The next stop in my Tour de Yunnan was the ancient city of 大理 (Dali). After the 3 1/2 hour bus ride from Lijiang, we arrived where people were waiting to escort you to their hotel. We were a little wary, but after being quoted just 30元 per night, how could we say no? The hotel was, like most Dali buildings, in the style of the Bai people. As I have been learning, Yunnan is famous for housing over 26 different Chinese minorities. The Bai style of architecture is similar to the Naxi, with the open courtyard in the center of the building, but the outside is generally painted white with ornate paintings in different quadrants. The first night, we relaxed by strolling through the ancient town, eating the local cheese, drinking fresh juice and admiring the ethnic diversity. I found Dali very pretty as it is surrounded by the misty 苍山 (Cangshan) mountains and 洱海 (Erhai lake). Dali was very welcome to foreigners, (as they most likely provide a large percentage of the economy) they even made a street named 洋人街 （foreigner street). Consequently, I had to take a picture under the gateway. Upon a quick walk down the street, I was surprised to see very few foreigners and actually more Chinese tourists. I guess they were happy to see me, an ACTUAL foreigner!
The next day in Dali, we had prepared a driver to take us around to the quality destinations. We began the day with a delicious meal of a local noodle dish called 饵丝 (ersi). The driver also acted as our tour guide; as he drove he pointed out different spots explaining the historical relevance. Our first stop after bypassing some tourist traps was a chair lift to some caves in the Cangshan Mountains. The caves were somewhat interesting as Chinese always enjoy naming rock formations after things in their culture. Although, the rainbow colored lighting inside was a little cheesey. After climbing endless stairs, we reached the top of the mountain and exited the cave to a really nice view of the Erhai lake. We enjoyed some local tea, a temple and adjoining gardens after we came down the mountain.
Dali is also famous for their tie-dyed fabrics. Our guide knew a place where they produce these textiles, so we decided to take a look. The place ended up being kind of a sham. It was just this run-down place where they took us upstairs and tried to sell us completely over-priced garmets. I knew they were too expensive because I saw the exact same ones in downtown Dali the night before. Can't win 'em all I guess. We took a rest at Erhai lake ate some local bread then headed to the famous Tang Dynasty Three Pagodas. Because the tickets to get in the pagodas were rather expensive, we opted to take a few pictures outside...for free! Because I needed to do some bank business, we headed cut the tour early and headed back to the hotel.
That night as we were looking for the Ersi restaurant, we heard some nice traditional Chinese music. We weren't sure where it was coming for, so we followed our ears to a building under construction. Check out the video as I documented this pretty cool moment. It turned out that these musicians were Dali natives celebrating the completion of part of the house before the Chinese New Year. The house itself belonged to a teacher at my school! Karen of course knew everyone there and we were both welcomed and invited to dinner on the coincidental encounter. After a night of good food and too much baijiu we retreated to our hotel to rest for the 5 hour bus ride to Kunming the next day.
After spending time in the ancient cities of Lijiang and Dali in the Yunnan province, I definitely liked Lijiang better. Although both places were overrun with tourists and locals, I liked the cleanliness and peacefulness of Lijiang. Next, on to Kunming!