© 2011 notworkrelated - David Rutter & Helen Roscoe. All rights reserved. notworkrelated Dali China

China – Dali – 19th – 20th December

We used Cloudland once more as a base for our luggage and set off to get a bus to Dali. The west bus station is easy to get to from town and we got there by 1pm just in time to get the next bus for Dali. This left at just after 1pm and took around 4-5 hours to get to Xiaguan which is the new town of Dali, from here we paid around 2yuan each to take a local bus to Dali old town. It takes around 30 minutes to make the journey and we had some guidance at the other end from a school girl willing to point us in the right direction.

We booked 3 nights at The Dali Hump which we soon realised was a good move. It’s a good place to meet other travelers and most people tend to stay a lot longer than planned. We arranged a few things for the next day and went out to get some food. Cafe Du Jack is another Lonely Planet recommendation and served a lovely tofu claypot dish with a nice spice to accompany it, Dave enjoyed some Singapore style rice with egg and then we followed this up with a calzone-style looking apple pie, it did the trick.

For the first night there were only 3 of us booked into the 8 bed dorm and it filled up as the nights went on. The rooms are really spacious but at this time of year the cold nights settle in and the thin curtains do nothing to contain heat. We did pay a little extra to go in the dorm room with en-suite and electric blankets which was a nice bonus.

On our first day in Dali we hiked up one of the Cangshan Mountain routes, walking up through the top end of the village and out into farmland. There is a 30 yuan p/p entrance fee for the mountain area but there weren’t many walkers on the mountain so we had the paths to ourselves. We passed by many gravestones and tombs located around the hillside and there was a strong light coming through the tree tops. We wanted to get around to the Zhonge Temple which is located on the mountain side and is where the cable cars go to, from here there is a steep path down to the bottom where you just stay under or around the cable cars and you’ll reach the bottom okay. Along the way we had landscape views of Dali city, Erhai Hu (lake) and farmland, it was a good 4 hour hike from start to finish but we were keen to get back to The Hump so we could join a group for a market tour to buy food for that night’s meal.

We just about got back in time at 1.30pm and the others had waited for us, we all went to the local market with Chung Lee who was our cheeky cheerful hostel guide. She certainly added personality to the outing. We took in the market, put 30 yuan into the pot each and chose fresh vegetables and even picked out our own chicken from a cage. Dave witnessed the 10 minute aftermath of the chicken being killed, de-plucked and ready to go in the back of the basket. In it went with the fresh aubergine and herbs bought earlier on. It’s a pretty crazy environment compared to British markets, traditions here are very different and it’s quite normal for people to pick out chickens, fish and even dogs to be killed for their evening meal.

We arranged to meet everyone back in the kitchen at 4pm to start the preparation for the evening meal. So we joined a few others in search of a talked about Tibetan bread on the street, we’ve eaten something similar in Beijing, it’s a large flat bread with herbs and spice on top, often there is minced pork added onto it, but this one seemed to be meat free? Before going back to the hostel we went to another talked about favourite in the area The 88 German Bakery (a somewhat controversial name by all accounts according to some German backpackers at the hostel) but don’t let this put you off. The deli style cafe is very welcoming, and we tasted a fantastic chai and granola biscuit enough to warrant another visit a few days later.

So after being spoiled at The German Bakery we found the others in the kitchen and began to cook. It was a little messy and perhaps disorganised but Chung lee loved toggle us all a role and asked us to cook some dishes we want to. She was pretty fussy though and preferred to be the one dishing out the instructions, at times it was a little ‘too many cooks…’ but it was all fun and we managed to cook up quite a feast including eggplant and peppers, spicy fish, mushroom soup, vegetable stir fry, chicken and beef dishes. Aside from the slaughtering of the chicken and then watching Chung Lee massacre it in the kitchen it was a pleasant experience! We all ate together in the bar upstairs and enjoyed cheap beer too. We followed this with a few drinks in town at a crazy little place ran by a frenchman called Mushroom…go there and you will not be disappointed.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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