My previous stays in China have always been either in really large metropolitans like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong; or in smaller towns such as Guilin and Xian. Although, I had enjoyed them all; I was not able to experience any of the diverse ethnic cultures that form the great big China. That is why I was so excited to find the Linden Centre.

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The Linden Centre is located in the village of Xizhou(Xi Zhou) in Yunnan, about an hour drive from Dali airport or 3.5 hours drive from Lijiang. It is founded and managed by The Linden family; an American couple. The philosophy of the Centre is to provide the guests with an insight into the lives of local Bai minority and to let them experience a true cultural immersion. The Linden Centre is a guest house- a home away from home where one can truly gain an understanding of the local culture. There are about twenty some rooms housed in a previous home of a rich merchant. Sadly, he was able to enjoy his newly built mansion for only a night before the communist regime forced him out. This lovely property is immediately surrounded by open farmlands and rice field and further in the distance by picturesque mountains. It is a historic site and as such, there are certain government imposed restrictions that may cause a few minor inconveniences. There are no AC or heaters in room (space heaters are provided). Also, the hot water is turned on for a few hours in the morning and at night. Other times may easily be arrange with the staff.  You will not find a television set in your room- hallelujah to that! Guests are encouraged to mingle with other guests, the attentive and friendly staff and of course, with the locals. This is not the place to seclude yourself from human contact.
The rooms are spread throughout the second and third courtyards.

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The first courtyard houses the reception, a cozy bar, the restaurant which offers local dishes, a game room (equipped with table tennis and a billiard table), the library, media/movie room, conference room and the gift shop.

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    The First Courtyard- Guests and staff are having fun on yards of beautiful and old hand embroidered silk fabrics offered by a traveling sales lady.

The last courtyard is compact and has a pretty garden and a roof top terrace. this is a fabulous spot. For lunch or an afternoon tea.

video: views from the roof top terrace

We took good use of the complimentary bicycles to explore a bit of the countryside and the nearby lake.

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And we stumbled upon a couple of fisher women and saw how itty-bitty fish are fished to be turned into snacks.

Video: Fisher Women

Another wonderful thing to do on your own is to take the easy ten minutes walk to the village of Xizhou. Enjoyable on its own, take this walk in the morning to catch the colorful local market. It is a feast for the eyes.

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We were told that in the late Summer or early Fall, guests may also take tours of rice fields and even participate in harvesting rice. Since the weather is generally mild around the region, farmers can have two harvests each year. They grow rice from Spring to Fall and then plant vegetables such as broad beans, mustard seeds, etc.

Other activities include antiquing, tie-dyeing and trips to nearby villages or towns like Dali. We did the latter. Although, the half day affair was O.K.; we found Dali to be too crowded with locals and tourists -especially backpackers and younger Western tourists. The streets are lined with gift shops and cafes serving all sorts of cuisine. I preferred Lijiang’s charm over Dali’s chaos. But again, maybe we just visited Dali at one of its most crowded times. There is also a scenic cable car ride which is best for those looking to do a bit of hiking. This is where I experienced a true communal bathroom. One just enters, squats down in a straight line -one directly behind each other- on each side of what seems more like a narrow and shallow stream, does one’s business and leaves. No doors, no flushing(instead, once in a while a surge of water runs through the little canal). I found this system to be very environmentally friendly and space efficient.

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You can choose your own ingredients and have them cooked into a meal, on the spot.

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Some of the best evening activities at the Linden Centre are playing a game of table tennis or billiard, do a bit of star gazing for the stars truly shine in the sky, take a short evening walk, mingle with the staff and guests at the bar, enjoy the library or watch a movie. Our favorite was to learn the Mahjong and play it with our patient teacher, Juan.

our wonderful Mahjong instructor, Jung

And as a bonus, we got to meet the adorable Linden Family’s new puppy named Lao Lei.

video: Lao Lei

The Linden Centre is also a great place for the families. Kids would love the freedom of roaming around the open fields and mostly car free environment. Room rates including breakfast are under $200. The breakfast includes eggs, pastries, bread, jams, fruits and the best cup of coffee you may find anywhere in China. A two course lunch or dinner for two would be around $15-20.

If you truly want to experience a bit of Chinese culture while having a relaxing and peaceful time in rural China; do give the Linden Centre a try.

© 2012, livingamused. All rights reserved.

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