OUR DIARY Winter 2014 –2015,

29 December -1 January: Our Second Visit

Day One, Monday 29 December: Finding Our Feet
Pingyao From the City Walls at Dusk
Pingyao From the City Walls at Dusk

We get to Pingyao from Taiyuan by bus. And even though our luggage is heavy and the hotel a bit further than we expected, we immediately take to the city. We’d half expected a heavily commercialized tourist trap, but instead find ourselves in a quiet town where time, away from the main drag, seems to have stood still!

Pingyao at Sunset
Pingyao at Sunset

All the dark, weathered, grey-brick houses with their elegantly sloping tiled and eaved roofs, their carved wooden doors and sculpted pillars are still intact; just as we remember them from our first visit. The hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops are mostly low-key and tastefully decorated in traditional style. The sky is blue, the air crisp and cold and the pervasive smell of burning coal takes us back to that first winter we spent in China, back in 1990.


The Yinde Hotel turns out to be a centuries old former merchants’ home, tucked away in a quiet alley; its simple but comfortable rooms with enormous kang beds (a kang = traditional stone platform for sleeping which used to be heated from underneath) and wooden furniture arranged around two peaceful courtyards.  The overall effect is both atmospheric and authentic. We love it!

Yinde Hotel Pingyao
Yinde Hotel Courtyard

Before starting our sightseeing tour, we have to get a tong piao, or through-ticket, valid for 19 sites and 3 days. As it is the low season, we get a considerable discount.

TWO DAYS IN PINGYAO: Start using the Tongpiao

As Pingyao is famous for its merchants’ mansions and financial businesses, we bravely tackle the Rishengchang Financial House Museum, China’s first draft bank dating from 1828; one of the main sights and just about the only one we remember from our previous visit. After this, we visit another one next door, the Wei Tai Hou Money Shop.

As a result, our memories of the two sites tend to blend together. Both are superb, though somewhat forbidding mansions with lots of court yards, elegant arches, carved, painted and gilded wood, massive blue and white ceramic vases and so on.

 Rishengchang Financial House Museum Courtyard
Rishengchang Financial House Museum Courtyard

While Adam loves the courtyards and the fading afternoon sunlight hitting the tiled roofs, I’m fascinated by the domestic details, such as the romantic paintings on glass of pretty turn-of-the-century ladies reclining on sofas, or the gorgeous, lavishly decorated cabinets with tiny drawers and secret compartments.

 Rishengchang Financial House Museum Courtyard
Rishengchang Financial House Museum Courtyard

Unfortunately, all the signs supposedly explaining the financial business must have been put through Google Translator. What else to make of … ‘the customer discussion is frequent’ … or  …’ supposes the dining room entertainment’…?

We just manage to visit a third, smaller mansion before closing time, which in winter tends to be 17.00 / 17.30 all over China.

Pingyao shop front at night
Pingyao shop front at night

Strolling along the main streets, looking for somewhere to eat, we notice lots of attractive souvenirs like clothes, bags, stuffed animals and cushions made of traditional flowery cloth in bright red, pink, green and yellow patterns. Other Pingyao specials include a range of beautiful red and black lacquered boxes, paper cuts and fold-out postcards.

After our meal we head home along the narrow, cobbled, lantern lit streets, under a clear, starry sky. All very romantic, if it weren’t for the freezing cold!

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Two Days in Pingyao: Day Two, Tuesday 30 December: Making the Most of Our Tong Piao

It’s another glorious winter’s day; perfect for sightseeing!

Winter Morning In Pingyao
Winter Morning In Pingyao

First stop: the Ancient Government Building. At first we are unpleasantly surprised by a string of electric buggies delivering a Chinese tour group but, as the site is huge, we soon manage to shake them off. There are vast halls, courtyards, offices, a temple, a stage and a prison … and everything’s in an amazing state of repair.

Prison Pingyao
Prison Pingyao

The gloomy prison cells, for light offenders only, the gruesome black and white photos of corporal punishments and, above all, the instruments of torture, such as a harmless-looking wooden donkey with sharp metal spikes on its back, are some of the grimmer highlights.

Please take a seat
Please take a seat!

On a more positive note, there are friendly stone phoenixes and other mythical beasts on the roofs, ancient gnarled trees in the court yards, as well as displays of beautifully embroidered gowns, hats, pendants and other objects that once belonged to the officials.

View from the Government Building
View from the Government Building

Moreover, there is a small tower that visitors can climb, to get good views over Pingyao’s sloping grey-tiled roofs!

