shangrila eats

Teacher Liu’s Lodging WHERE THE BELL DOESN’T TOLL The long drive to Cizhong, a day’s drive from Zhongdian along the Lancang River (aka the Mekong River), is well worth the trouble just to visit the stunning Cizhong Catholic church. What’s amazing is that the faithful here are primarily early Tibetan converts to Catholicism, thanks to the efforts of French missionary priests who somehow stumbled across this out-of-the-way village and settled down here more than a century ago. The wonderful old building sits in a valley against a mountain backdrop and the interior is filled with minority symbols of the Tibetans and Naxi minority.

The Liu family, of Naxi descent, provides travelers lodging and food at their two-storey house with a lovely roof terrace overlooking the Catholic church, nearby mountains and grape vineyards, and the running Mekong River. Mrs. Liu made delicious dishes for us as we sat on the terrace. Especially good was her free-range chicken soup seasoned with herbs. The chillies-and-mint dipping sauce was memorable, as was the stir-fried green pepper and pork, sautéed potatoes, tomatoes and scrambled eggs.  The baba, leavened bread baked in the pot, was as good as oven-baked bread, if not better. The dishes were all scrumptious home-style cooking.  Down your meal with Mr. Liu’s homemade red wine, made with local grown grape varietal that was brought by the French missionaries when they came here to build the church in 1905.
The original brass bell that summoned Catholics to mass was sold for quick cash during the Cultural Revolution. The poor replacement, which came here all the way from Shanxi, and which hangs in the upper part of the tower, does not have a pleasant sound, and so the church bell sadly no longer rings through the valley on Sunday mornings.
Visitors who make the long trek to Cizhong will be able to stay in a more luxurious venue when Songtsam Cizhong opens next year. Cizhong Village, Yanmen, Deqin  Tel 0887-8289 774; Mobile 139  8872  1028 刘老师住宿 德钦县燕门乡茨中村
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