April 7, 2009

Dali, China

The hostel I was staying at in Kunming after returning from Burma was called Cloudland, and that’s exactly where my head was when I booked my bus ticket to Dali. It was only a five hour journey which would have been a perfect day trip through beautiful farmland, but instead, I chose to make this journey on the overnight bus. Like a good American, I arrived promptly at the departure gate and was immediately re-introduced to the Chinese Transportation Mentality, which was to let the bus sit there for an additional five hours until either hell froze over or all the tickets were sold. As I nestled into my stationary-spit-soaked-sleeper-sushi-tray, I gently told myself, Welcome back to China Andriana!
Originally my plan after Burma was to start traveling through Southeast Asia, but sitting on a cold floor in a dark temple under a big Buddha in Bagan, I was inspired to change my route and attempt to satisfy another romantic fabrication of my mind by following the old Silk Road from Northwest China into Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Iran. Even though I had already done two months of travel in China, I had yet to really see one of it’s most beautiful provinces, Yunnan, and this new route gave me the opportunity to do just that, starting with Dali.
Dali is an old hippie haven turned tourist destination, whose highlights include some real non-industrialized fresh air and a beautiful mountain range. Along with a walled Old City that is filled mostly with shops selling the same cheap trinkets, there is pleasantly an under growth of creative and stylish entrepreneurs who have fashioned cozy café’s, music shops, reggae bars and restaurants from the local Yunnan architecture.
After almost getting knocked over by the innocent looking old ladies running after me to buy marijuana, which was probably a recycled tea plant, hitting the local market selling everything from crusty old dentures to big piles of straw, and climbing the steep and scenic Mt. Cangshan with some nice fellow traveler’s, it was time to follow the Yunnan trail North to Lijiang where I would prepare to battle the jumping hoards of Chinese tourists and the mythical jumping tigers at The Tiger Leaping Gorge…
hippety hop!

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