The Cheng Huang, or City God Temple

Cheng Huang City God Temple Pingyao
Cheng Huang City God Temple Pingyao

On to the next sight: the Cheng Huang, or City God Temple. This is a sizeable temple with gorgeous turquoise and yellow glazed tile roofs, topped by a pavilion that offers brilliant city views. Curiosities include a cave dedicated to the God of Wealth, full of little golden figurines that have been donated to him, or stacks of fake gold ingots that look like little boats with candles inside. Adam, of course, loves the gory images of yet another Buddhist Hell.

Be Good Or Else! Pingyao
Be Good Or Else! Pingyao

As we find ourselves close to the City Wall, we decide to follow it for a little while. We’re amazed to see how authentic the city has remained, just off the main streets. There are narrow alleyways, full of rusty motorbikes and ancient handcarts, piles of coal in front of tiny hovels, old men sunning themselves outside crumbling doorways, but very few children.

Old Courtyard Pingyao
Old Courtyard Pingyao

The third hole punched in our through ticket: the Confucius Temple

Locals Near The Confucius Temple
Locals Near The Confucius Temple

The third hole punched in our through ticket: the Confucius Temple. Most Confucius Temples consist of a succession of vast, but largely empty halls and this one is so exception. So, though listed as an AAAA site, it doesn’t hold our interest for too long. There is lots of calligraphy and writing related to the examinations, which is probably of more interest to serious scholars.

Quiet Street Pingyao
Quiet Street Pingyao

Tian Ji Xiang Museum

Our post-lunch fourth visit is to the Tian Ji Xiang Museum, the seat of a Ming dynasty international trading company. We find this one quirkier than the ones we visited yesterday, perhaps due to the animated displays of colourful little dolls, illustrating the workings of the company.

First Armed Escort Agency in North China

Fifth on our itinerary is the nearby First Armed Escort Agency in North China. The building looks similar to many we’ve seen before, but I was curious about those ‘escorts’, whose name conjures up all kinds of sexual images. Turns out they were the predecessors of today’s security companies. The escorts, who were renowned boxers, accompanied and protected gold and silver transports.

The Qingxu Temple and the ‘Shage Xiren’

The Qingxu Temple and the ‘Shage Xiren’
The Qingxu Temple and the ‘Shage Xiren’

Sixth and last, but definitely not least, we pop into the Qingxu Temple, an ancient Taoist Temple, now doubling up as a museum with a fascinating collection of plaster and wooden statues. The latter were apparently carved from willow trees, as far back as the Song dynasty. The faces of the seated figures are incredibly serene, and their beards and pleated robes seem to flow.

The Qingxu Temple and the ‘Shage Xiren’
The Qingxu Temple and the ‘Shage Xiren’

The other highlight is a series of display cases with ‘Shage Xiren’ dolls showing scenes from popular Jin operas, created by the famous artist Xu Liting between 1905 and 1906. The details in the faces, headdresses and costumes –made of delicate materials such as paper, clay, silk or wood pulp- are astonishing! Make link to small article found on internet

Two days in Pingyao: The City Walls

Pingyao City wall 2001
Pingyao City wall 2001

All sighted out, we go for a little walk on the City Walls, before they close at 17.30 on the dot. Although the sheer size of the Walls is impressive, as well as the broad walkway and the towers, the views from this North Gate area aren’t exactly great: humble little houses, flat rooftops, messy backyards and lots of chimneys belching out coal smoke that makes our eyes sting.

Pingyao City Walls 2014
Pingyao City Walls 2014

Completely zonked, we have an early dinner at our hotel. The proud female manager points out several features of the handsome, spacious dining hall, such as the massive wooden pillars holding up the high ceiling, which are apparently centuries old.


The Tong Piao or through ticket:

Entry to the walled city is free. However, admission to any of the sights requires a common ticket that can be bought at any of the ticket booths in the old town. Tickets are ¥150 as of winter 2018/19, ¥65 for students with valid student ID, and free for senior citizens over 60  (bring your passport). The tickets are valid for 3 days. On our last visit in 2016, 19 sights were included in the ticket, but that number seems to have gone up to 30 now.

Yinde Hotel Pingyao
Yinde Hotel Pingyao

Many of the sights are Ming/Qing dynasty courtyard residences, converted into small museums dedicated to the buildings’ former owners or businesses. Though the contents of some of these museums are only mildly interesting and English captions are few and far between, popping in and out of these mansions gives you a great chance to admire traditional Chinese architecture and interior design.

Tonghai’s Xiushan Park

One of China’s hidden gems – Xiushan park is a verdant paradice in an otherwise rather grey city.

