Dali is composed of two parts. The new city and the ancient city. Of course we head off to Dali Ancient City. No skyscrapers. Dali is a walled city with old Chinese style housing - family compounds with courtyards. It was a nice getaway from cityscapes for a little bit. When looking around it was pretty jarring to look up and your view wasn’t obstructed by tall buildings on any side. Sure, in Reno, we have the casinos downtown, but that is something different than the ubiquitous 8+ story buildings here. There isn’t really such a thing as suburbia in cities. Everybody lives in apartments and that is definitely a shift. For myself, I think it is kind of startling how easy it was to become used to the thought of building up rather than building out. I suppose that’s the only way that you can contain a country of 1.6 billion people.
But back to my trip, we are in Dali and find our way to our hostel where almost immediately we make a couple new international friends. That actually had to be one of the best parts of our holiday. Just talking to people and the reason for their travels. For a lot of them, it was just a whim. It still kind of blows my mind to think that it is possible to just up and leave everything that you’ve known to travel for several months. Just for the sake of seeing more of the world. It takes a certain amount of craziness and a lot of bravery to do that. We adopted a British girl into our adventures in Dali for 3 days and she turned out to be one of the most interesting and generous people I have ever met. At least for that 3 day period. But we do have an open invitation to visit her home in England if we are ever in her neck of the woods. I just might take her up on it one day.
|Making new friends.|
The funny thing about Dali is that the morning we arrive, the ancient city is almost completely dead. There are hardly any people around. However, as the day progresses, it is just a madhouse of humanity. It was this way every day. Dali is one of those cities where tourism booms and very rarely do locals outnumber the tourists in the city. At first, I wasn’t a fan at all. But after actually giving it a chance, I grew to love the busy, enterprising, touristy Dali. It definitely had its own flavor. Dali is very much a hippy town with hippy tendencies and lots of foreigners. It was a lot of fun.
Venturing outside of Dali was really neat as well. Just like any other place, China has many facets that continue to awe me. Ethnic villages, mountains, lakes, temples. Short summaries for each place.
Erhai Lake – Got on a boat with the best Bai (local ethnicity) villager who good-naturally rowed us around, sang to us, tried to get us to understand his Mandarin. He was really cool.
Ethnic village, Xizhou – Harassed by a rickshaw driver who wanted us first go to Erhai Lake where we had already gone, then a Bai teahouse where the prices were a little too much for us. Got out of that by saying we would be back but actually didn’t. That might come back and bite us on the butt. But lots of souvenir shopping was done that day!
Three Pagodas Temple – So much more than just Three Pagodas. It was temple after temple after temple. You would exit out of one and see that there was another, thinking it was the last. We never got to the last one. As cool as it was, there was just so much more to see in Dali.
Cangshan Mountain – Some of the best natural scenery we’ve seen in China. Went up the wrong path and got a work out. Went on the right path and found that there was a landslide preventing us from completing the entire trek. A little bit of a bummer. But nice nonetheless.
|Had to fight our way past the plants.|
Since there were so many travelers (remember – Chinese National Holiday) we didn’t get a chance to do everything on our itinerary since transportation was iffy. But one day, I would like to go back. I feel like there is much left to do in Yunnan. But then again, there is a lot of China left to explore. I’ll remember, and hopefully, coming back to Yunnan will be in the cards later.
From Dali, it was back to Kunming to catch a plane back to Chengdu. We rode a sleeper bus one more time and that experience was really different. The beds were not clearly numbered so that was difficult to work through. The bus driver was chain smoking the entire time. And they told us to get out at two o’ clock in the morning. Which we have no choice but to get off. Groggy, a little bit grumpy, feeling a little bit grimy - we make our way to the airport and sit there for hours until check-in opens. Sent to several different lines. Through ridiculous Chinese security. And this is when I start to get homesick, where at least if I am inconvenienced, I can understand what the object of my frustration is saying. Honeymoon phase is over.
Still a little homesick and looking forward to the day when I am back on U.S. soil. But happy, nonetheless, and looking forward to the many adventures I still have before me. =)
Of course, I will keep you updated.