An unforgettable Yunnan gourmet tour from the Deb's lens


Deb den Herder's picture

Deb den Herder had a unique request for the WindhorseTour team, that we were very happy to fulfill. She wanted to travel through Yunnan to further enrich her already proven cooking skills. 

With the support of Murphy Feng one of our Travel Advisors we help create the following travel plan.

  • Day 01 - Visit Weishan Old Town and local food exploration + local family visiting.
  • Day 02 - Travel from Weishan - Dali - Xizhou - Shaxi
  • Day 03 - Visit the Shaxi Market and Shibaoshan
  • Day 04 - Shaxi half-day free & food exploration - drive to Lijiang Dayan Old Town
  • Day 05 - Lijiang sightseeing, visit Black Dragon Pool, Dongba Museum, Shuhe Old Town / Local Naxi family visiting and cooking experience
  • Day 06 - Shuhe Old Town - Baisha Old Town / Naxi cuisine cooking class and local food exploration
  • Day 07 - Baisha Old Town - Departure from Lijiang Airport

About Chef Deb:

Mount Huashan Swordsmen
Deb and her husband are from Scotland and are currently living in Chengdu. She has spent time in many several cities in China, and has also lived in Beijing. Having had a successful career in accounting she recreated herself in a passion for food.

Deb is a trained chef in both Italian and French food. Currently she is writing a book that will showcase different cooking methods and techniques that are found throughout China.  

Photography and travel truly is one of her greatest passions. Please enjoy her photos and story of traveling with WindhorseTour during October and November of 2013. 

You can also read Deb's own words in her tour feedback form.

We thought it would be helpful to give some detailed feedback as this was the first holiday of this type you had organised. Overall we had an excellent time and thoroughly appreciated the efforts made to accommodate our needs. 

What follows are some detailed points - absolutely not complaints, just honest feedback which you can use, or not, as you wish. 

Yunnan Baizu lady in Shaping market carrying food materials

A Baizu woman carrying food materials at the Shaping market.

General Comments

The organisation of the holiday was excellent. Pickups were prompt, the drivers were excellent and safe, and the hotels which had been booked were good. In a couple (Shaxi and Lijiang), the rooms were tiny (too small to open our suitcases) and we opted instead to pay more to have a room each. 

Yunnan Linden Center

Linden Center in Xizhou Town, Yunnan Province.

In Baisha we were upgraded free of charge to a bigger room. In general our guides were flexible and happy to accommodate suggestions and changes to the programme. 

Excellent Guide - Pleasant Surprise Weishan And Shaxi

Yunnan Xizhou street

A view of s small stree in Xizhou.

We began our holiday at the Linden Centre which we organised ourselves and this was an excellent start. Like Windhorse, organising a food oriented holiday was relatively new for them but they arranged visits to local ‘factories’, actually individuals or families, making cheese and noodles / erkuai, which was very interesting. 

Local Food Factory Linden Center - Dali - Yunnan

Local family "Factory" in Linden Center, making rice noodles.

The cooking lessons we had at the Linden Centre from the chef and his assistant were the best of the holiday. Denis Du took over and guided our trips to Weishan and Shaxi. He was excellent: he immediately understood our focus, and was excellent at showing off his culture (Bai) - particularly the food culture - of which he is justifiably proud. 

View from the Linden Centre roof terrace

View from the Linden Centre roof terrace.

He was a fount of knowledge about the food and how particular dishes / cakes etc are made, and we would happily engage him any time in the future. We will remember a fantastic afternoon in Weishan in the snack street for some time to come. He was able to recommend restaurants (Weishan) to which we returned in the evening and enjoyed excellent food. 

Sugar Stall in Shaping Market - Yunnan

Sugar Stall in Shaping Market in Dali, China.

And Weishan itself was a huge surprise - we absolutely loved it: no foreign tourists, local people going about their business, and an enchanting place with particularly friendly people. We highly recommend spending some time there - and we plan to return with partners!

 Yunan Shaxi Old Theatre Inn

Old Theatre Inn in Shaxi.

We loved the Old Theatre Inn in Shaxi – the staff were excellent and it was very special to sit on the terrace below the hotel and enjoy an afternoon / evening drink overlooking the golden stubble of the fields below and the mountains beyond.

The rooms were lovely, the hotel atmospheric and the impromptu cooking lesson excellent. Highly recommended. The Shaxi market was another excellent experience. 

Feedback on Beaten Route Lijiang - Shuhe And Baisha

Post-market snooze near Xizhou - Yunnan

Post-market snooze near Xizhou.

As you know we had a disappointing first night in Lijiang: the guides had changed and the initial guide (Joe) did not have good English and really didn’t seem to understand our main interest. He recommended as restaurant which was OK, definitely not wow, and very much geared to tourists. 

In addition (and you warned us of this) the town was very crowded and too touristy for us. The hotel was particularly noisy - the noise beyond the hotel is not something they can control, but the noise within was problematic quite late at night. However, the staff again were excellent and friendly. 

Lijiang Black Dragon Pool - Yunnan

Lijiang Black Dragon Pool.

On the following day the guides changed and we had Sophie / Phyllis (she has two names apparently), who was perfectly competent, but not in the same league as Dennis. Again, neither she, nor Joe appeared to have been briefed properly on our interest in food and cooking. 

Two Yunnan Baizu Ladies

Two Yunnan Baizu Ladies

We wasted a lot of time walking a very circuitous route to a market which was in fact quite close to our hotel (we had been there the evening before), but that said, it was probably the best market of the holiday.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain - Lijiang - Yunnan

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang

However our experience with Dennis was one in which he walked with us telling us about local specialties and engaging with the stall-holders, actively showing us things which were local or special, and this wasn’t the case in Zhongyi market – Sophie walked ahead and didn’t seem very interested. 

I completely understand however that most tourists would just want to see the market and take a few snaps, and this is what most guides are used to, so we were different. But that and the constant phone interruptions were a little irritating.

Lijiang market tree frog skin

 Tree frog skin from Lijiang market

Shuhe was also fairly touristy – Lijiang on a small scale, although our hotel was lovely and the room was the most comfortable we had in the whole holiday. 

Sophie wasn’t able to recommend local restaurants, but the hotel made two suggestions and we enjoyed one of the best meals of the holiday in Shuhe. (1 Restaurant).

Yunnan Shaxi mountain hike

Yunnan Shaxi mountain hike

However, the lunch Sophie organised with a local Naxi family, whom she knew, was a very memorable experience - one of the best we had, and we loved this too, so were grateful for her input. 

The Baisha stay was also a mixed bag: the hotel staff were very friendly and accommodating and we enjoyed a shared meal with them in the evening, which we had watched being prepared. However, it was supposed to be a Naxi meal and a Naxi cooking lesson.

Lady From Dali Shaxi Market - Yunnan

Lady From Dali Shaxi Market

Instead, the chef, who is from Chongqing, prepared several Sichuan dishes – which were very good, but not the promised Naxi food. 

To summarise, overall, the holiday was excellent, and the quality of the experience at the Linden Centre and with Denis Du were outstanding. The experience around Lijiang and the two nearby villages was not in the same league, but even then we had some very memorable experiences which contributed to a great holiday.

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