Bonsais in Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Tonghai Xiushan Park 通海秀山历史文化公园

Tonghai’s Xiushan Park is one of Chna’s hidden gems. It’s very easy to reach from Kunming and well off the- beaten-track

Bonsais in Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园
Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Part of a route from Kunming: Tonghai 通海-Jianshui-Yuanyang- Vietnam

This town to the south of Kunming makes for great stopover on the way to the stunning rice terraces of Yuanyang (Click here) and its rich minority culture, or Hekou, the border crossing for Vietnam.

秀山公园 Xiushan park

Getting to Tonghai 通海

The journey from Kunming to Tonghai  takes less than three hours, a straight bus-ride down the motorway with very little in the way of visual distractions. Tonghai itself is a small agricultural town, a few kilometres from the Qilu lake, on whose shores a village inhabited by descendants of soldiers from the Mongol armies survives to this day.

通海 古城 Tonghai Old town

Tonghai Today

The town, which is currently undergoing a beautification campaign, like so many others in China, is nothing to write home about. Unfortunately, many interesting old buildings, mostly dating from the Qing dynasty, have already fallen prey to the sledge hammer, while others are undergoing dubious reforms.

通海 古城 Tonghai Old town

However, Tonghai’s saving grace is its interesting population mix and, most of all, the wonderfully atmospheric Xiushan park.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Tonghai’s Xiushan park

Xiushan park is a large temple park in the style of China’s famous Holy Mountains, set on Xiushan mountain, overlooking Tonghai city and Qilu lake. Its total lack of cable cars, souvenir stalls and tourists make this park easily one of the most pleasant and laid- back in China.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Those relatively few monks and pilgrims there are, earnestly pray and leave offerings for the gods, simple yet beautiful gifts of flowers, rice, candles and incense. Meanwhile, the locals sip tea and play Mah-jong, Chinese chess and cards in the courtyards of the temples.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Minimalist Bonsai gardens and ancient, gnarled trees of a variety of species, such as camellias, cypresses or firs, many of them held up by metal bars, add beauty and a kind of timeless charm to the place.

Dragons in Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Besides trees, dragons are the protagonists of the park, either wrapping their bodies around pillars, cavorting above doorways, or splashing in fountains. All in all, it’s a lush and peaceful place.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Entrance to the park is 15 Yuan and foreigner visitors still attract the curiosity of the locals in these parts.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园


Places to Stay and Eat:

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

We stayed at the Tongyin hotel, supposedly the poshest and most expensive one in town, for 145 Yuan, including breakfast. You can’t miss it, it’s the tallest building in town, two minutes away from the bus station, on a main road. There is no shortage of  cheaper hotels, most of them new, near the bus station and on the road into town from Kunming.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Food options in Tonghai are not great. There are a number of small hole-in-the-wall type restaurants near the bus station with lots of meat and hanging carcesses, or the entrance to Xiushan Park, as well as at least one smart restaurant inside the Tongyin hotel. A couple of decent supermarkets provide for self caterers.

meat and hanging carcesses

Coming and Going

Buses to Tonghai leave from Kunming’s main long-distance bus station regularly throughout the day. There are plenty of buses in the other direction as well. Regular buses leave for Jianshui,  every two and half hours.

Hell scene in a temple Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

The End of the Small Shop (Xiaomaibu 小卖部) Landline Telephone.

Once ubiquitous and now no more: the red landline telephone in your local shop.

During my many visits to Beijing over the last 20 years, I was always struck by how convenient it was to make a landline phone call from just about anywhere in the city, and especially in the hutongs. Just about any small shop 小卖部, be it a liquor store, veg or meat shop, dumpling store or dry cleaners, they all had one or two red telephones on the store counter from which you could ring anywhere in China very cheaply. You just asked for permission, picked up the phone and paid the store owner a few Mao 毛 at the end of the call.

The End of the Small Shop (Xiaomaibu 小卖部) Landline Telephone.

Over a period of just a few years, the Chinese started embracing smart phone technology to a degree that leaves many western countries lagging far behind, scenes like the one in the photo above have ceased to exist. The last time I visited I couldn’t find one single shop that had a landline phone outside, and with my mobile not working; I was quite desperate!

China Travel in Times of Coronavirus

China Travel in Times of Coronavirus. In these times of Coronavirus, travelling around China in the way we used to, has become virtually impossible. Although the situation in China is gradually improving, it’s still far from stable. At any moment, a new outbreak could take everything back to square one and put the country back into lockdown mode. It’s hard to say when we’ll be able to go back and resume our travels. However, that won’t stop us from continuing to post at!

Coming next: Datong: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Datong: the Good; Dragon Screen; Datong

Our next article will be a quick look at China’s coal town, Datong, a rapidly transforming city trying to give itself an image makeover; from soot city to tourist city with varying degrees of aesthetic success.

