Friday, September 04, 2015

Creature Comforts in Lijiang at The Bivou

Didn't need a mega five-star resort or that S$600-a-night boutique luxury. I'm still missing mountains and would gladly do a no-shower no-proper-flush-toilet stay anytime back there in the cool mist and green. Glad we chose the small cosy The Bivou (佖屋) for our stop in Lijiang. Housed within the old houses and fully refurbished, it offers an oasis away from the bustle of Shuhe (束河).

We took a tiny garden room that was really comfortable. Except maybe for that weird awkward misaligned sliding door/cabinet to the shower. Hot water, heaters, electricity (that does stop once in a bit, but less often than Zhongdian), plenty of sockets that didn't require adaptors for our three-pin plugs, etc. Well, it's run by Singaporeans, so there's a sort of efficiency that's comforting. Things do work, perhaps not according to one's expectations, but chugging along to what the town can do.

Delicious local-style mushroom soup.
There's a full shelf of books in the dining room that offers more insights by various writers into Lijiang and Yunnan's history. Very nice to sit down for an hour to read through what they have. It was inspiring enough for me to thumb through cookbooks on the region's cuisines, photography journals and notes on the Ancient Tea Horse Road (茶马古道).

The Bivou tries to reach out to travelers and tailors trails and treks that are slightly different from the rest of the operators offer. They work with the surrounding villages, and the guides seem to have been well briefed and trained. All my emails have been answered promptly, in English. With that hint of Singaporean phrasing. Hehehehe. Honestly, I find it a tad torturous to have to conduct every conversation in Mandarin. It isn't my thought-language.

Many nights, we retreat to the silence of Bivou for dinner instead of dealing with the crowds outside. Mainly we're tired after long treks. After a hot shower and all, it's 7pm and we're too lazy to head out again except to the hotel's dining room. Sprawling out there with a beer is great. Hehehe. The a-yis cook us delicious food and consciously use less on oil and salt because we requested for that. One evening, the stir-fried greens presented themselves as baby bokchoi (小白菜). Was so tickled because it felt so 'at home'.

The daily breakfast spread is small and lovely. With none of the cold-metal trays of big-chain hotel buffets, but all the warmth of bread baskets and little plates.

Granola, muesli, yoghurt, freshly squeezed orange juice, cold and hot milk, and loaves of homebaked bread. Mains are rotated daily. It could be Spanish omelette, scrambled eggs, sausages or even noodles. Love the coffee. Good strong thick black coffee from local beans. Mmmm.

Stomach space has shrunk even more on this trip. Shed the city fats and am seriously trim. As it is, I don't eat very much, and am not bothered about breakfast, especially not if it's a really early wake-up call. However, on days when we head out for a walk and not planning to get lunch till later, I nibble on the toast and honey. Just in case I really don't get another meal till like 4pm. On other days, I grudgingly do congee. Half a bowl would do nicely. The hotel puts out a pot of congee every day with simple condiments for the guests. Grinned at the tray of bottles and roasted peanuts. The condiments are very Cantonese. Preserved stuff. No nutrition but I like for the high salt content. Kekekeke.

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