The next stop on the list was Dali, west of Kunming. Dali, sitting between the Cangshan mountains and Lake Erhai (China’s sixth largest) was one of the original Chinese backpacker towns, and was supposed to have a charming old town.
Our arrival didn’t bode well. We alighted from the train in Xiaguan, 30km away from Dali at the south end of the lake. Following the instructions from the hostel we’d booked at we took a bus from there to old Dali. Unfortunately the stop we were looking for never appeared. At the end of the line we disembarked and saw a queue of hundreds waiting for the return bus back to Xiaguan. We walked the whole 1km of the main street, then 2km further along the Yunnan-Tibet highway, then 2km back. All this time we were asking directions of people, getting inconclusive answers and looking for the name of the bus stop we should have got off at, which was no more helpful. As dark drew in we gave up and found a room at another place not far from the old town.
Deep fried drumsticks for sale at Dali’s San Yue Jie festival