Hello to all and welcome once again to this week’s edition of “Bajan,” Chinese Style! This weekend has been one of equal parts of hard work and frightfully frivolous fun, which has not only refreshed my body, but has also piqued and invigorated my mind. With that in mind-pun intended- we find ourselves-already- in the fourth week of 2017 and the question I pose is this; Are you making this year a year of doing? Remember, it doesn’t take much, often nothing more than that little “umph” out of the ordinary, a wee repose from routine, and you will find ourself, doing. This brings us back to the matter at hand and that is, circling the massive Lake Erhai, and losing yourself in the beauty and often mystery it has to offer.
As mentioned in previous entries, the Mother Lake of the Bai, and one of the most dominating natural features of Dali, is none other than Lake Erhai. Now, it goes without saying that if only because of that fact, Lake Erhai is worth exploring, but not surprisingly they exist a plethora of reasons why you should circle Lake Erhai, (Re: Circling Lake Erhai 1)
For my trip, I decided to ride a Mountain bike around the perimeter of the Lake and take in all the vistas within. Upon exiting the Ancient City of Dali, the first thing which will greet you are the seemingly never ending rice paddies which cover the distance primarily between Dali and the Lake. Now I saw never ending for two reasons and one of those reasons is of the blatantly literal persuasion. From a scenic perspective, this visage is astutely scenic, and especially in the early morning mists for which Dali is famed, is ridiculous beautiful. However, don’t be deceived, because the distance between Dali and the Lake is quite considerable and can easily take 30-45 mins by bike, if you dally too long in these Oz “ian” type paddies.
Leaving from the paddies, you will see a fork in the road and it is here that you must make the decision of whether to go left or right. It is recommended that you take the left route as it is the more scenic of the two due to is meandering through many of the more idyllic of the Bai/ Yi Villages, and two, it is easier to navigate and it- for the most part- keeps you within sight of the lake.
The traditional architecture of the Bai/ Yi is one which is both as intricate as it is beautiful, featuring stark white plaster walls accentuated by Black or Dark Blue/ Indigo fetishes or corner engravings.
As you meander through the village road which on one side is lined with two story homes and on the other the boat dotted Erhai, you may smell and see something resembling freshly baked bread. If you see this, then you have most likely reached Xi Zhou, which is one of the larger Bai Villages.
I personally recommend this bread, which is called Xi Zhou Ba Ba, as it is one, cheap and two, delicious, approximating a large, slightly salted Kentucky biscuit in taste and texture.
Continuing on, you will exit onto the highway, where you shall have to ride for another 1-1.5 hours until the path leads you back towards the shore of the lake. Now, this is no call to be disheartened but rather far from it, as this section of the highway takes you very close to the Cang Mountains, which as I have said on many occasions are amongst the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful Mountain range in China. The base and paddies surrounding the Mountains are perpetually green, and this forms a remarkably aesthetic juxtaposition against the cloud and or mist shrouded peaks. However, the true dramatic worth of the Mountain is only seen when the clouds part, revealing shimmering Ivory peaks which depending on the quality of light can make the peaks seem gilded in golden crystals.
Following the road (and signs) will lead you back towards the shores of Erhai, and on exiting the highway, you would have arrived on the Northern side of the Lake. Here, the majesty of Erhai is laid bare in front of you, and you can began to get some idea of how large this lake really is. From this point you should be able to see the many islands which dot the surface of the Lake, as well as the sheer quantity of vessels which travel to and fro on its surface.
Additionally, if you reach this area in the early morning, you may be treated to a display of the traditional fishing techniques of the Bai/ Yi, who employ a masterful use of nets aa well as trained Cormorants ( This fishing technique shares great similarities with the Zhuang of Guang Xi Province)
Sadly, due to my underestimation of the size of Lake Erhai, I cannot tell you much more beyond this point, as due to time constraints and ‘friend’ complaints, we decided to retrace or steps-so to speak- and return to Dali. Regardless, one thing which has remained with me is the uniquely uplifting experience which this days’ ride impressed upon me. Even to this very day, Lake Erhai not only causes you to challenge yourself, but casts you into the sheer immensity of nature. If you are planning to cycle around Lake Erhai, bear in mind that is it a two days venture by Mountain bike. If you use a moped, motorbike or car, then have at it.
Join us next week as we look at the four major traditional vistas of Dali!
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