From Moxi I continued south to Shimian, getting nicely ripped off by the taxi driver in the process. On arrival in Shimian I checked into the bus station hotel. These usually have decent reasonably priced rooms. As I was taking a shower I heard some frantic knocking on the door, before they let themselves in. I stood naked behind the door as the two girls blurted stuff out simultaneously and as I was unable to follow any of it, I asked them to wait until I finished my shower. It turned out the hotel wasn't licensed to accept foreigners and I would have to leave. Great! The woman in charge was rather impolite about the whole thing too.
The town was a bit of a non event so I killed time in a net cafe before I could get a bus out to Xichang the next day. Getting out of town would take all day. My bus was cancelled for some reason which I couldn't quite get so I thought I'd try for halfway, a town called Mianning. We set off at 11 o'clock only to be sent back and told to reassemble at 4:30. An hour later something was afoot but I couldn't make sense of what they were telling me. Again two or three people all talking at once, so I gave up and exchanged my ticket for a bus in the opposite direction to the nearest train station, where I got onto a late night train to Xichang. I was quite pleased to get out of that broken town.
Xichang: Satellite City
Xichang is near a Chinese satellite launching station which has recently been opened up for tourism. I was keen to see the station but it wasn't to be. I was however sent on a wild goose chase in my attempts to get onto a tour of the site.
It's a culturally diverse city and is the centre of the Yi people who comprise, the largest ethnic group (43%). Traditional Yi society was a caste sytem with an aristocracy, a nobility, free people and two classes of slaves. The lowest caste consisted of slave's children and captured people of other tribes, particularly Han Chinese. Slavery basically ended when the communists arrived though I got the impression that the Chinese were still a little afraid of the Yi. They also had their own distinctive script which is used alongside Chinese in the city of Xichang. A visit to the Yi Nationality Slavery Museum gave me a fascinating insight into this complex society.
Right: An example of the Yi script along side Chinese (left)
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