Dali – A town nestled between tall mountains and Lake Erhai

Hello all! Colleen and I were without internet for 2 weeks, which is why you have not heard from me. We travelled all around Northeastern Yunnan (and even a bit of Sichuan). We went to Dali, Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Sangrila, Lugu Lake, and Le Jasuwae (a small Mosuo minority village).

I have decided I will dedicate a blog post to each place I visited (except Lijiang because we only spent 1/4 a day there).

So, to the title of this post!

Dali – A town nestled between tall mountains and Lake Erhai

Colleen and I started our adventure by overnight train from Kunming to Dali. For the people who haven’t traveled by Chinese train, well here’s some info for you. There are 4 types of tickets: soft sleepers (4 beds per room and the beds I have been told are very comfortable), hard sleepers (6 beds per room, each bed having less and less head space the higher you go up. The beds are hard, kinda like camping on a thin foam sheet), hard seats (wooden seats, no recline), and lastly standing only. We had the hard sleepers and we were at the highest bunk. It was a bit sketchy climbing up the ladder to our bunk at first, but if you’re sure-footed, you’re fine. A benefit of having the highest bed is that no one can reach you, we’re at least 6-7 feet up. So, our bags are much safer up there.

ImageColleen and I had a bit of fun up in our train canopy.

I love this shot. Just showing how high up we are and how 6 people can live in such a confined space.

Now back to my story. Colleen and I slept through the 10 hour train ride and woke up to the sound of Chinese traditional Erhu music on the intercom. This was the warning signal that we will be reaching our destination soon. I could see that we were definitely out of the city because the scenery outside the window was all farmland and rice terraces.

When we reached our stop, we hopped off our train and caught a bus that would take us to the ancient town of Dali. We entered Dali and putsed around looking for a good hostel to stay in. Then out of nowhere, we bumped into a friend of Colleens. Her name is Erin and she brought us to the hostel she was staying at. What a small world.

Colleen and I went off to explore Dali. Colleen had been here once before, so we went to other parts of the city that she had no seen yet. We explored the market and saw lots of cool things, like tapestries, bowls, paintings, fresh cooked goat cheese on a stick, purses, and other fineries. There were some talented workers out on the street as well.

Since people were still celebrating the new year, this man would make zodiac animals for children out of caramel syrup. In this picture he was making a snake for a little girl.

I’ll share some cool facts with you about this ancient city. Dali is the Bai minority capital of the Yunnan Province. The Bai people are proud people who wear white clothing. Dali is particularly renowned for it’s white marble (in Chinese, marble is named after Dali, “dali shi”). Even their architecture has lots of white incorporated in the design and marble, if the family is rich enough. My favorite part of their architecture is that each building has murals and paintings all around the edges. Kinda like this… 

The building on the left has a bit of the patterns, but in this area of the city lots of the buildings are very old, so the art has faded over time. Nonetheless, the city was full of this Bai architecture!

We met up with some buddies we made in Kunming and ate some lunch. I can’t get over how delicious the goat cheese is here. Yunnan province in known for it’s diverse cultures and foods, but goat cheese just seems to be everywhere. Yum!

Colleen and I found this public space with a large library and an outdoor courtyard full of mahjong and chinese chess tables. We spent some time there watching old men play. I hope to learn sometime soon. We were even invited to join in, which tempted us. But when they said we had to gamble, we chickened out.

The early evening of our day was the highlight of the whole Dali trip. We had found a Catholic church hidden away in an alley, while we were walking back to the hostel we heard loud drums, clangs of symbols, and singing. When we exited the alley, we found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of a New Years parade! There were 2 dragons, each with 30-40 people in them. There was one man who was in a dragon suit, dancing all around the parade. Then there were dancers and a large band. It was pretty epic. 

Here’s a link to the video I took of the parade!

The next morning Colleen and I bought tickets to Lijiang, so we could get to Tiger Leaping Gorge. The bus didn’t leave until the late afternoon, so we decided to go on a bike ride to Lake Erhai. It was a gorgeous day for a bike ride. I hadn’t ridden a bike since the Fall, so it felt nice to work my leg muscles again. We biked for at least 4 hours and raced back to the city to catch our bus. Here are some shots I took.

The lake

The mountains and nearby farmland.

We then caught our bus to go North to Lijiang.


One Comment on “Dali – A town nestled between tall mountains and Lake Erhai

  1. Pingback: Exploring Yunnan: Two Day Trip in Dali — Day #1 | Journey to the West

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