Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dr. Ho

Dr. Ho is one of the most popular and publicized characters in South West China. He lives in the traditional Naxi town of Bai-sha. From our home base in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, we decided to take a day trip to visit the famous Taoist physician in the hopes of receiving some natural remedies for EZ's knee ailments. Usually to get to Bai-sha the thing to do is depart by bike from Lijiang and cycle through the majestic country side. However, having just spent the last few days hiking through Tiger Leaping Gorge, we walked down to the Lijiang bus station and treated ourselves to a return trip car-hire (60 Yuan, $10).

Arriving in Bai-sha it didn't take long to find Dr. Ho's 'office'. The sign outside read, 'Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinic Lijiang'. This must be it!

We walked inside expecting a crowded house of packaged tour travellers but lucky for us the place was empty all but for the good doctor and his assistant (who may have been his wife, I'm not sure) sitting and waiting patiently for the next invalid. Seeing us enter, Dr. Ho sprung up from his seat quite spryly for an octogenarian and ordered his assistant to get us some tea. She poured and presented our drink with pleasure. Dr. Ho instructed us to sit down and asked us in plain english where we were from. "Canada", we replied. Instantly we were presented with a pile of literature praising and commenting on the life of Dr. Ho. All of the content was from Canadian media outlets. Under his gaze it appeared to be that we were not permitted to proceed to the next step of the experience until we had gone through each piece. For my next visit I hope he has not printed every blog article that has been written about him, as I'm certain there must be quite a few out there.

Next he sat down in front of us to share the story of his life, of which I am sure he has done so many times before. Throughout his impressive tale my mind wandered once or twice to think about the fact that here is a man who has had so many important people pass through his door and he is still willing to give the same experience to two travellers who held no video cameras or press credentials.

At the conclusion of the bio it was finally time for the appointment. EZ explained her knee problems and Dr. Ho approached her to make his assessment. He told her to stick out her tongue. Without questioning, she did and he inspected it. Then he told her to close her mouth. She did. He held her wrists with his thumbs pressed to the veins below her palms. "Hmmm, yes," he said. EZ and I leaned forward in anticipation of the prognosis after this odd assessment.

"You have poor circulation," he declared. He pounced up and beckoned us into the adjoining room. The second room was filled with buckets of herbs, leaves, powders and all sorts of natural remedies that he had gathered from around the region.

He muttered the prescription to his assistant and she set to work assembling what looked to be about 2 dozen ingredients into a plastic container. Meanwhile, using black paint Dr. Ho brushed his prescription onto the paper sack that would hold the concoction. He carefully poured the mixture into the sack and wrapped it up for us to take.

"Mix with hot water 3 times a day for one month."

"Okay. Thank you."

I reached into my wallet to pay the man. He shook his hand and said, "No money, no money, it's okay."

Like Yoda, he ambled out of this room and back into the makeshift media centre as other travellers had wandered in. He became preoccupied with the new faces and set out to begin the process all over again.

Fascinated, and standing with our natural remedy in hand, we slipped a small tip on the counter and left the doctor to his new patients. What an interesting and inspiring character. What a life.

A few months later...
We got home it and was later revealed that EZ had a partial tear of her MCL and a full tear of her ACL. Her circulation may have improved because of the natural 'tea' but Dr. Ho might benefit from an MRI machine.

In addition to, this posting is also featured as a part of the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Travel Carnival. Every two weeks one of Lonely Planet's favorite bloggers becomes the editor of a series of postings all centred around the same theme. This weeks editor is Camden at and the declared theme is "Encounters". Featured will be interesting portraits, unforgettable characters and downright strange people that Lonely Planets best bloggers have encountered on their travels. So visit on June 25 to read what the Blogsherpas came up with.

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