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Published: January 8th 2011
Dali and Lijiang are two places that are on Southwest China's tourist trail. Aside from the "old town" experience, we weren't really sure what else to do here. The experience is getting a bit old itself as it's all beginning to look too much the same. Old towns reconstructed with new buildings in the old style. I think Dali takes the cake here as they've now resorted to painting brick patterns on flat concrete walls.
Our main reason for going to Dali was to spend New Year's in a place where we could relax in the comfort of a good hostel with all the right facilities and celebrate with some fellow travellers (basically the same reasons we spent Christmas in Kunming). We got exactly what we were looking for in the Australian-run Jade Emu hostel where we were treated to lamb pies on New Year's Eve and played some friendly games of pool. We also ran into some other travellers that we had met previously in Kunming. What more could you ask for? How about delicious sweets and baked goods at an awesome cafe in the old town. Just say yes to chocolate-chip banana muffins, brownies and oatmeal rasin cookies!
Black Dragon Pool
The most classic photo in Lijiang.
The main tourist attraction in Dali besides the old town, is the 3 Pagodas. Predictably, bus-loads of tourists are over-charged (in this case 120 yuan) for a manufactured site that really just isn't worth it. We elected instead to wander the cobbled streets around the outside of the walled site for some different (free) views.
Taking the train has become a relatively routine way for us to get from place to place. We've gotten used to the rush that happens as the train arrives at the station, stopping only for a few minutes as everyone races to get aboard. Typically when we get train tickets we are assigned seat numbers and that generally takes some of the stress out of boarding the train. In the case of the train from Dali to Lijiang, the ticket office only issued "standing" tickets, meaning that seat-selection is a free-for-all. We arrived at the station in plenty of time to ensure that we got tickets and it seemed as though the train might not actually be that busy. How silly of us. As people continued to arrive it all started with a large group stashing their big luggage right in front of
the door to the platform as if to reserve their spot at the front of the queue. About 20 minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive, the crowd started to line up and battle for a spot near the front. Without the luxury of a seat reservation we were concerned we'd be stuck standing for the 1.5 hour ride to Lijiang. When it was time to board, the attendants unlocked the doors and could barely get them open as the panic-stricken crowd shoved through the tiny bottle-neck. With some seasoned battling and jostling of our own we managed to find a seat as well as a place in the luggage rack for our bags, whew! There must be a better way...
On to Lijiang, another "old town" defined by its cobbled alleys, canals, hanging lanterns, and masses of domestic tourists. It is after all, the most visited tourist city in Yunnan province. We had a nice time here wandering the streets, going for coffee, and visiting the Black Dragon Pool for the obligatory photo of the Jade Dragon Snow mountain. We're getting the feeling that we've probably spent too much time in China, as we probably would have
been more excited about it had we visited this place earlier in our trip. Still we're enjoying ourselves taking a relaxed pace with a few more highlights to see before we head to New Zealand at the end of the month.
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