Datong: the bad, overrun Yungang Cave Grottoes
Datong: the Ugly; the destruction of the old historical old town

The best of Guangzhou: still to come

The great Dimsum Restaurants of Guangzhou

We still have loads of unpublished material, as well as updates and great photos to upload. Maybe this quarantine we are undergoing at the moment in Madrid will enable us to be more productive!

Coming Next / Now Posted

Wuyang River Scenic area near Zhenyuan

舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州:

Now posted

Wuyang River Scenic area near Zhenyuan 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州:

Coming next is the scenically located

Guizhou town of Zhenyuan镇远 Now Posted

Zhenyuan Guizhou Province

Here’s to virtual travels!

Still to come

Here are a few examples of what we still have to post.

Exquisite Figurines at the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall 陈家 Guangzhou广州
Lingnan Style Gardens Foshan Guangdong
Pingyao from the second of our three visits
Taiyuan Museum

Wanzhou Kaoyu Grilled Fish from Chongqing

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼 the Chongqing dish that is hot in Madrid’s Chinatown

Lotos Roots;  one of the usual condiments for  Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼
Lotos Roots; one of the usual condiments for Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

 Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼. A local specialty from Chongqing, China called Wanzhou Grilled Fish (Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼 ) is now all the rage in many restaurants in Madrid’s Chinatown neighbourhood of Usera.

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼
Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

What is Wanzhou Grilled Fish / Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

It is a grilled /roasted whole fish covered in a dry dressing of Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies and and served in a big pan filled with a soup like sauce that is not to dissimilar to the stock used in Sichuan hot pots 火锅 (huoguo).

The dish originates from Wanzhou (formerly WanXiang) in Chongqing municipality: It’s now popular all over Mainland China.

The original way of making this dish is to first grill a freshwater fish (Carp 鲤鱼 is popular) over charcoal and then cover it with various condiments that you order from the menu.

Some of these condiments might include lotus roots, potatoes, bamboo shoots, glass noodles, edible fungus, and beansprouts.

In Madrid the fish is usually Sea Bass (Lubina in Spanish)鲈鱼.

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼: Grilled Fish from Chongqing 重庆: Where to eat it

A great place to try Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼 is in the Sichuan restaurant:

川辣香都 The Sichuan Capital of Fragrance and Spice; Calle Gabino Jimeno 6: Usera, Madrid

This restaurant used to be the very popular Sabor Sichuan 川百味: It now has new owners but it till serves excellent and authentic Sichuan food.

The Nujiang Valley 怒江峡谷

Photo of the Week: The Nujiang Valley 怒江峡谷

This photo taken in 2010 of the breath-taking scenery along the Nujiang Valley 怒江峡谷,near Bingzhongluo  丙中洛 in south west Yunnan.

For more on our trip to The Nujiang Valley click the numbers: 1 2 3 4

International Women’s Day in China

During the One Child Policy (一胎政策) which finished in 2015, the Chinese government tried to persuade the population not to discriminate against having female children.  Unfortunately, the campaign was not successful and has resulted in there being far more males than females in China. Traditional families, especially in the countryside chose to have a male child over a female child.

This is a government propaganda sign in Rural China (Bakai, Rongjiang, Guizhou Province) reminding the local population that males and females are equal.

Boys and Girls are the same.

However, due the gender imbalance, the government is now asking women to lower their aspirations and be less picky when choosing a male partner for life.

There is still a lot of work to do.

Lijiashan Cave Dwellings 李家山 窑洞 (photo of the week)

Lijiashan Cave Dwellings 李家山 窑洞

(photo of the week)

Lijiashan 李家山

Amazing cave dwelling in Shanxi Province

Hidden away up an eroded valley a few kilometers from a remote stretch of the Yellow River is Lijiashan 李家山. It is one of Shanxi Province’s hidden gems.  A village almost exclusively made up of traditional cave dwellings 窑洞.  It’s a place to spend a few days disconnected from the modern world, read a good book on one of the sunny terraces of the local home-stays and sip a cold (or lukewarm) beer. All the home-stays are cave dwellings built into the side of the mountain.  If the sky is clear, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular starry nights (full article coming soon).

Route and Map 2016: Beijing to Xian

2016 Beijing To Xian


2016 Beijing To Xian: This summer we travelled with a friend who had never been to China before. So to give him a good introduction we made a route from Beijing to Xian passing through the province of Shanxi. Its a route that took in some magnificent Buddhist cave art, wonderful old towns and castles, the Great Wall and included some of the most beautiful temples in China. Finally finishing up with the Terracotta Army in Xian.

Old Castle town near Jincheng
Old Castle town near Jincheng