Travel Exposé: Yunnan Province (11) The Kingdom of Dali (2) The Ancient City of Dali 大理古城

284487521884437891Here we find ourselves mere days away from Christmas Day and so to start off today’s issue of ‘Bajan,’ Chinese style, I wish to extend to one and all seasons greetings and all the holiday cheer I can muster! My gift to you this year is the continuation of our adventure throughout the enchanting Kingdom of Dali!

img_0712Let’s get our logistics sorted first. There are many ways to get to Dali. If you are visiting from the direction of Lijiang, Shangri-La or any area to the north of Dali, (North to South direction), then all that is required is for you to ask the long distance bus driver or personal driver to allow you to disembark at the Ancient City of Dali and not the modern city centre. This is very important, as the Ancient City of Dali is located approximately  17 kilometres away from the main city of Dali.

img_0888If proceeding to Dali from the main train station in the city centre, then there are two ways to reach the Ancient City. First you can take a taxi, for which the fee should be a little more the fifty (50) RNB for the entire trip, or could can take the No.8 Bus, which after a commute of thirty-one (31) stops, will deposit you at the gates of Ancient Dali. 

The First thing which will greet you as you arrive in the Ancient City of Dali, are the Bell towers which stand visage over the western courtyard. IMG_0756.JPGThese well preserved stone and wooden structures are interlaced with an intricate series of canals and waterways, which are constantly fed with the clear melt waters of Cang Mountain as they make their way towards the gargantuan Lake Erhai. As you proceed into the ancient metropolis itself, the gentle babbling of these breathtaking brooks creates an ever so delicate symphonic effect which paints the environs in tones of tranquility and peace. As you follow the cobbled stone pathways, while walking under the swaying willow branches, the noises of everyday life meld so perfectly with the ambient chorus that you find yourself being serenaded by the city itself. 

img_1324The Ancient City of Dali can be easily separated into three sections, the first section being the western courtyards. This area is where you would find most hostels and low budget accommodation. However, don’t be deceived by ‘low-budget,’ for even though going prices range from 25-200 RNB, the standard of accommodation as well as the services given are exceptional. In my experience, I found the hostels in Dali to be well maintained and hygienic institutions,  serviced by friendly staff and on-site restaurants and tea shops.

img_0714The next section would be Yang Ren Jie (洋人街 Westerner Avenue/Street) which links roughly with the Eastern reaches of the city. 861ce647c6e965069e67ef567f43_740_740_1_1.jpegThis forms the mercantile district of Dali. Local crafts, such as the Indigo dyed cloths of the Bai (Yi) can be found in plenty here, as well as jewellery, leather products, handmade Pu Er Tea, handmade clothes and so on.

Also housed here is the Cinematic Museum of Dali, which houses props, film, photos and hand-written manuscripts of some of the most iconic Chinese films, which were produced in Dali.

IMG_0790.JPGThe Southern section of the Ancient City is what can be simply  called Bar Street. If you feel the need to experience the nightlife of Dali, then this is most certainly where you want to be. Hipster Bars, High end bars, Irish style pubs, rave bars, live music jazz bars, you name it, you can probably find it in bar street. This area of the Ancient City is also home to some of the more high end boutique hotels, villas and restaurants, so if money is not an issue, by all means treat yourself.

However, what is it that makes Dali quite so…enchanting? Some call it a hippie town, or China’s first hipster town. Others call it the Backpackers Mecca or the Uni-kids travel hub. Whatever it  may be, whether it’s seeing the street bands playing in ancient archways, university students selling handmade postcards, photos or stamps, or img_1323just being a part of it all, Dali has a way of imprinting itself onto the pages of your memory. Even long after you watch it disappearing into the rear view mirror, long after you have left Yunnan, or China for that matter, you come to realise that you can never really leave Dali…and I for one, am thankful for that.

 

Join us next week as we continue our exploration of Dali and I wish you all a Merry Christmas this Sunday!

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