The old city of Dali is sandwiched between a large, ear-shaped lake called Erhai Hu and the impressive Cang Shan moutain range which rises to 4000 meters. It's full of picturesque cobble-stoned streets, enticing cafes and shops, all surrounded by old city walls with imposing stone gates.
Once again we encountered drizzly skies and cool weather for the first couple of days; our spirits generally matched the weather as we "cocooned" by hanging out in cafes, reading old magazines and chatting with fellow travellers. Adrian and Robin were thrilled to find a tabletop-sized fooseball game in one comfy spot called the Lazy Book Cafe, which quickly became their favourite hang-out.
We endured yet another bone-shaking bus ride to the nearby town of Yousuo to attend Yunnan's largest weekly market and were amazed at the gridlock we encountered. The main street into town was a virtual parking lot full of vehicles of all description making their way to and from the market area. Weaving amongst the machines were Bai women in their colourful dress lugging baskets of produce and housewares on their backs, men carrying sacks of rice and flour, and kids running everywhere. We joined the throng surging towards the market area and spent several hours roaming amongst the stalls of spices and produce, pots and brooms, cloth and yarn, clothing and shoes. The Bai women seemed friendly and cheery in their brightly coloured head gear and embroidered clothing and were pleased to have their photos taken.
The rain and mist finally cleared, giving us one sunny day to enjoy Cang Shan, the mountain towering over the town of Dali. A chairlift whisked us 3/4 of the way up the mountain where an 11km stone-paved trail called the Cloud Road meanders along the face of the mountain. The day was sunny and bright and the views of the lake and surrounding countryside were magnificent from the trail. It was a treat to enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine and the scenery.
Dali held a tremendous amount of charm for Adrian and Robin as there were more fun things for them to do than anywhere else we have stayed. First was a marble-top ping pong table at our guest house and we discovered that ping pong balls will bounce even on wet (read: "rain-drenched") surfaces. Secondly, there was free internet at our guest house where the boys discovered the Harry Potter website and could frequently be found engrossed in Quidditch practice or being "sorted". Thirdly, fooseball and other games at the Lazy Book Cafe. Finally, going on bumper cars every night at a nearby square. All in all, Dali is going to be a hard act to follow!
We're off to Lijiang, a city on the edge of Tibet about 3 hours north of Dali. We are planning to trek the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a 3 day hike through one of the world's deepest gorges. If you are interested in what it looks like, check out www.tigerleapinggorge.com.and we'll fill you in on how it was when we get back!