Sunday, May 10, 2009

Songpan Horse Trek part 11 Emma's Kitchen

Emma (Li Guirong) at her café, May 2008 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

A large part of any successful travel experience is meeting and connecting with interesting people along the trail, fellow travellers of course but most important in my opinion are the local people that actually live in the places you visit. They are not just props that colour your travel experience more vividly but people with real lives that if you can communicate in a mutual language (or are clever with body language and show them genuine empathy) often make your experience one of great warmth and depth. 

As you can see from the posting below we really had a great time with our horsemen but let me tell you a little about a person that most people probably remember best from a visit to Songpan: Emma of Emma's Kitchen. I have to admit that I actually knew Emma before this visit to Songpan (she is the sister/sister-in-law to friends in Chengdu) but she is such a special person that I want to give her a "promotional plug" all on her own. Emma was born in Songpan and has lived there her entire life. She is one-quarter Tibetan/three-quarter Han Chinese (her Chinese name is Li Guirong), speaks fantastic English, knows every single person in Songpan and the surrounding valleys and has since the early 2000's welcomed foreigners into her café with one of the warmest smiles in China. She has energy and gusto like few others and during peak season works 20 hours out of a 24 day. She barely stands "five feet off the ground" but is a powerhouse of organisation and positive energy. Her entire family is like this: her little brother David helps out in the kitchen with her, her mother is often seen behind the counter, there is another sister somewhere and her brother Mike Li used to run one of the horse trekking companies in Songpan (before Emma opened her café she worked in the horse trek company). 

During last year's earthquake Emma generously took care of all the foreigners stranded in Songpan and she will gladly help you in any way she can. She has very interesting ideas on how tourism can expand and benefit the Songpan area and helped very importantly when I put this family horse trek together. If she has the time she will gladly tell many interesting things about life in this very unique part of China. 

Emma's Kitchen (Xiao Ouzhou Xicanting/trans. Little Europe Western Café) is the only really authentic backpacker's café in Songpan and she serves both Western and Chinese food. She also gives all sorts of advice and travel information for free. You can contact her via her email and she will gladly help you: The café is located in the northern end of town (Shunjiang Beilu), next to the horse trekking office (Ma Dui) and the horse trekking motel (Shunjiang Nianqing Kezhan). Give her a hug from me when you meet her in Songpan!


  1. Another palce I really would like to visit - China a never ending story ;-)

  2. Scott Flinders ( 29, 2009 at 9:02 PM

    As one of the foreigners stranded in Songpan following the Sichuan earthquake last May, I can't agree with you more about Emma and her family. They were so amazing and helpful, and genuinely concerned about the welfare of 12 foreigners even as they worried about the welfare and safety of family members close to the epicenter. Emma herself is nothing short of amazing. She really took care of us: providing food, information and free Internet, helping arrange transportation to the airport and acquiring the necessary, limited fuel vouchers to get us there through the local Party leadership, and just talking with us and smiling in that way that only Emma can. I'm glad to see that she's still getting business despite the earthquake's impact. If anyone deserves success, it's Emma and her family!

  3. Thanks for the tips on Songpan and Emma's Kitchen. Will be doing a trip to Chengdu in May 2010. Do you have any recommended place to stay Songpan? Guess I can travel from here to JiuZaigo. I have 9 days in Chengdu thus gonna maximise my stay to explore this amazing part of China. I'm excited!!

  4. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

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  5. It's very rooted the traditions and culture of local people, you feel you can identify each other and talk in the same language that's what I like about that. I realized about Viagra Online by a friend of mine who lives in my town.

  6. Hello Felice and Peter, thanks for commenting! Blogspot is blocked in China so I have been remiss about updating for over a year, sorry! I can now get online and will try to start posting things again. ss said: like I posted there is a good hotel right behind Emmaäs that is clean and affordable. She will also be able to tell you about other places nearby that might be cheaper. There are also good homestays around Jiuzhaigou, try to Google "Drolma's Homestay". Fantastic place to stay in mountain village outside of JZG.