Dali - cafés, clothes and cakes

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November 21st 2013
Published: August 29th 2017
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Geo: 25.6955, 100.159

Hello from a beautifully sunny and fairly warm Dali! I've definitely adapted to the slow pace of life in this province and no day is complete without a few stops at various cafés - going back to the city is going to be a shock! Haha

This part of the trip all began with a fairly uncomfortable train journey. For reasons only known to those in control, a 2 hour journey warrants beds, not seats. However, lying down on said beds is seemingly forbidden so 8 of us hunched onto the bottom bunks (there are 3 levels of bunks) and there we sat invading each other's personal spaces and unable to move an elbow for the two hours. Arrival at this non-descript station was celebrated by a hundred people or so all yelling and touching you so that you'll use their car as a taxi. After running this gauntlet it was then time to pile (almost literally) onto a bus in order to actually leave Dali city and head to the old town.

Many foreigners prefer Dali and Chinese people prefer Lijiang. I think that Lijiang has a lot more character, less tourists and is altogether more fun. However, Dali is very easy to navigate (read, no getting lost!) and has great western food, cakes and cheese(!). There is China's 7th largest lake on one side - beautiful but with no real boat access, and a mountain range on the opposite side - there's been some murders there recently so we were warned against hiking. Yesterday I took a bus to Xizhou, a small town about 20km from Dali that's famous for the Bai minority people and their quadrangle court houses (4 houses sharing the same courtyard and well). Taking a bus is not as easy as it seems; it involves a lot of asking around and then standing on the road side flagging down every kind of bus and asking if they go to your destination. Xizhou is a quiet and pretty village with great pizza bread. The woman are building new houses and tending to the fields without any form of machinery. They carry concrete slabs and bricks on their backs and sit in groups doing something (I have no idea what) with the rice crop. I took all this in and had just settled at a cafe (again!) to read my book in the sun when an Australian-Finish couple came to join me. After stating that they hated China, were mad that some Chinese people can't speak English and declaring me 'strange' for having lived here for so long, I decided that they were possibly the worst, most arrogant people I have ever met- not a great start to the day. Once they disappeared an old man started talking to me and although I didn't understand everything he said, he was much better company. He told me stories from Mao to Deng XiaoPing and to the current leaders. He told me how China has changed and how he has never travelled out of this little town- a really interesting man.

Last night I had dinner with someone from the hostel and we met a Chinese couple on their honeymoon. After giving us pretty much all their food (we really tried to refuse but they insisted), they took us to a bar, run by 2 British guys, to celebrate. On the way we passed street sellers peddling flower headdresses and roses. The Chinese girl decided that it was tradition for females to wear these so therefore she should find me one too - very nice of her! It was a fun night of live music, some beer and a few rounds of dice with some more German and Chinese people. It was definitely a time when I'm happy I learnt Chinese!

Today I went to the lake. It was really beautiful and clean and possible a lot nicer than Hangzhou's West Lake (although I'm never going to come straight out and admit that!). I'm going to finish my yak milk butter tea - delicious by the way, have dinner with some people and then head back to the train station for my 7.5 hour overnight train to kunming. I'm hoping the beds will actually be used as beds this time!

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