Following a 20-hour train journey from Guilin to Kunming, I was excited to finally make it to Yunnan – the final province I had planned to visit in China and the place I was looking forward to the most as I could not wait to hike and see the snow-capped mountains.
On the way from Kunming to Dali I could finally see the blue sky and notice that the landscape was more rugged. As soon as Marianna and I made it to the Old Town, just by the Erhai Lake, I did not have to wonder why Dali is such a popular travel destination. It had it all! Breath-taking views of the Cangshan Mountains, charming small streets and most importantly a pleasant atmosphere.
On a second day we rented bikes to cycle by the Ear-shaped Sea as the Erhai Lake is known and rightly so as it stretches across the area of 250 square kilometers. We did not even think of cycling round it but going through laid-back villages was one of my highlights. Yunnan province is a home to many minority groups and in Erhai Lake villages we had a chance to take closer look at the everyday life of Bai people. It was pretty incredible to admire their houses painted white with black tile paintings or come across a wedding celebration.
It is also fair to say that there were some other interesting sights in Yunnan like men smoking from big wooden bongs… locally-grown tobacco. Yes! The province is rich in tobacco and not only in tea, although it is the latter that we are all familiar with or even tasted. First time I saw it on a train and second time when I stopped by a small house to ask for directions. The old man inside the house not only had a bong but also a huge chopper knife by the side of it. Believe me – I cut my story short when I saw it and figured that it might be better to just go somewhere else as soon as possible. He just gave me a toothless smile probably oblivious that I got a bit freaked out.
Although hiking in Dali’s Cangshan Mountains was really enjoyable it did involve some miscommunication and wandering around not necessarily in the right direction. Nothing is easy in China so initially we could not find the way to our trail straight away. We knew that it starts by Zhonghe Temple and tried to explain that to our taxi driver but without success. It did not come as surprise that he later dropped us off by the expensive cable car! Seriously!? So predicable! Two stops by the tourists information office and few checks with people along the way and we were finally set to start our hike – better later than never!
Dali Spoor Youth Hostel was a nice place to stay while in Dali. Convenient location in the heart of the Old Town, fantastic views from the terrace – what is not to like about it? I just wished there were more people around as during low season this hostel comes across as a little bit sleepy.