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Published: September 26th 2013
Thanks to the painful memories of some ultra-long (>12h) bus/train rides that have been seared into my mind the past year and a half or so, I decided to break up the journey to my next destination. Instead of taking the 17h direct ride to Dali, I made a quick overnight stop in the provincial capital of Kunming, which was also a sneak preview of things to come, as I do plan to return again for some more detailed exploration.
Somewhat annoyingly, the 9h ride from Jinghong to Kunming was interrupted by not one, not two, but three military/police checkpoints, all of which demanded identification from every single passenger on the bus, and one of which even did an inspection of some passengers' luggages. Not particularly polite or professional in their approach, I wasn't exactly sure what they were on the look-out for. Perhaps drugs or illegal immigrants from the nearby Golden Triangle. I was questioned in Mandarin in some detail at one particular checkpoint. I'm pretty sure none of the soldiers/policemen spoke English, which made me wonder how they would have interacted with other non-Mandarin speaking foreigners.
In any case, I was glad when it was over (for
Not named after banana pancake trailblazers, but rather the invaders to the city from ancient times.
now at least), and after the quick overnight in Kunming, it was a 1h bus ride across town to another bus terminal, before another 5h ride to Xiaguan ("New Dali"), and another 1h ride to my actual intended destination of Old Dali.
Spent from the travelling, and having received somewhat jolting introductions to the country in bustling Jinghong and Kunming, I had some initial fears of Dali being a contrived, noisy city over-run by very loud domestic tourists, thanks also to the somewhat reserved write-up in LP. How pleasantly surprised I was then to find Dali to be a very agreeable place. Built within the four walls of an ancient fort, and peppered with classic Chinese architecture, Dali was not the kitschy tourism nightmare I'd feared. Even the domestic tourists seemed to be largely youngish, which gave the city a certain vibrance. And it's famous Foreigner Street even reminded me somewhat of Ubud in Bali, and Pai in Thailand, flanked by quaint little independent clothing stores and bohemian cafes. Young Chinese people wore baggy pants, tie-dye, and some with dreadlocks, displayed their wares for sale on sprawled cloth mats on the ground. If there was ever a hippie revolution
Three Pagoda Chongsheng Temple
I was too cheap to pay the exorbitant (USD20) entrance fee, so had to be satisfied with this shot from outside the walls.
in China, it must have started in Dali.
And within its few square kilometres, Dali must have the highest concentration of large, friendly dogs in the world! Fully-grown Retrievers, huskies, and even the normally intimidating Alsatians, all walking around unleashed! Somewhat concerning initially to me, but I soon realised there was little to fear about Dali's docile dogs.
From my experiences in my travels so far, I've developed a personal rule, which is to stay an extra day, or a day longer than initially planned, if I happen to like a place. I strongly considered that for Dali, but still being somewhat undecided about my schedule for the coming week, and being on the clock thanks to the limited 15-day tourist visa I have, I decided to press on, hoping to reserve a little more flexibility with the extra day. We'll soon find out if it's the correct decision.
Stayed at Youyuan Guesthouse.
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