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May 16, 2006 – A journey to Dali, China in Asia

Dali Removed

Set off to Dali the next morning. Dali used to be a country within a country, called the Nanzhao Kingdom. The Bai minority people ruled the four-walled city with four main gates before the Hans took over. From what I've read, much of the original town still stands and many portions have been renovated.

After a 5-hour minivan ride with a bunch of chain smokers and spitters, entered the small industrialized city of Xiaguan (also known as Dali City). Took the No. 4 bus around the left corner from the Xiaguan bus station entrance to get to Dali Old Town. The bus dropped us off at the south gate entrance. Rick and I started walking north on Fuxing Lu, the main slab and cobblestone road into town.

part of the south wall

While passing some big tourist groups, my first impression of Dali looked to be very old, very clean, very beautiful, and quite peaceful. The town is surrounded by the Jade Green Mountains (Cang Shan) on the left, Erhai Lake on the right, farmland, and countryside. It’s not so big and the town is mapped out in grid lines, so you can’t get lost. Quite a few Bai people still in traditional dress can be seen around town doing what they usually do in daily life.

a cobblestone street lined with old houses and shops looking toward the Jade Green Mountains (Cang Shan)

a Bai woman carrying baskets

tour groups led by a tour leader in minority dress, commonly seen on Fuxing Lu

a Bai grandmother and her grandson

Made a left onto the other main road, Remin Lu, that crosses Fuxing Lu west and east, and checked into the Tibetan Lodge. There are quite a few nice guesthouses all over town, but decided to just stay at the Tibetan Lodge because of the convenience and amenities. They’re pretty central to everything and have bikes for rent and free Internet access with many computers. Plus this is where we got our Tibet permits started, which we plan to pick up in Zhongdian in five days.

Tibetan Lodge, a convenient guesthouse

Planned to stay for only a night, but ended up staying three. The town is so quaint and peaceful, didn’t want to face another smokers/spitters ride too soon. Also heard that the next town en route, Lijiang, is similar to Dali in that it’s also a preserved old town, but bigger and filled with even more large tourist groups.

these waterways run all over town

a very old house

The weather in Dali is also much nicer than Kunming. Kunming turned out to be very cold and rainy. We were blessed with blue skies and warm spring sunshine for the days spent in Dali. Wasn’t bothered constantly by touts either (though one did follow us all the way on a bike ride from our guesthouse to Erhai Lake). Enjoyed walking around the town, from gate to gate and through the small narrow cobblestone side streets. Felt safe within the walls and removed from modern China. A breather.

on one of the days spent in Dali, took an afternoon trip to the small Bai village of Xizhou to see some well-preserved Bai architecture – the Bai people are also known for their batik textiles, which you see here being hung to dry

biking outside the city walls is quite enjoyable - you pass by serene farmland scenery

you can also bike to Erhai Lake and take a ferry across to visit markets and Jintao Island, where a Bai community lives (the Chinese are going to bulldoze the island for "future progress" soon though)

went to a little Bai-cuisine restaurant with no name quite a few times – they served the most freshest and delicious vegetable dishes ever (clockwise from top left: wild mushrooms, eggplant, spiced shredded potato, country squash)

tried the Bai 3 tea ceremony - starts off with a bitter tea, then sweet, then a ginger - each tea represents a certain phase in Life

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