I awoke still somewhat under the influence of the anti-anxiety medication I had taken to help me sleep on the bus. It was 5am in Dali and we were being told to vacate. Feeling goofy and unfazed, I donned my pack hopped in a cab. I woke up 6 hours later in a very nice hotel that Jie had gotten for us at the tremendously low rate of 50RMB ($7) per night. We locked our luggage in the room, and took to the streets, a savage Chinese meal for breakfast and a can of Nescafe later, we were on a bus to the old city of Dali.
Located some distance away from the modern part of the city, where we were staying, the old city was a stunning combination of restoration, period architecture, and unbridled capitalism, on the shores of lake Erhai. First things first, we rented bicycles. Wary after Kun Ming’s tiny bicycle affliction, we searched long and hard for the largest bikes available. These ended up being two woman’s cycles, with large baskets on the front. Perfect for wheeling.
It seemed that the thing one did in Dali was to visit this ancient monument/compound, which sports extensive gardens and 3 large towers.
We spent the remainder of the day exploring the lush water saturated farming regions, amidst a breeze perfumed with the scent of rice.
We rode by the expansive lakeside,
where recent rains had brought the water right to the edge of a charming fishing village. We rode into the village and to the lakeside, where children set off fire crackers, and the locals had trained large birds to fish for them. Each bird had a rope tied tightly around its through, so that any fish it caught would stay lodged there.
The exceedingly beautiful landscape of Dali proved prime for wheeling and wheel we did. Sweaty and exhausted, we returned the bikes and retired to a local restaurant, nestled in a particularly beautiful part of the old city
Our search for dinner brought us to a delightful, and tasty local place once again (thanks to Jie’s fluent Chinese), which served us a fine meal of beefy glutinous rice and another round of tree. So far china continues to prove itself to be a far more delicious, relaxing, and hospitable place than I had dared to imagine.