Dali, China

Ancient town in the Yunnan providence next to a giant lake between two mountain ranges. Very pretty village and location.

WEATHER – 4/5 stars
Compared to the warm weather of Kunming, it was a bit chilly. It was partly cloudy but still nice enough to want to walk around the town.

The bus to Dali was pretty easy to get to but the entire trip I felt lost. From getting on the public bus in Kunming, hoping that the bus station was the last stop so that I wouldnt miss it to find the hostel once in Dali. I thought the bus would drop me off at the south bus station but it dropped us off at the long distance bus station. Not knowing this, and following my little (not that accurate and in chinese) map, I surprising guessed the right direction to walk to the train station. The hostel had given directions from the train station so I needed to get there first to get this specific bus. Once my map stopped aligning with streets I was crossing (and my shoulders were screaming in pain from carrying my heavy bag), I stopped to ask for directions. I showed a girl my map and was trying to ask her to point to where we were. She didnt understand but saw the ancient town and pointed to that. I said yes, but pointed to the train station. She pointed further down the street I was walking on but pointed back to the ancient town, pointed across the street and said 8. She had pointed to a bus stop. Not wanting to walk anymore, I listened to her and took the bus. The bus took 40 minutes to get to the old town and the entire time I was wondering if it was the right way. A map given to me by another hostel showed that the bus 8 let out at the west gate, which was near where I was going. The bus however, dropped us off near no significant landmarks and not near a gate. My hostel’s directions mentioned a highway and assuming that was the major road the bus came in on, I walked through little alley ways and deadends to get to the road. I was so lost and confused. I walked back to where the bus let us off and tried to ask someone but no one spoke english or understood me. I walked where the crowds were going and it deadended into a hospital. There were 3 hospitals on my hostel map and through process of elimination, assumed I was in the northeast side of the town and wanted the southwest side. All together, I was lost for about 2 hours walking around before I found the hostel. My shoulders were killing me. Some english signs at the bus stations/stops would be helpful!
Within the ancient town, you just walk everywhere. No transportation needed unless you wanted to rent a bike and bike around the huge lake outside of town (which I didnt do).
After my getting lost scenario, I paid extra to be picked up from the hostel for my bus to Lijiang.

LODGING – 5/5 stars
Jade Emu Hostel. The hostel was just outside the old town. The rooms were nice, beds were big and soft with electric blankets. There was a pool table and nice courtyard and decent priced food.

Dali Ancient Town:
Supposedly it was supposed to be the less touristy version of Lijiang but I thought it was pretty touristy. There were cool backpacker type bars/restaurants but this area in general caters more to chinese tourists and doesnt have as many english signs as I would have liked.
The town itself is very pretty. Streams that run down from the mountains flow through or next to the streets in the town as a source of water for the people. There are cute bridges and many cherry blossoms, willow trees and flowers that line the main streets. Most of the buildings are white with paintings on the walls.
I listened to westerners who I think were hostel owners bitch about China. They were complaining how when they hire workers, cleanup isnt part of their job. They typically ask you to help them, if they paint they dont mask off anything so it gets everywhere, cement with tiles is everywhere, etc. Then they commented about restaurants washing their food in the stream that flow through the town. People live upstream who use that river as a bathroom or where they throw trash. It was a good point and me cautious about the street food especially.
The iconic image of Dali is the 3 pagodas. Now when lodging cost 25-30Y and you charge 180Y for the park, I call that a tourist trap! I walked there and took photos from outside the park.
I went up on the wall near the south gate and the wall is about as wide as a two lane road. Most of it and the town had been destroyed in an earthquake in the 90s so not all of it had been restored. There were a lot of photoshoots occurring at sunset though.
I watched a boy, maybe 4yrs old, just peeing in the street, no one seemed bothered. A lot of food was fish based with eels, snails and a bunch things that I didnt know what they were. I walked down the “bar” street at night and each place had its own artist blasting their music in its shallow venue that is all just sounded like loud noise. I couldnt imagine even sitting down in one of those places. The supermarket had a whole isle of packaged items that were everything from squid to chicken feet. Also, the oreos they have are dual flavored like orange/lemon or raspberry/blueberry mix or grape/peach.

BUDGET: March 1 – 3
Lodging: $8
Transportation: $19
Food: $12
TOTAL: $39