Sleeper Train (and Two Buses and a Taxi) to Shaxi

Kelsey Breseman
2 min readApr 6, 2020

The number eight bus from Jianshui to the train station is full of mosquitos. Fortunately, the taxi driver standing outside of it really wants our business. Ert haggles the man down to two kuai per person, the same as bus fare, so we make it to the train station unbitten.

Tonight’s accommodation is a sleeper train. The bunks are thin and tightly packed, but definitely serviceable. There are six bunks to a cubby, in tall stacks of three. My bunk is at the top; I clamber up using the other bunks, since my ladder has been covered with a cloth by a roommate.

This story is the continuation of a series that begins here.

There’s not enough room to sit up on the top bunk, so I climb down to sit on Rick and Eileen’s bottom bunks. We fill instant noodle cups with boiling water from a spigot at the end of the train car. We play a few hands of дерак on the table, then go to bed.

Waking several hours later in Dali, we take two buses and a taxi to reach our destination: the town of Shaxi.

Shaxi claims it is the only surviving market town along the Southern Silk Road. Our arrival is timed to coincide with the weekly market day, so we wander the street full of stalls.

At the market, You can buy everything from live fish to machetes under the red umbrellas. The market street extends into the distance. Peddlers give us samples of licorice root and pomelo. Naxi women with full skirts in red and black carry baskets on their backs– some shopping, some peddling.

Shaxi is an unusual combination of tourist-friendly and authentic. There are signs in English, and a few other foreigners, but most shops are catered to locals, and it is locals shopping at market.

Most of the English-language signs are for guesthouses — little inns in old buildings, where breakfast and tea are often brought out by the singular owner. They are beautiful, comfortable accommodations, at a price of around $7 American per person per night.

Our guesthouse, Peas in the Spring, is one of the least well signed. Consequently, we have it all to ourselves. The rooms are beautiful, with window benches that overlook the courtyard.

The courtyard has a porch swing and a clothesline. We will be here for two whole nights, so I wash my clothes in the shower and hang them to dry.

In the evening, we drink the very weak local beer in the guesthouse’s loft, play with the guitars hanging there, and plan the next day’s hikes.

< Previous: Biking in Jianshui | Next: The Tea-Horse Trail and Basketball on the Corn-Drying Court >

Photograph by Eileen Breseman