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The Famous Doctor Ho


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'Hello, I'm Doctor Ho,' said a little man wearing a white lab coat and blue watch cap. Any concerns about NOT finding the famous Dr Ho were allayed as he stands in the front courtyard of his house in Baisha Village holding a silver thermos of herbal tea and introducing himself in Oxford-English to every passer-by. Baisha Village is near Lijiang in China's Yunnan province. Doctor Ho is flanked by a couple of large boards covered in press clippings, letters and other documents that testify to this fame. Dr Ho is a herbal medicine doctor and dispenses his brew to anyone wishing to sit and listen to him. His tea (more of a herbal infusion than a tea) has reputed health giving effects which the doctor has documentation to back up. Dr Ho's fame began when travel writer Bruce Chatwin wrote about him in the Times. The article heralded the beginning of a steady stream of visitors over the years, including John Clease, who is quoted as saying, 'interesting bloke, crap tea.' I asked the doctor about Chatwin, one of my favourite writers. He showed me a copy of the article that started it all, along with a letter from Chatwin's wife following her husband's death. Just outside Merced in California is the most photographed barn in the world. So everyone stops and takes a photograph. 'Can I take your picture Dr Ho?' I asked. 'So wonderful,' he replied as he adopted a dignified pose with his thermos. Here was a man who understood viral marketing. I found him to be a charming and entertaining old codger who was probably a bit of an oddity even to his neighbours. Our tour leader's only comment was, 'I think he's a little bit dodgy.'

Published on 8/26/02

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