When Dad visited, Dali consisted of a walled city about 1km square. This is still present but now forms a very small part of a larger city of about 3 million people. The city lies between Erhai Lake (ear shaped lake) and the Cangshan mountain range which has several 4000m peaks. Most of the locals are Bai people, including my guide. First up we visited a Bai village and had a wander around, admiring the market, the electrics and old architecture.
Next we had a “cruise” on the lake. The cruise ship was actually a rowing boat holding about a dozen passengers and rowed by one person. We were taken out to see a cormorant fisherman and then landed on an island where they were barbecuing lake fish. All very touristy but pleasant enough.
We then took the cable car up the mountain – I was a bit concerned about the electrics for this, given what I had just seen, but apparently the cable car was installed by the Austrian manufacturer. The rules state that drunken, hypertensive and insane persons may not use the cable car. Luckily no-one actually checked. We were taken up to about 3500m and had a stroll around. As usual, the Chinese state has funded stone walkways, bins, toilets, restaurants, viewing platforms and so on. Part of me wished I had more time for hiking in these lovely mountains and part of me was glad not to – I prefer wilder places. It was great to go up though – the weather was lovely and the views magnificent. My guide was very worried about the weather getting windy and the cable car being closed as a result. Having been on a few of these things skiing, in whiteouts, blizzards and assorted unpleasant weather, I thought this was a bit far-fetched. Apparently a common concern though – I was at a viewpoint when there was a little gust and two girls next to me gasped “feng lai le!” (it’s getting windy).
We then dived into Dali old town, which has long been a destination for tourists. This means that you can get pizza, coffee, chocolate cake, wine, beer, etc etc. as well as local manufactures such as jade, silk, and endless tat. One of the tourist attractions there was me! A group of Chinese girls came and asked if they could have their photo taken with me. Selfies were duly snapped on their phones, but they didn’t need to know anything about me – where I was from, name, nothing. I was just a strange object in their path.