From Lijang we made our way back to Kunming via Dali. The guidebook described Dali as a good place to chill out for a couple of days. We were a bit disappointed when we got there. True, it was full of restaurants serving Western style food, coffee shops and backpackers hanging out, but the old town lacked the charm of Lijang. We planned to visit the Three Pagodas our first afternoon, the oldest standing structures in southwestern China. From a distance the structures weren’t very pretty, and we decided just to admire them from the outside when we saw the admission price (about 12 euros each- our total daily budget.) I guess we were also a bit burned out of visiting pagodas, so we decided to return to the town and check out some of the souvenir shops.
Our second (and last) day in Dali the weather took a turn for the worse. The cloudy morning turned into a rainy afternoon, but it didn’t stop us from a taking the cable car up the hill to see the views of the lake and the mountains behind. When we reached the top, it began to rain harder. We took the “trail in the clouds,” a pretty 10km walk on a nice paved path. Unfortunately, the rain continued and by the time we reached the end of the trail we were soaking wet. We tried to take a cable car to the bottom, but there was no ticket office and we had purchased one way tickets, so we had to walk down. We followed a lovely path that followed the river. The rain stopped and the sun came out, drying out our clothes. We walked about an hour to get to the bottom, where we found a small tea plantation and marble quarries (the area is famous for its marble carvings.) After another half an hour we came to a road under heavy construction. Both of us exhausted, we flagged down a car which drove us back to Dali, where we ate a big hot dinner and got ready for our night train to Kunming.
When we arrived at the train station, the waiting hall was packed and noisy. We waited about an hour before getting on the train, a brand new double-decker sleeper train. Our compartment had four beds, but luckily we were the only occupants. We thought we were going to get a good night’s sleep, but were mistaken. Everything regulated, we had annoying elevator music and lights until 11PM, and then we were awoken promptly at 5:30AM with the same lights and music. When we arrived in Kunming around 6:30, we were both a bit groggy. We had a few hours to spend in Kunming before catching a flight to Beijing, so we left our bags and took a walk into town. We witnessed something truly Chinese, the parks and parking lots were full of people of all ages doing their morning exercises, from tai chi to badminton to aerobics. We found a guesthouse serving breakfast, had a bite to eat and relaxed a bit before visiting the city. The city was very modern, high rise apartment buildings, wide roads and shopping malls everywhere. The rain returned and we spent the rest of the morning just trying to stay dry before we went to the airport. Despite the bad weather, we weren’t delayed too much, and we arrived in Beijing around 7 in the evening. Bruno (Fab’s best friend from childhood) was there to greet us.
Tags: BIG TRIP 2005-2006, China, In English 2005-2006