4.1.3: Kunming and Dali

Day 152: Night Train to Kunming

Today was my 29th birthday and I awoke to a startling landscape of red earth and many grey boulders. This was the Shilin region of Yunnan and we were not too far from Kunming. I lay in my bunk and watched the scenery from the window until we were just about to arrive in Kunming. When we arrived I got a bus from the train station and then walked to the Kunming Cloudland hostel. I checked in and bought a bus ticket to Dali for tomorrow morning. I went for a walk around town and visited a park and a temple called Yuantong Temple. They were really nice and the park was free and the temple cost only 4 Yuan. Much better than the entry prices in Guilin! I walked back through town and saw the east and west pagodas before going back to the hostel.

152.1. A band plays in the park in Kunming; The East Pagoda rises above a side street.

152.2. At Yuantong Temple.

In the evening I had a beer and met an English guy called Richard who was teaching English in Guangzhou. We played some ping pong and some pool and we both looked much more at ease on the pool table. We went for dinner and met some French girls called Lucille and Isabelle. Lucille was living in Shanghai and studying Chinese embroidery and Isabelle had come over to visit her. We had a couple more beers and then I went to bed. It was fairly subdued for my birthday but I was travelling early tomorrow morning and I knew that there would be more large celebrations in the near future.

Day 153: Kunming to Dali

I was up at 7:30 and met Richard who was heading to the same bus station as me to get a bus to Lijiang. He had some problems though as he was late and couldn’t find his bus ticket. He spoke to the girl at the hostel and she phoned the bus company as we got a taxi to the bus station. It arrived at exactly 8:30, the time of Richard’s departure, and luckily he just made it. My bus wasn’t for another hour so I was rather more relaxed though I had a while to hang around at the bus station. I got my bus and headed to Dali. At around 13:00 we stopped for lunch at roadside place. I am still struggling to eat rice with chopsticks and a woman who worked there took pity on me and gave me a spoon.

153.1. Two of the gates to Dali old town.

About an hour later we arrived in Xiaguan (Dali city). I was heading for the old town but the woman on the bus said that this was as far as my ticket went. This wasn’t what I had been told in the hostel. I was a bit concerned as I had no idea where I was in the city. In the end she told me that the bus was going to the old town and I could go for an extra 10 Yuan. I arrived in Dali and then walked through town trying to find my hostel. It took a while as it didn’t have any signs in English. I eventually found it and it was a really nice place. It had a beautiful courtyard and free internet and I had my own room for 30 RMB a night. In the afternoon I went for a walk around town. The old town is set in a large square and was once surrounded by a wall. All that remains now though are the gates at the north, south, east and west points. There is nothing really specific to see in town, other than the gates which are quite impressive, but it is just a nice place to wonder about in and the location is great as well with the mountains on one side and the lake on the other.

153.2. On the streets of Dali.

Day 154: Dali

Today I rented a bike and cycled north along the lake, Erhai Hu. On the way out I cycled along a road that was a kilometre or so inland from the lake and it went through a couple of small villages. The road was being repaired in places so it was quite tough going in those stretches and it was also quite busy with traffic. The first village I came to had quite a lively morning market going on when I arrived which was interesting to see. I cycled out as far as a village called Zhoucheng, which was about 25 km north of Dali. I then turned back and cycled along the main road which ran alongside the lake.

154.1. At a local market in a small village outside Dali.

Along the way I made a detour to another village which had some nice traditional buildings with some colourful images on the walls. I started to get very tired towards the end of the journey back to Dali and found the last 5 – 10 km very tough. I kept looking out for the three pagodas which I knew were only a few kilometres outside of Dali.

154.2. Wall mural showing the three pagodas; Fields and mountains on the journey back to Dali.

When I arrived back in Dali I went for a beer and it was excellent after all the cycling. In the evening I went to a Tibetan restaurant and had some kind of lamb stew which was very tasty. In the evening I went out for dinner and when I came back to the hostel I saw something glowing green in the road. When I approached I saw that it was a laser beam shining directly at the ground from a bar further down the road. It was really quite powerful and dangerous to be left in the street nicely at eye-height.

154.3. Chinese laser safety.

Day 155: Dali

Today I went to hike in the Cangshan mountains to the west of Dali. It cost 30 RMB to get into the park and I paid another 30 RMB to take a cable car for half an hour to the Zhonge temple from where the hiking path begins. When I started walking I found the path to be very hard going and in the end I turned back and discovered I was going the wrong way. I found the correct path and it was paved, flat and very easy going. The path was flat but went in and out of a few valleys. Walking along the path you could see out across Dali and the lake beyond but the views into the valleys were even more beautiful with sheer cliffs rising on either side. I walked as far as the Seven Dragon Maiden Pools, a series of ponds under a waterfall. It had been dry recently so you could climb up alongside the waterfall and ponds. I then headed back to Dali and stopped in town for a beer before heading back to the hostel.

155.1. The view of Dali old town from the hiking path in the Cangshan mountains.

155.2. The Seven Dragon Maiden Pools.

155.3. From the walk back along the path.