4 October 2011

Harvest Season [Dali, China]

Dali was my first real Yunnan experience. Colourfully dressed people belonging to minority religions are all over, old guys smoking MASSIVE pipes, the city small and intimate, small canals, overhanging tress, surrounded by massive mountains and a beautiful lake. Although I got the feeling that a lot of the people were dressed up for the tourists, it was still quite cool.

Slowly climbing from Kunming, Dali is at about 2000m above sea level. The difference in temperature was very welcome. Being a relatively small place, CouchSurf hosts are few and far between. I ended up staying in Five Elements Hostel, just outside the old town. It was a really nice place, and extremely cheap. In fact it is the cheapest accommodation I have stayed in to date - at Y20/night (about €2).


I met a cool girl named Inma in the hostel, and we decided to hire a cycle and ride up to ShaPing - where a local market takes place every Monday. ShaPing is at the north end of the lake, about 30kms away. Needless to say it was a huge day, but totally worth it. It is harvest season, so all the locals are out in the rice fields cutting, drying and collecting the rice. The rice plants themselves are an amazing golden colour, which gets even brighter under a clear sky. One thing that was not so amazing - the trees surrounding the rice fields are filled with hundreds of huge spiders. I'm talking huge.

We cycled up to what we thought was the market; a small place with a lot of locals selling fruit and vegetables. It felt really authentic; all the woman dressed in their colourful clothing trading their goods. We eventually found the 'real' market, which is a huge mass of stalls forming an impossible maze. They sell everything from local fruit and vegetables to three piece suits, to TV and stereo equipment. All in this dusty, dirty outdoor market.

We returned to the hostel close to 7pm, totally exhausted! What better night to go out, drink beer, play pool and come home at 4am? Only to discover that the gate to the hostel is locked and the key they gave you doesn't work...

The following day, feeling a little worse for wear, I decided to take the cable car up the Cangshan Mountains, just behind the old town. But at lunch I met and Israeli couple (Ariel and Elyse) and a Chinese girl (Ting Ting) who were going to hike it. So I maned up and joined them. The hike up was nothing to write home about, but the view from the top was spectacular.

The final thing I did was check out a small village called CaiCun. Not huge on attractions, but it was full of local people going about their every day lives. It was interesting just to sit back and watch for a while.

I found out that there is a week long national holiday in China, starting on the 1st October. Battling the crowds on the trains and buses is bad enough already, I didn't want to attempt it during a national holiday. So I decided to get my ass out of the country before the 1st. Even though I could have spent a week or more in Dali, like many others do; just hanging out, relaxing and enjoying the view, I had to keep moving. Next stop; Lijiang.

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