Traveling in Dali and Lijiang

Kunming is the capital of Yunnan is said to be the city of eternal spring, because of its pleasant climate year round. It is quite relaxed for a large Chinese city.

I stayed at the Camelia hostel. They have bike rentals which is a great way to go around the city.

Dali has an old town lying within fortified walls with impressive gates. It is pleasant to stroll the clean pedestrian streets. Outside the walls, many horses and horse cariages are available for a ride. Backpackers appreciate this town for the relaxing atmosphere and the food, not the least being the copious banana pancakes, a rarity in China. Outside of the old town, the most remarkable structure are the Three Pagodas (San Ta Si), erected in the 9th century. However, the main attractions might consist of the surroundings, including the 4000m high Cang Shan mountains, and the beautiful Erhai lake. I stayed at the Yuan Garden. The single room was a bit shaby, but still adequate. To get to the toilets, you have to cross to courtyard, though. from Xiguan train station, local bus wait left of exit. take #12 for Dali. The cormorant fishing trips is staged for tourists (you won’t see real working cormorants), but still worth a try. The Shaping market is interesting. If you go with a local bus, you’ll be charged Y10 each way, actually more than the Y15 RT charged by the guesthouses, but you’ll be able to stay longer when all other tourists are gone. The lake close to the Three Pagodas is enclosed between walls South of the Three Pagodas (an entrance fee is charged). Buses leave for Lijiang at least every hour until 7pm and the trip takes only 2.30h on a good road.

Lijiang, possibly the best preserved old town in China, is one of the last places in this country where a visitor can witness and experience a historic, traditional urban culture. Remarkably, the old houses with stone foundations, plastered whitewashed brick walls, red wooden doors, shutters and balconies, and sloping tiled roofs, survived a recent earthquake without much damage, while the new concrete buildings were flattened. Adding to the charm of the narrow, winding, mostly pedestrian cobblestone streets is a network of canals. They are fast flowing from the Black Dragon Pool, a nice park with some interesting temples and a great view of the nearby Jade Dragon Snow Mountains.

I liked the Square Inn for its location close to the action on square street, and the friendly staff. The building and the room were very nice and atmospheric. To enjoy the old town, get up early before the hordes of Chinese tourists. Most of the people you will see on the streets at that time will be locals. There is a great view of the town from the top of Wangu tower, however there is an admission fee. Sqaure street is a nice place to hang out by the evening, with people floating candles in the canal. The concert of the Naxi Orchestra is also an experience not to be missed. The temples with frescoes in Baisha are now extremely developed, with admission fee, lots of Chinese tours and vendors. In particular, upon entering and exiting the buiding where the frescoes are, you are channeled between rows of booths. The frescoes themselves are interesting, but photography is stricly forbidden. The bus that you used to get there #6 does no longer stop in front of the post office. Once you are in Baisha, it is quite easy to get back to Lijiang at anytime by sharing a ride or hiring one of the small trucks stationned on the village’s main plaza. Morning buses for Jinjiang leave from the South station at 7.30 and 8.30 (the hotel staff said no buses leave from the North station, unlike the LP says). If you can manage it (the seats are numbered so you cannot seat where you please), try to get a window seat, as the scenery is spectacular in the first half of the trip. The trip takes nine hours, including the lunch break. Once you get there, you have to ride a local bus for 45mm before getting to the Jinjiang train station.