June 12-13, 2009
After the relaxing time we had in Shaxi, we took a bus further south to Dali.
On the bus ride to Shaxi, someone loaded two plastic barrels full of these slithering eels right next to me.
Dali was the third city we found in Yunnan that had a cute old-town neighborhood (the others were Lijiang and Shangri-La). Of the three, Lijiang is still our favorite. Dali has the benefit that the more modern part of the city is not as big and boring as the other two. But the big downside with Dali is that it’s really really touristy. As soon as the bus dropped us off, a few local touts ran up to us to offer us a hotel. OK, no big deal, we’ve seen this sort of thing before. Except that these touts just wouldn’t leave us alone. Several of them followed us by foot into the city. One of them even sat on the side while we ate lunch, waiting for us to finish, just so he can collect a commission if we happen to go to the hotel he represents. The annoying thing is that we already know about all these hotels – they’re listed in our Rough Guide – so these touts are getting a commission for no useful work, which is very aggravating just on principle. Anyhow, this was the first time we’d experienced this level of in-your-face hassle in China, and it immediately turned us off. But we know our opinion is not typical; we spoke we lots of other tourists who fell in love with Dali and spent several days here.
Pnina in the main backpacker drag in Dali’s old town:
One of the big gates surrounding old town:
Garbage collection time. This van come through playing music (like the ice cream man) and store owners come out to dump their trash. Pretty good system:
A woman selling handicrafts next to a temple in the city:
Anyhow, we checked into the Tibetan Lodge, which was a decent place. We had just a half day to spend here before rushing off to Kunming. Our original plan was to hike up to the top of the nearby hill, but we canceled this plan when we noticed that the hill was completely consumed by clouds. Instead we decided to rent bicycles and ride around. And just for kicks we decided to rent a tandem bike. This was our first time on a tandem and it was clumsy and hilarious. As you can imagine, the bike didn’t really fit either one of us very well, especially me. When I sat in the back, for each time the wheel turned I put my right knee into Pnina’s right butt-cheek, and then my left knee into her left butt-cheek. It worked a little better when I was up front. 🙂
Pnina with our tandem bicycle, outside Dali’s old town, riding towards one of the small villages by the lake:
I had no idea sunflowers could be this tall. Later on the trip we saw others that were maybe twice this height:
San Ta Si, three ancient pagodas that are probably the top attraction near Dali. The entry fee was over 100 yuan, so we decided to skip it. This is a view from the outside:
As a cheaper alternative, we rode to Yita Si. Here there was just one pagoda and it was perhaps less well preserved. There was a sign outside saying that this park is closed for renovation, but there was no work being done at the time and nobody to keep us from going in. The pagoda has a room at the bottom, and it’s possible to climb to some height inside (I couldn’t tell exactly how high because it was dark and I didn’t have my flashlight, and the climb looked a little sketchy):
Well, after this short bike ride, we hurried back to collect our stuff and catch the evening bus to Kunming. We had already made plans to meet a couchsurfer there.
In the News
The US finally converted its over-the-air TV broadcasts from analog to digital.
Elections took place in Iran. Ahmadinejad, the incumbent, was proclaimed winner with roughly 2/3 of the votes. Second place Mousavi contested the authenticity of these results and encouraged his followers to protest. Mousavi’s supporters gathered in big numbers in Tehran. These images were broadcast around the world, and the US and several European countries voiced doubts about the legitimacy of the election. Iran’s electoral board recounted the votes and announced on June 29 that Ahmadinejad did indeed win. Mousavi said that 14 million ballots were missing, so there was plenty of room to manipulate the vote.