We’re spending some time in Dali. It’s a bit like Martinborough – nominally rural, laid back and charming, but you know, Chinese. Which means it has throngs of people walking its cobbled streets and following its ancient walls. So maybe it’s more like Martinborough on fair day, but even then you’ll find fried octopus kebabs instead of sausage sizzles.
Dali is known as one of the relatively few Chinese stops on the ‘banana pancake trail‘ – the places where Western backpackers could come and hang out, absorb some culture, but still get an agreeable breakfast. Only these days Dali has also been discovered by the Chinese domestic tourists who must outnumber us foreigners a hundred to one.
The time of year partly explains the tourist crowds. The academic year has just ended so there’s lots of students, and lots of others taking summer holidays. It feels pleasingly summery here. The fruits we’re eating are what we’d have around Christmas at home – grapes, cherries, plums and peaches – though they taste more like they come from someone’s backyard than from New World.
The light also lingers late here, a combination of the time of year and Beijing’s edict that all of China be in one timezone. Just south of the border in ‘Nam and Laos their sunsets are an hour earlier. The long days provide ample opportunities for touristing. We spent yesterday cycling through rice paddies and small villages. Today we went and moved with the massive crowds at a local market. Tomorrow we’re doing a cooking class. It’s all pretty idyllic.
I’ve photos to post, but the wireless here, in combination with the systems we use to circumvent the Great Firewall, means uploading them is painfully slow.