After getting over being sick I was finally able to see some of the sites around Dali. I took a bike down to the lake, rode through the backstreets of a small village on the lake, and back up through the rice fields to old town Dali. It is harvest time, so it was interesting to see all the rice being collected by hand, and processed on the side of the roads.
I also did a hike of the mountains on the west side of the town. Actually it was more of a walk. There is a gondola on the south that I took up, a 12 kilometer flat path through the mountains that provides views of Dali and the lake, and a ski lift on the north that I took down. Still, 12 km is a pretty good distance.
Dali was an interesting place. It’s definitely got a very western feel to it — actually a hippy town feel. The first thing that struck me when I entered old town is that about every five minutes, one of the local women in full traditional garb would stroll up along side me and ask if I wanted to purchase a certain green leafy substance. Not wanting to discover the charms of a Chinese jail cell, I would kindly answer “Bu yao, xie xie”. Then I noticed quite a few young Chinese with long dreadlocks, and then all the rasta flags for sale, and finally the giant green leafy plants growing across the street from my hostel. Many of the restaurants and pubs are managed by westerners, so they have extensive western food menus, and drinks. All in all, Dali is far from a traditional Chinese town, but it’s in a beautiful location in the mountains, and was a nice change after Kunming.
After Dali, I took a bus to Zhongdian, aka Shangrila — a smallish town on high plains in the far north of Yunnan province, and very close to Tibet. At 3200m (10,500ft), I was definitely feeling the altitude after climbing the stairs to my dorm room when I first arrived. My goal when arriving in Shangrila was to find a jeep tour through Tibet to Nepal. However, this is not working out. First I need to get a travel permit from the military, which takes at least 10 days to process, then I need to find 3 more people who want to travel overland to Nepal – not easy. If there is a total of 4 people for the tour, the cost per person just to get to Lhasa is roughly 14,000 Yuan (2060 USD). Of course then I need to pay for a “tour” from Lhasa, to Nepal – probably another 700 bucks or more. So, at this point I’m looking for a plan B.