After a night in Kunming, my goal was the get out as fast as I could. I donned all my shirts against the cold and walked to the nearest bus stop, gaping in amazement at the silent motorbikes ghosting by. The bus cost one Yuan (about fifteen cents).
Getting off the bus, I walked to the station. The information kiosk was equipped with a very unusual turnstile. It consisted of a horizontal set of bars that looked something like an hourglass. Stepping into it, only one person could approach the window at a time. Very weird. I obtained the information I needed about getting the night train to Dali and walked to the ticket counter.
No one was in line at the window I needed. I walked right up and leaned against the counter right in front of the money/ticket slot cut in the window and waited for the attendant to complete whatever task she was doing. She glanced up and I said "Da-LEE." She nodded and turned to her computer. Just then, a guy sidled up next to me, shoved some money into the slot, leaned over and started speaking into the grill. The guy was cutting in line while I was being served! Now I knew why the hourglass turnstile was needed. The ticket agent waved the guy away and then informed me that the train was full.
Back on the street, I checked the bus stations. There are a few of them around the train station and I found a bus heading to Dali in only an hour. I bought my ticket, put my backpack in the hold and dropped my little bag on the seat. I was hungry. I looked around inside but found only snack food. Back on the street, I found myself longing for Thailand or Myanmar as those streets are full of vendors selling tasty meals on nearly every corner. Around this part of Kunming, there was nothing. (I later discovered there are some vendors, but the food offered was not particularly appealing.) I managed to find a shop with instant noodles and had them prepare the little bucket shaped cup for me. It was spicy, but palatable. I picked up some gummy candy snacks in the bus station just in case; these I later gave away as they were much too horrible to consume.
My seat was near the front so I had a good view of the modern China. Kunming looked very modern, even if it had a Chinese style to the buildings. The bus ride was uneventful, but I did see some interesting rice paddies and villages along the way. The bus stopped at a town that was just south of old Dali. I knew I needed to get a ride to the old town.
I noticed a Chinese guy who looked a bit lost. Pijaing was Chinese but educated in the US and was heading to Dali! Between my guidebook and his communicative skills, we quickly found a pickup bus to the old city. Along the road, he told me about his experience in the US and the changes he's since since returning to China last year.
The bus dropped us off at the main entrance to the old city. It looked like something out of a Hong Kong movie. A great wall extended east and west of the magnificent gate. We walked in and spent the next hour looking for a reasonably priced guest house.
(mok-mu-himmo-pawn in Thai) and greens. We sat with our Dali beer and
feasted on a meal that cost less then ten bucks for the two of us.
Around the corner, we discovered the pedestrian only portion of the city. It was described to me as being something out of Disneyland, but it was much more entertaining.
I had a chance to look at a number of hotels in the old city. They look more like temples than guest houses. The more modern structures looked more at home in the California hills than in Southern China. This place is modernizing very quickly ... too quickly. There are still plenty of traditions though. One curious thing about the Bai people is the women's penchant for boots.
Dali was still cold, but a lot more tolerable than Kunming. I was tempted to spend one or two more nights in the city, but also really wanted to see as much of the area as I could. I was told that the city of Lijang was really impressive, but I couldn't see how it could top Dali. Oh, how wrong I was.
See more photos from Dali here.