The Road to Dali

28thAugust 2017

Entrance gate to ChuxiangOur expectations have been set that today’s drive to Dali is going to take around 7 hours as we have to drive back through Kunming. So, Teddy asks us to be ready for breakfast at 7:15 to allow us to get off at 8am. We can’t really complain about the start time, but we can complain about the breakfast! When the highlight is the sachets of instant coffee (not even Nescafe) provided by Teddy we know we’re in trouble. Its the Chinese breakfast we were expecting yesterday and I reckon the most palatable option is the fried noodles with a little of the very spicy beef sauce.

Fortunately, not our transportAs we set off, we are relieved that Teddy heads in the right direction (unlike yesterday) and even seems a bit more purposeful in his driving. He still hogs the outside lane on the motorway, mind you. Even better, not only is the traffic to Kunming lighter than expected, there is also a new bypass road to the south so we don’t get caught up in the snarl of city traffic. (Sadly, we make such good time that I don’t have an excuse to ask for a stop at the Starbucks that is close to our route).

Nice view, shame about the pedalloThe first stop – on what is essentially a mystery tour laid on by Teddy – is in the town of Chuxiang. We’re told that this is the capital / centre for the Yi (yesterday’s Sani people in their traditional dress are a branch of Yi). Our first impressions are that the town is setting up for a festival. Street stalls are coming to life and there is bunting adorning some of the buildings and across the street. But no, Teddy says that the festival was a few weeks ago and that the stalls are a regular thing in the evening. He shows us the town square with a huge fire basket in the middle – if there were to be a festival this would be set up and ready to light.

The closest to flowers in the flower marketBy now, we’re ready for lunch and so we find a restaurant in the shade by the canal. All very pleasant apart from the hideous plastic pedallos moored nearby. Then its back on the road as we still have 2 – 3 hours to Dali. Our next surprise is that the first Dali we come to is the new town – and we want the old town which is a further 20km or so around the shore of Lake Erhai. In the middle there is a flower market and as we didn’t get to the one in Kunming, Teddy suggests we stop for a look around.

Poor little birdiesWhatever it was I was expecting for a Chinese flower market, it wasn’t this. For starters, it wasn’t laid out as a market – just shops running along a couple of streets. Neither were there flowers for sale – potted plants, yes but also caged birds (some very cramped and crowded), pets (tortoise anyone?) and fish (lots of fish). All in all, disappointing and actually a little depressing.

Roof decorations in the Landscape HotelThis is all made up for when we get to our hotel. Not only is the Landscape Hotel smack in the middle of old town but it is a big rambling place with a faded colonial era feel to it. I don’t know that we’d have chosen it off but its clear we’re going to be comfortable while we’re here – that is apart from the hard beds.

Making sweets for touristsOn our way to dinner, we get our first glimpse of Dali old town as we head straight across the main North / South street and in to Foreigner St. – so called because when Dali first opened up in 1984, this was the only street with hotels where foreigners could stay. It’s strange to think of the changes in China in what I would consider to be recent history.

First impressions of Dali are that it is very busy with (Chinese) and lined with tacky shops with gaudy lights selling (Chinese) tourist tat. Ordinarily, this is exactly what we would hate, but as we wander around, it has a strange kind of appeal. Partly this must be down to the relaxed atmosphere in the town, partly also due to us feeling content having just left the restaurant after another good meal – but, whatever, there looks to be plenty in Dali to keep us snapping away.

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