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Published: November 1st 2010
Off to Dali
After our final breakfast at the House of Tibet, our friendly bellman carted our bags to the edge of the pedestrian way and sent us on a cab ride to the bus station. We had bought tickets at the hotel but deciding what bus to get on was a bit of a challenge. Some friendly passengers looked at our tickets and pointed to one of the many buses available. To our relief, an attendant came on the bus and checked everyone’s tickets. We were pretty sure we were on our way to Dali.
We were used to travelling on Dalian’s 6 or 8 lane highways. This highway was a different story: two lanes with only an occasional shoulder. It wound its way up and down several pretty steep grades with some interesting drop offs. The bus thought nothing of pulling out to pass on what we would call blind corners and even if there were vehicles approaching, “Méiwèntí”, no problem.
After a rest stop at the two hour mark, we pulled into Dali right on time, just as it was starting to rain. We had a pretty good map of the old town and the
East Gate wasn’t too far from the hotel. Unfortunately, we were dropped off in an open area and the gate we were near wasn’t the East Gate. There were a few other folks milling around as well as two cars. I suspected these were “black cabs”, people who weren’t licensed taxis but would take you anywhere for a negotiated price. When we said we were going to the Sleepy Fish Lodge, he told us 15 rmb. Since the drop charge in Dalian is 8, I figured he was trying to milk the foreigners. We weren’t that far from the hotel, right? But it is raining, right? And we don’t really know where the hotel is, right? In we got and, sure enough, it wasn’t really that far. But under the circumstances, it was less than $2.50 Canadian well spent. Dali
Dianne had been emailing Max about our reservations both initially as well as for the extra night due to our flight cancellation. I walked in expecting a little old Chinese gentleman (not sure why the old part; not sure why Chinese as all of Dianne's communication had been in perfect English). Turned out Max was a woman from
England who ran the place with Tracy, who came from the States. It was certainly different staying in a place where we could chat easily with the management. The staff was Chinese and Vietnamese but could speak English. A great place to hang out.
The hotel is just outside the ancient city wall and since the area inside the wall is about 1.5 by 1.5 km, it is an easy walk to and around town. This is what we spent most of our first afternoon doing, including scoping out places to buy stuff. We were close enough to town that we could walk home for happy hour then walk back for dinner. As if Café Buena Vista in Baisha wasn’t strange enough, we dined at Café de Jack. Huge place including a nice outside deck on the second floor. Weather was nice enough to enjoy the evening outside. Day 1 - The hike
After a great breakfast which included lots of advice on things to see, we headed off to find the chair lift up the mountain to the start of a 12 km “hike”. This goes to a gondola lift which brings you back down. We
No, this corn field...
is not typical of the places I get my jokes
had read about the 2-3 hour “sweaty” hike up to the 12 km trail and decided the chair lift sounded like fun. We no sooner got to the street outside the hotel than a cab driver stopped to pick us up. He tried to take us to the gondola lift (much longer trip) but we had been warned about this and he did agree to go to the chair lift. Once we got there, he got out of his cab and showed us how to find the ticket office and made sure we bought round trip tickets. All this for the price of his fare and with no English. Very friendly and helpful. We found out later that the round trip this way is cheaper than the round trip where you start with the gondola. Go figure.
The chair lift was just over half an hour’s ride to the top which was about half way up the mountain. Some pretty good views from the terminal but the start of the trail wasn’t as obvious as it might have been. We checked out a couple of alternatives and finally asked a fellow who appeared to be “western” for help. Turned
Not all views are pastoral
There is a lot of industry along the road too. Not always quite so pretty.
out he was an Australian who worked in ShangHai, was married to a Chinese lady who lived locally and operated a coffee shop/ backpack hostel along this trail during the holiday period. We did a brief tour around the area then stopped for coffee and German chocolate cake in their coffee shop. Not what we expected at the mountain top. The wife’s English was great but I couldn’t quite place her accent. I asked where she had learned English. “Dali” was her response. Hmmmmm. She laughed and admitted that living with an Australian did result in her having a Chinese Australian accent. This visit was definitely a great start to the “hike”.
While the “hike” was indeed 12 km., it was almost completely level and the trail was a stone walk 6 feet wide (see pictures). Very easy. The trail followed the curve of the mountains and the views were great. The only difficult part came at the end. We were surprised to find we were somewhat above the gondola station. The steps down to the station were quite steep and uneven, and covered with needles. There was also quite a crowd going both ways. At one point there
East Gate of Old Dali
The walls are not all there and have been highly restored but they still give a pretty good idea of what Old Dali was like. All four gates are still in use: East, West, North and South. Great naming conventions
was one way traffic on the steep stairs. A young couple was going down ahead of us. The young man was quick to help the old foreigners negotiate the tricky bit. Very nice of him to be so thoughtful as it had started to rain making it very slippery. We were glad to be down the mountain although the shower was brief.
There are many drivers at the bottom vying for our business. Linda negotiated a fare and back to town we went. These guys aren’t metered cabs so you probably pay too much but it beats walking. The driver stopped a couple of times to talk to other people walking along the road. We weren’t sure but thought he was trying to pick up some additional fares! He also wanted to take us to a large temple but we said “bu yao” (no need). We stopped at the German bakery for cappuccinos and Tiramisu. How much more Chinese can you get than that? Well, we went to an Indian restaurant for supper! You can tell how much of a tourist town this is by the number of coffee places there are. “Foreigners Street” is another give away.
Our Courtyard What next?
From one side of our rooftop terrace we could look down onto our own courtyard. Pretty nice place to while away the hours.
Still have two more days in our holiday. What will the weekend hold?
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