From Xianggelila (Shangri-la) in Yunnan, a colleague and I quickly headed onto the road towards Lhasa, on the search for a special kind of chilli…

You can read all about this discovery of a perennially-growing golden chilli in/from Tibet over on ChiliCult, but I also wanted to give some more impressions of that area.

The area in question is around Nixi, which is no longer being visited by many tourists. Xianggelila already had fewer visitors than I would have expected (and than Lijiang had), but Nixi would be much harder to reach, as well.

I only made it there – and only as a day trip – because the research into the chilli had me travelling with a Chinese colleague, in a car we had rented for that very purpose.


First of all, actually, we went in search of a place called Xinyangcun.

I had – how is that for modern times? – heard about it in a TV documentary as the place where that chilli was growing…

We did not have to search much for The village; our GPS navigation app led us there without too many issues.

Only, we didn’t exactly trust that the road it had us turn onto was really the road in question; it went from a pretty major highway (and that a very mountain-kind of road, meandering and one-lane, rock face right, valley floor far below on the left, already) onto a single-lane road snaking up the mountain.

That view, though…

Along the Road to Lhasa

Down, back on the highway, following its course far above the Jinsha River, we found a viewing platform we just had to stop at…

Eventually, we also found one place where the chilli I had been searching for was indeed growing. And it was a fascinating landscape!

Kaizhongshui, Where Golden Chilli Grows

What I refrained from mentioning in my post and video talking just about this discovery: It was not only stunning to scramble around this little settlement called Kaizhongshui.

The few people we encountered also were nice – and my Chinese colleague had just about as many issues communicating as I had; they almost only spoke Tibetan.

But, among the plants growing there was also quite a bit of a mugwort… which was in full bloom.

Just the kind of mugwort which I am quite allergic to. That part, I could have done without; I was sneezing and sniffling and increasingly getting in trouble with my eyes.

That, too, can be a part of going into the world for microexploration…

The area was fantastic to see, anyways – and there’s one more thing:

Tough Life – Long History of Settlement

Far away from anything and hard to eke out a living as it is, the region does not exactly seem like anywhere that people should have been living for long. Nixi, however, is where some of the oldest pottery tradition in China can be found.

Nixi Tibetan black pottery is still being made – or rather, has been revitalized in recent decades and declared a national cultural heritage. Its tradition goes back at least 1200 years.

Out of this world – and A WeChat Away

Now, you only need to travel here on the highway to come past shops selling such wares – and while you do, imagine living here, now or more than a thousand years ago, making pots and growing crops and vegetables (and probably, herding some yaks) for your subsistence.

The environments that humans can live in!

And how strange it is, nowadays.

On the one hand, such an interesting kind of produce as this golden chilli is basically non-existent in any public record.

Even on the seemingly almighty world wide web, there is nary a trace of it.

On the other hand, people have started to try and market it – and they can be reached by smartphone messenger app Wechat, are just a message away!