Huanghe Family Guesthouse, Lijiashan

What makes you happier: staying at a five-star hotel in a metropolitan city or lodging in a budget cave-house hostel in the rural area? My answer is the latter.

During my recent trip in China, I discovered the Huanghe Family Guesthouse, a delightful gem located in the picturesque village called Lijiashan at the far east edge of China’s Loses Plateau.  Several years ago, a famous painter happened to be here and depicted the outstanding beauty of local cave courtyard houses nestling harmoniously within the surrounding terraced fields. Since then, Lijiashan has become a popular spot for art students to practise outdoor sketching, but has remained unknown to ordinary tourists.

Perching on the sheer top hill of Lijiashan, the Huanghe Family Guesthouse has been run in the traditional way by friendly cave-dwellers. The house is two hundred years old, and was carved out of the hillside in two levels. The lower level has a courtyard. I stayed in a room with elegant old wooden doors and windows on the upper level facing south-east. When home-made breakfast and dinner were served on the terrace in front of my room, the sun and moon were rising from opposite hills. The enchanting light created a sublime connection between nature, land, house, food and me.

Obviously, there is no in-room toilet in this remote countryside . It may scare many comfort-lovers. However I don’t consider it to be a drawback as this guesthouse has two special clean toilets outside the house.  Why are they special? Because they don’t have any roof at all. From inside, you can gaze at the sky, stars, trees and smell the breeze moving in the air.

Luxury hotels provide comfort, whereas the Huanghe Family Guesthouse reminds us of the harmonious life that has existed for hundreds of years, as well as some basic elements of sustainable happiness offered by nature, land and our past.

Written in Dec, 2015.

Moon-watching from the Guesthouse:

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