Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dali Old City

Much too long ago, I wrote about briefly visiting the city of Kunming, the largest city of Yunnan, a province in South-Western China. While I liked the city, I was only there for a half-day before continuing on to Dali.

Dali is a city dominated by the local tourist industry. That sounds like a terrible place to visit, but actually the city was fun, and anyway it largely functioned as a jumping-off point to visiting other sites in the area. There's also a "new" city - while I only drove past city, it looked like any other third-tier Chinese city one might see.

I arrived in the morning, and walked to my hotel down the main tourist drag, Fuzhou Lu, all the buildings were restaurants or net cafes or fruit vendors or convenience stores, the sort of things useful to a tourist. There were no cars, there were trees along the road, and there was even a very small stream along the side of the road. All in all about as pleasant as a main tourist drag can get:

In kind of a strange contrast, a lot of these tourist shops still looked like the traditional buildings, re-purposed for tourists. It didn't come off as gimmicky or fake, just as the natural product of a tourist boom so sudden that nobody thought to tear everything down:

Wandering off the main streets, there were still a lot of private houses of an older style:

Additionally, the city walls had been re-built, and the city was punctuated by a number of pagodas and so forth, the were all lit up at night:

Really surprisingly, this city was probably the biggest backpacker haven I've seen out of Europe - yeah I did a Eurotrip when I was in college. A lot of the travelers were continuing on to Tibet, or were traveling around throughout Yunnan. While I visited a little off season, there was still a very wide range of youth hostels, bars, cafes, and the stereotypes of what a young Western youth might like:

Unfortunately I didn't take a picture which conveys that the Western food in Dali was awesome - cheaper, and generally much better that what is to be found in Shanghai. Many of the foreign-oriented places served as some sort of mash-up of hotel-bar-restaurant-cafe. The local food was also surprisingly good. Here's a local specialty, cross-the-bridge noodles. There's a hot broth, and then the noodles and various ingredients, each served in individual plates, are dumped into the broth and allowed to cook there for several minutes. The fruit on the top plate was for eating after the meal:

While I enjoyed Dali on its own, it's overshadowed by the surrounding area. I'll have a few related updates in the next month or two. It's also worth saying that staying here is cheap - there were a number of decent hotels and youth hostels in the $5-$10 range.

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