Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dali's Erhai Lake and Surroundings

This is my final post about Dali - I wish I had more to say, unfortunately I was just there for a short weekend. I very much enjoyed it, and really hope I can visit again, perhaps as a longer visit of Yunnan Province.

Dali Old City is situated between the Cang Shan Mountains and the Erhai Lake. Erhai Lake itself is surrounded by farmland and valleys, and is dotted by small villages. It's the home to one of China's ethnic minorities, the Bai people. I can't claim to be any kind of expert into the minority, and the biggest difference I noticed is that I often saw Bai women, particularly older women, wearing hats, scarves, or elaborate head-dresses. They're not generally Muslim, the way that might suggest:

That is some powerfully bright clothing, and I don't think I ever saw Bai women wearing clothing that overpowering, although I only saw them at work and not as a social occasion where bright clothing might fit in. One of the local specialties is tie-dyed clothing, it strongly reminded me of being at some tourist shop around Haight-Ashbury. Here's some of the bright clothes, with a simple pattern:

The farmland wasn't totally flat, there was generally a gentle slope. As in Fujian, but to a much smaller extent, this slope was made into a series of flat steps, and then worked by hand. I was told the crop shown below was garlic, although it didn't smell like I was in Gilroy:

There's a few workers visible if you squint at that picture, here's a blow-up of another picture:

Looming above much of this were above-ground graves. A lot of the nearby hills were covered with them, they were often on vantage points that could be seen anywhere in the valley. Additionally, it was relatively common for these graves to be in the middle of the farmland. Crops went right up to the side.

I didn't get as good a view, but the lake was also obviously important to local life. There were a lot of fishermen, numerous temples located on small islands, and I ran across small boats, throughout the area:

Also, there was an interesting market in Wase, on the other side of the lake from Dali. These markets only go for half a day, and they rotate locations - it would be another couple weeks before the market returned to Wase. I guess it's popular with tourists, but since I went in the off-season, it was entirely women selling basic foodstuffs and material for making clothes. That may not seem like much, but the market just went on and on, and was incredibly crowded the entire time. It was a lot to see, and I didn't really feel like playing the photographer, but on the right and below are a couple of quick snapshots I took.

Finally, Buddhist Temples. They were common throughout the area, and somewhat to my surprise, looked entirely Chinese - I didn't notice any Southeast Asian Influence, although Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam are directly south of Yunnan. Perhaps Xishuangbanna, in Southern Yunnan, would be different. The obvious highlight temple is the Three Pagodas, which I showed in my last update on Dali. While they were impressive, they weren't impressive enough to convince me to pay the $20 entrance fee and see them up close! The temples I visited were picturesque, if nothing special.

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