D is for Delicious, Delightful Dali – a premier ancient town in Yunnan. I spent only 3 days in and around Dali – just enough to see the highlights and not enough to dally in Dali. This is what greeted me after a day of travel by train from Kunming!
And it just got better and better.
This Chongsheng Temple, with three iconic pagodas, is actually outside the ancient city, but they feature in the reason tourists flock to Dali and they do not disappoint! Everything about this massive temple complex is elegant and awe-inspiring.
But back to the walled, ancient city of Dali – not to be confused with modern, industrial Dali where the train station is – about 15 kms away… Dali Old Town is particularly big and bodacious. Great efforts have been made to blend old and new, to showcase history and culture, to balance mosques and temples, to counter tourists with busy Dali dwellers.
Up and down the main walking street, beautiful images and things to take home.
Up and down the cross streets – bubbling streams with stone walkways and Starbucks.
Out on the main road, some interesting vehicular choices! I was envious of the Jeeps getting ready to go off-roading.
Food in Dali? Well, that was a challenge for me. I didn’t know sometimes what I had ordered, but I ate it anyway. Yunnan food is not my favorite and I’m not sure why.
Snacks are easier. You cannot go wrong with dumplings or noodles, but hotpot for one isn’t a great idea. Throughout Yunnan, Cross the Bridge Noodles are a hot seller – named for the gesture of a loving wife if I remember correctly.
Beverages are easy everywhere in China – tasty local beers and weird wines. I say weird because they come in dozens of different types and flavors in sealed shot glasses and are super cheap. They take some getting used to as they aren’t like Western wines, but they are good if chilled and sipped. A sublime Wind Flower Snow and Moon beer for me and a Happy Captain toast to Mazin home in Oman.
There are 5-star resorts inside Dali and little shuttle buses that buzz tourist groups around. I hailed one when I had walked just too far from the small, modern guesthouse where I stayed. It’s just inside the spectacular gate and I can recommend the Bimeijia Inn. Like so many other hosts in China, the manager spoke no English but was extraordinarily kind and helpful, and we had no problem communicating once we connected on WeChat. I was up for a glorious sunrise and morning coffee before heading out to explore.
I had a guide and driver to see what was in the Dali area outside the city. The first thing I noticed was the decorations in the peak of the roofline and down the walls – unique to the Dali region and so charming.
We headed first to Xizhou – a simple ethnic village relaxing under the dazzling Yunnan sun. I loved it – for the sky-blue gates, the scarlet caskets, and the shopping baskets. The handmade red coffins are specifically for people who live beyond 100 years, and I put my name on one. Xizhou, on the edge of Dali seemed on the edge of fame too.
Next, we visited a family producing tie-dyed fabrics. Three generations lived together and continued with their lunch as I got a brief demonstration and shopping op. I was surprised to see a giant hemp plant at the door – apparently, they eat the seeds. What do I know?
Then to Erhai Lake for a short and rough cruise. Not particularly impressive, but the drive through the countryside and villages was worth it.
Last stop was the fabulous Chongsheng Temple and Three Pagodas. It was bliss.
I can cram a lot into 3 days. I do a little research and a lot of planning, but I didn’t allow enough time for Dali Old Town. In the early morning, the car would be waiting to take me off through the mountains to Dali’s rival attraction Lijiang Ancient Town.