Dilly Dali-ing

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I arrived in Dali with Ori (an Israeli I'd met in Kunming) and Phil (an American we'd met at the bus station, though he had been a roommate) and as usual, the first step was finding a place to stay. After the usual place searching, complicated by balancing our three travel styles, we wound up at a hotel for 15 Yuan per night ($2) each. There was an intermediate bus change at the new Dali but now we were just outside the old city walls which proved a great location. We crossed into the Dali walls and wandered around the town, again compromising on our different dinner options. Traveling with people, it's as important that you like and get along with each other as that you have similar goals in your travels, not to mention similar budgets. We didn't but we made it work for the night. As we were eating on Peoples' Street, Aimee walked by and sat with us, and then we were joined by her Montreal friend, Eric. We had a regular coterie and soon we were sitting in a much more authentic local dive drinking papaya wine (or shine) and talking about all those boring topics like politics, music, and so on. The lack of westerners in China certainly makes it more easy to meet them, which is a funny irony about human nature.

The next morning, Ori, Phil, Eric, and myself were to hike up the mountains that back Dali and have a look around. Unfortunately, Ori's stomach was misbehaving and after a short while returned to town. And then there were three. The walk up was great exercise and more importantly, cheap, though there is a cable car up for 30 Yuan. We were literally giving off steam, though attempts to photograph it were unsuccessful. We also had to pay admission to the park which we managed to get for student prices because Eric and Phil were both students, so that was only 15 Yuan. Eventually, the endless stairs, well, they ended, and we were on the high path. This is when the hike got interesting. The views of the plains below were spectacular and we came across a little waterfall in Zhong Stream and made our way up it. We played around there and taking photos of a small gazebo near the waterfall for probably 45 minutes before continuing. A Chinese company passed us all wearing the exact same clothes - the very epitome of communism. The beautiful scenery, slightly marred by the city below with scores and scores (literally hundreds) of identical Chinese workers walking by was, to my mind, a snapshot of China.

Eventually, we came to our goal for the day, The Highlander Guesthouse. It seemed a charming place in a charming setting and we had some lunch and dessert in the wooden house. It was quite cool and started raining but our efforts to start the wood stove were thwarted by a lack of kindling (or perhaps technique). We met two Belgian girls who arrived just as the rain started and sat with them laughing at the rather raunchy antics of the three pets cavorting around us and had a drink with them, too. Eventually the rain subsided and Phil stayed on the mountain while Eric and I had to forego a very nice looking dinner to get back before dark - and hopefully before the cable car closed. Unfortunately we didn't make the cable car, but we did descend pretty quickly and were in town just as the sun set and the world turned red. Eric and I met up with Ori who still wasn't feeling great, had dinner, and called it an early evening after watching a bit of George Carlin. Dali was a nice old town and the mountains surrounding probably merited another look, but I was off for Lijiang the next day and would see a far more beautiful - and crowded - old town. See you there!

Dali Photos

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