Thursday, August 10, 2006


Arriving in Dali, I jumped off the bus and try to get my orientation. Hmmm, seems I'm not where I want to be I'm in Dali City rather than old Dali. I head back to the bus station and ask somebody how to get to old Dali. They probably get asked all the time by confused backpackers. Off on the number 4 bus into town, after about half an hour arrive and get a room. Dali is a walled city with some old pedestrianised cobbled streets making for a nice quiet atmosphere, except for all the tourists!

A walk around town and you can see some of the forts. They are supposed to be restored, but they look more like they have been rebuilt. Quite a lot of cafes on the corners, often with the ingredients sitting at the door. Or past the butchers where a large hunk of meat hangs skewered on a hook for days and a bundle of unidentifiable fur lies in a heap. The town lies in the shadow of a 4000m mountain and then at the edge of the town lies some farmland and beyond that Erhai Hu, a large lake. I went for a stroll up the mountain and came across something. Never quite sure what I抦 paying to get into, is it a temple or a show? Anyway it was a bit of both it seemed. And quite a few shops. Walking past the yaks I sharpened my archery skills with the ol?bow and arrow. I think I need more practice. Inside a room, the shopkeeper magically appeared. A few Chinese tourists were getting dressed up in regal clothes and getting there photos taken, Kings and Queens for the day.

Back outside trumpets were playing as man in robe strolled through the village and read from a scroll. Not quite sure what this was all about, but they went upstairs in a house onto the balcony and throw some unfurling cloth down from there. Then a bit more speaking and they throw some flowers off the balcony which a young Chinese guy caught. He was whisked off upstairs and quickly given ceremonial dress, I assume he was married to the princess. Not speaking Chinese, I was somewhat lost about what was supposed to be going on! Not to worry, immediately next was the international language of stilts. As a group of acrobats ran about on long stilts, to fast music. They manage to do some crazy whirly stuff where the central figure turns with two people hanging on flying through the air. And then they were gone, a quick two minute show.

Back down in town water flows continually through the roads of Dali, which is built on a slight slope. Many scenic spots have been made where tourists take turns being photoed. Old merchants with a long pole over the shoulder and two balanced baskets hawk fruit. Woman dressed up in traditional dress try and get customers for restaurants.

The next day I cycled out of town to the village of Xizhou. I went down the main road and after about 15km found the turn off, a rather small place. They seem to still use cart and horse for moving stuff about, or just passenger transport. Corn lies in the streets, and outside the houses grows vegetables and herbs. After a look about I passed what looked like a pasta drying factory! I headed down towards the lake and try to head back to Dali. At the lake there was no clear track, I passed a few fishermen sorting out their nets. I pushed on but had to turn back as the track vanished to be replaced by hopping from rock to rock across the edge of the water. So back along the roads, but cobblestones don't make for a great cycling surface!

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