From Yuanyang, we went back to Kunming so we can take the overnight train to Dali. We traveled northwest to Dali on a soft sleeper train that left around midnight.
It was still dark when we were picked up at the Dali train station in Xiaguan, the new city. Driving to the old town, we watched the city wake up. Our guesthouse is across the highway from the West gate of Old Town Dali (also called Dali Gucheng).
Even before owner/manager Ling could check us in, the sleepy caretaker warmly showed us our rooms and started to prepare breakfast. Beautiful people, which include Ling’s darling puppy she named after her lovely town, Dali.
Lovely because it sits in the shadows of the beautiful Cangshan mountain range.
Here, we spent a few days soaking in the view, the hip vibe, and the laid back atmosphere of the old town. I felt sad to leave and wished I had planned to stay a little longer.
This town grows on you. It is touristy, I have to admit, but it is a real town that oozes with a new kind of hipness. A real town means that local do live there still.
What used to be a backpacker’s haven is now swarmed with local urban tourist, but if you wander closer to the East Gate (near the end of Renmin and Yue Yu Streets), you will meet the local young hipsters.
They run the quaint boutiques, cool cafes and interesting (read: eclectic, fusion, non-trad) eating places there.
This is Xiao Yu (little fish) talking to Anton. She loves single malts and serves a few good ones in her newly opened café/bar along Renmin Rd.
They speak English too.
It’s a great place to shop for one of a kind locally made stuff. But if ethnic clothes, local handcrafts and traditional blue and white tie-dye tablecloths are what you are looking for, go to Foreigner Street (Huguo Lu).
Here, you’ll find more usual stuff bordering on souvenirs. Bars and restaurants are the same.
You’ll find many traditional restaurants with fresh vegetables displayed at the entrance. Do enter one of them to experience the local cuisine.
Aside from the many types of vegetables Yunnan had to offer, we actually enjoyed their pork dishes served in various ways.
One more thing I love about Dali is the abundance of fresh fruits and fresh juices
–fruit ladies (I call them) selling fruits in season in baskets and fresh juice (juiced while you wait) are found everywhere.
Located at the foot of Cangshan Mountain, Dali Gucheng resonates with the sound of streams scattered around town.
This water source cultivates many plants, which explains the beautiful blooms such as camellias, azaleas, and many others peppered all over town either being sold in pot
or just beautifying the street.
The city has a long history. About 4,000 years of it when the ethnic Bai people first settled.
Today, they coexist with the local Yi and Muslims.
The architecture that dates back to the Ming Dynasty, though renovated, rebuilt and modernized, adds big time to the charm.
We also chanced upon a Christian church at the intersection of Fuxing and Heping Roads – charming streets to start with.
The church is primarily built on wood, following a western layout but also maintaining the Bai architecture and hip roof.
A few days spent here to chill and recharge is really not a bad idea.
You can either sit and catch the vibe at an outdoor table at one of the cafes or bars on Renmin Road around sundown or go for a foot massage after a day of hiking or wandering around town.
Do try to set aside at least an extra day to just relax and do nothing but absorb the vibe. It will be a good break from all the touring and walking.
More snaps of the Old Town:
Dali Bookstore (along Renmin Lu.), a quaint little bookstore that has books in Mandarin, French and English.