China Elevator Stories

9000 Kuai For A Mule

I climb Yunnan province’s Tiger Leaping Gorge and chat with a local.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


9000 Kuai For A Mule - Ruth Silbermayr

I have climbed 18 of the 28 bends at Tiger Leaping Gorge when a Chinese guy in his 40s crosses my path with a horse. While he walks by, he looks at me and says with a friendly smile: “You’re beautiful.”

9000 Kuai For A Mule - Ruth Silbermayr

I’m out of breath and he comes to a halt, asking:
“Would you like to ride the horse up the mountain? It’s another 10 bends.”
I ask him: “How much does it cost?”
He says: “30 Kuai.”
Since price haggling is common in China, I reply: “I can pay 20.”
“30 is the minimum. It’s quite exhausting for us to walk up the mountain.”

9000 Kuai For A Mule - Ruth Silbermayr

Seeing that he has a point and that his offer is much cheaper than that of the other people who have crossed our path with their horse, I agree. I get on the horse and he leads the way up the mountain.

I ask him: “Is this a horse?”
“Actually, this is a mule. A mule is the child of a horse and a donkey, it cannot reproduce itself.”
“Where do you get the mules from?”
“They sell them in many places in this area.”
“How much does a mule cost?”
“Three years ago, it cost 6000 Kuai. Nowadays, you’d pay 9000 for a mule.”
“That’s quite an increase. What do people here do for a living?”
“We all work in tourism.”

9000 Kuai For A Mule - Ruth Silbermayr

“Do the kids here go to school?”
“They do. We have a primary school near a guesthouse on the mountain. Once they graduate from primary school, they go to secondary school in Shangri-la.”

Shangri-la is 2-3 hours by bus from Qiaotou – the village that forms the starting point for the hike up the mountain. It’s probably another hour or so by car to get from the village on the mountain to Qiaotou.

mountains Yunnan province - Ruth Silbermayr

When we reach the upmost of the 28 bends, I get off the mule and hand the man 30 Kuai.

We wait for a couple, a German and a French, whom I met on the bus and who aren’t too far behind us. When they arrive, the man with the mule looks at all three of us and repeats: “You’re all really beautiful. No really, I mean it.”

With a smile he says goodbye and starts his descent, walking back to his little home village that is situated on a mountain range featuring one of China’s most breathtaking scenery.

Have you climbed Tiger Leaping Gorge?

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